Friday, February 04, 2011

Memoir: Hands


My great grandmother’s hands and feet are some of the wrinkliest things I have ever seen.

Suffering from arthritis, she has knuckles the shape and size of large marbles, fingers that crook in all directions, and toes that bend in instead of lay straight. Although it looks painful, Grandma (in her usually steadfast (stubborn?) way) assures that they are no problem, and true to her resolve, her hands and feet move just as they should.

I am ashamed to say that I don’t know much about her childhood or upbringing, nor that of my great grandpa – I often feel that stories like those are lost on these generations. Although it was not too long before I was born, I am not sure exactly when or how Great Grandpa died, but I can say that he was handsome, and looks much like my grandpa and great uncle. A charming grin, and a strong chin passed down through generations (including, regretfully, mine), he was remembered as a hard-working man. In his generation, they all were, but maybe few with a great-grandma as strong and proud as mine.

When I was younger, too young to appreciate or remember, Grandpa used to take me out to the farm where he grew up, raised as one of four children to parents who valued a good day’s work. Being a bored child many generations removed, though, I’d quickly run out to the woods to run across the logs that would transverse small, cold cricks. Other days I’d gather gnawed corncobs, left empty by hungry birds and squirrels.

My grandpa once remarked that his mother’s hands were one of the things he remembered most fondly from his childhood. To him, they were the hands of an angel, rubbing Vapo-rub onto his chest during one of his many childhood fevers. Those same hands have held generations of babies, made countless orange Jell-o salads, and have played thousands and thousands of games of Yahtzee with anyone who dare to challenge her.

I visit her as often as I can during the summers, usually between games of golf with Grandpa, or on a quiet summer afternoon. Sitting down to eat or throw the dice around, I marvel to have made it another time to be able to sit and do so. Because I know she won’t be around much longer, I always take care to lovingly notice those hands, and snap a picture into the deepest folds of my memory. Through the crooked, wrinkled, and spotted skin, I see years of life having been lived, and as we enjoy each other’s company, I often quietly think that I would like to live a life as long and fine as she so that my hands, too, will have touched as many as hers.

1 comment:

Tamara said...

I know exactly what you are saying. I had the same visions of my grandpa's hands. When he passed last October, I sang "Daddy's Hands" at his funeral for this very reason... :)