My Grandfather’s Hands

hands

       He towered over the other mourners, his shiny head bowed low to his chest. He had been undefeated in the boxing ring during his Korean tour, his large, meaty hands protecting him from blows. Today his hands were useless to protect him from the pain; they hung limply at his sides or twisted his flat-brimmed hat until it resembled a wrung out dish towel. He had been unable to read the eulogy he had composed for her; shaking his head, he pressed the slip of paper into his brother’s hand. He had held himself in check through all the well-wishes, handshakes, and casserole deliveries but later that night, in front of an old black and white movie, the tears soaked the collar of his button up shirt while he talked to me about the old days. How he had loved her from the moment he saw her behind the perfume counter at Gimbels and how she refused his suggestion for dinner that night, because she needed to wash her hair. But her spunk was no match for his determination and six weeks later they were married at the Presbyterian Church on Elm Street. She wore gardenias in her hair and her pearly nailed matched the delicate shade of her cheeks. He liked that people were confused by their marriage; a strange mix of contented silence and heated bickering over, say how to mix the perfect Manhattan. He smiled to himself a little, remembering how he liked to start arguments with her; she was so lovely when she was angry, eyes snapping, cheeks flushed. His chest heaved when he remembered the morning he had woken up and felt alone; that something was missing. How he sat with her, holding her hand and taking his time to say good-bye. “Sometimes I think I’m a bad Christian,” he murmured, breaking eye contact, “cause I don’t much care about seeing Jesus. I just want to see her again. Do you think that’s a sin?” And as he looked at me with those watery blue eyes, troubled behind the thick lenses of his glasses, I realized that we should all be so lucky to be loved that way: the way my grandfather loved my gram.

Copyright 2016 Katharine Brown

Photo: Vinoth Chandar via Flickr

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