My Grandmother’s Hands

My Grandmother’s Hands

My grandmother’s hands had a gift for adeptly whipping a shoe at us kids while balancing a phone on her shoulder. Important business calls should not be interrupted by noisy children.

My grandmother’s hands did NOT cook (nor clean for that matter); and instead spent 25 years arranging flowers at Greentree Florist, the first of two businesses she founded. Those hands made deals. Deals when the banks would not loan her money as a female entrepreneur. Deals when she could not get a credit card on her own – my grandmother was a businesswoman before businesses HAD women.

My grandmother’s hands held menus at restaurants, 3 meals a day, (did I mention they could not find a pan?) as she read the day’s specials aloud for my grandfather, who could not read, always in a seemingly absentminded, “I’m-reading-this-out-loud-because-I-just-can’t-decide-what-I-want-today,” so no one would know. They proudly wore her only piece of jewelry, a simple wedding band handmade from a quarter by my grandfather. Her hands stroked his hair, as her doting husband of more than 50 years became her full-time caregiver, putting her shoes and socks on every morning and taking them off every night. “I will keep you,” she said, as her hands cradled his cheeks.

My cheeks. “You are my girl.” My grandmother’s hands always picked up the phone when I called. Always. They would search out and hold mine every chance they could – as an unsteady toddler, a curious girl, a broody teen… even well into adulthood – her hands would find mine, holding tightly, never being the first to let go. The letting go was my role.

My grandmother’s hands laced my white roller skates at my 13thbirthday party, the day that she lectured me that every woman should sleep with “at least” seven men before marriage.  “How else could you ever be sure you know what pleases you?” they whispered, arcing like a sly smile. “Marry for companionship”, they admonished me, “Marry for respect. Marry someone who makes you laugh.” (And she married three times.)  Her hands would gently lift my chin so that my gaze met hers, “Choose wisely. And when you do not, remember that it’s always okay to start over.”

Those hands voted straight Democrat and believed in a woman’s right to choose. They could slice the air (with fingers out like so many swords flying) if she sensed intolerance or disrespect – especially for the LGBTQ community. People should be able to love whomever “turned them on,” she would say with twinkle in her blue eyes.

My grandmother’s hands gambled. Slots. Poker. People. They took risks on anyone down and out. They loved. They failed. They asked for forgiveness. Perfectly imperfect.

Her hands hugged my husband. Caressed my daughter. Held my heart, all my life. Now I can only see her hands in pictures like this, holding mine, holding my mother’s…as we together hold the hands of my daughter. Great women holding the hands of great women, who, in turn, reach out to lift the hands of countless more.

My grandmother’s hands hold me still.