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The clock ticks off another year

The apple clock clicked forward from 11:59 to midnight as I moved a brush over the surface of a kitchen cabinet. I stopped to wipe a speck of paint off the floor and to consider the day that started with that click.

For me a new year began when Tuesday night moved to Wednesday morning. I know the official start of a year is in January, but my personal beginning is always July 16.

I sat down and leaned back against the stove. The ceiling fan whirled with a swishing sound overhead. Down the hall I heard my daughter making little sounds in her sleep.

As I laid the paint brush down, I looked at the back of my hand.

The once smooth skin is now a series of tiny wrinkles and the veins show through with a blue tint.

On this night, there are dots of paint around the fingernails and a smear across one thumb.

"I need some moisturizer," I say as I open and close my fist.

Even as I say the words I know a gallon of moisturizer won't erase the creases on the backs of these hands.

The clock now reads 12:13 and I know I should put the paint away and head for bed, but I sit listening to the sounds around me, thinking about paint and life and the passage of time.

"I think I'll put another coat of polyurethane on those cabinet doors," I say to myself, "at least on the ones closest to the stove."

That, I hope, will keep the finish looking smooth and new longer.

"Maybe I could put a little of that polyurethane on these thighs," I say laughing as I scratch a dried paint spot off my knee. "Wonder if it could smooth their finish?"

I realize my thought process is getting hazier with each passing minute, but I'm not ready for sleep quite yet.

In a few hours the sun will rise and I'll be up going about the business of living. That is what I'm thinking about a few minutes after midnight -

the business of living, a subject that usually comes to my mind on July 16.

"Another year come and gone," I whisper. "Time sure moves faster these days."

Outside the door my dogs groan and then take off barking at some monster in the dark.

Last year on this day I stood in my parents' kitchen surrounded by my family as they wished me well. Daddy smiled at me across the table. I remember that smile.

The business of living sure brings a lot of changes as the years move by. Wrinkles make places for paint to hide around your knuckles and people who smile at you across kitchen tables aren't there anymore.

I stand up and stretch. My back makes a funny creaking sound as I reach my arms toward the ceiling.

"I'm going to be sore tomorrow," I say putting the top on the paint.

The room plunges into darkness when I hit the light switch. On the stove the lighted clock clicks off another minute - 12:39 p.m.

"Happy Birthday Nancy," I say, stumbling past the paint can on my way to bed.