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  • In my mind, the bicycle was a merry turquoise, fresh paint job. It had a basket in the front, just big enough to hold parsnips and a roaster chicken wrapped in cellophane for Sunday dinner. As I conjure the bicycle, I realize I have never seen a picture of this great-grandmother. I do not even know her name. I call my mother and she recalls everything. Agnes Schulz. Born in Livermore, California in 1903, or more probably in 1904. Her birth certificate was destroyed with the county records building in the Great San Francisco Fire, leaving the question of her birth year a family mystery. Didn’t like the church, but went anyway, tut-tutting to herself all the way through mass. Baked wonderfully. Aged slowly. Never drove a car. Rode that bicycle every day.

    Wasn’t she hit by a drunk driver, on her bicycle? I ask. Grandma was killed by a drunk, my mother says, but she was walking. You can write it however you want, though. You can say bicycle if bicycle works better.

    I guess I never heard the whole story, I say. So my mother tells it. Grandma was in the middle of the crosswalk with Grandpa Cy. They had just been to see a travel agent, about a trip they were going to take to Florence. This car came out of nowhere, came so fast. Grandpa Cy threw his arm in front of Grandma. And she said, Oh, Honey, in the voice she used to hush the grandbabies, and then brushed his arm away. She lingered for eight days but never woke up.

    It was the first death I took really hard, my mother says. And people kept asking, but she was old, right? And I kept wondering why it mattered how old she was.
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