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This is Nicole


The elderly woman walked oh so slowly through Verdi Park, acknowledging my hello  on her way to the subway.  Five minutes later, she had covered just 10 yards and sat down on a nearby bench to catch her breath.  When I joined her, she told me her name was Nicole.

Nicole was born and raised in Haiti.  At 25, she came to the United States to live with her father and sister in Jamaica, Queens, where she still lives in the same house.

On the Fourth of July, Nicole will be 77.  She lives with one of her daughters, who is single and has no children.  Her other daughter, granddaughter, and great-granddaughter live in New Jersey, but Nicole rarely sees them.

When she was younger, Nicole worked as a home health care aide.

"For years, I took care of the old people.  Now I'm old," she laughs.


Age hasn't diminished Nicole's desire to take care of herself. With a paid-for house and the combined income from her social security and her daughter's salary as a home-health aide, they carve out a good living.


Despite her slow steps, Nicole tries to get out every day.  She  was on the Upper West Side of Manhattan today to have coffee with a friend. Two subway trains and a 20-minute walk from where she lives in Queens, and it was worth the trip.

Nicole loves to garden but doesn't grow flowers or vegetables.  Her passion is medicine. She listed off a variety of root plants, most of which I didn't recognize.  She makes tea from the roots as medicine.  She said her daughter helps her plant, weed, and harvest the garden, but she won't drink the tea, saying she doesn't trust Nicole's medicine.

Nicole's husband died 15 years ago.  She doesn't miss him.

Her marriage was rocky, constantly colored by her husband's multiple affairs, resulting in children with other women.  Numerous times, angry women  with whom her husband had fathered children  called her.

"Who gave them my phone number?" she asked.

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Nicole was already familiar with the situation she experienced with her husband.  She has sisters in Georgia, Alabama, and Chicago. Her father also had children with multiple women.

When I suggested that men are the problem, she said, "Oh no.  Those men didn't make babies by themselves.  The women were no better."

We moved on to talking about what Nicole likes about living in New York City, but the only good thing she could say was that it's better than living in Haiti.

"Everything in NYC is upside down.  It is too dangerous just going outside. You could get shot just walking down the street."  Yet, with all the difficulty walking and the fears for her life, Nicole tries to get out every day.  She refuses to stay in.  She made the trip from Jamaica, Queens, to the Upper West Side of Manhattan today just to have coffee with a friend.

Nicole will be 77 soon and continues to get out every day.



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