Her thumb would run soft circles around my hands, circling, comforting, her nails painted, always. Huddled over her round knit-topped table, she’d lay out a small towel and all the tools she’d need. The colors ranged from a deep wine to a lighter shade of pink. 

I never knew her hands without the spots that freckled and aged them. I never saw them when she first picked up a needle and thread or when she took care of her widowed father and all her siblings. 

I could only ever picture them as she reluctantly turned over the keys to her beloved store. Her neighbor, a Castro sympathizer, was in charge of taking over local businesses in the name of the new regime. She’d never forget the mirth that danced in her neighbor’s eyes.

Through stories I saw those hands waving goodbye to her only daughter, 15 at the time and too outspoken, too precious to not be free. It would be another 11 years before they’d see each other again. 

I held my grandmother’s hand the last moments of her life. I rubbed my thumb over her paper-thin skin, circling, comforting, as her breathing waned until she was gone. Her nails were painted pink.