family Hand in hand

Walking from my car to the train this morning, I was behind an older woman and a young boy, obviously her grandson. She was about 70, and he was about twelve. They were holding hands as they walked to the train.

My grandmother always used to hold my hand. She’d hold tight, too. When she was happy, when something excited her (my clearest memory of this is at a Yankees game), she’d hold onto one of your hands and smack your arm with her other one. She’d grin her slightly puckered dentured grin and bounce up and down in her seat and laugh in a squealing, Georgia-accented way. When she was happy, she was really happy, and it was delightful.

Even when it wasn’t a special occasion, even if you were just riding in the car sitting next to each other, she’d always hold your hand tight, as though you were going to get out of the car any minute and she wanted you to stay. In the house she’d hold your hand with both of hers while she talked to you, and she’d pull you just a little closer to her than you really wanted to be.

When my father gave her away at her wedding to Fred, she stood up straight and tall and held onto his arm with both hands like it was her favorite thing in the world. Her hands were bony and angular, and she’d hold onto things with her fingers straight and her whole hand bent, with her fingertips clamped together.

After she died last fall, at the funeral home she was laid out holding one of those crosses they give you in church on Palm Sunday. I know she wasn’t there anymore, and it wasn’t her, but her hands looked exactly the same as I remembered, and every time I think about her and close my eyes, her hands are what I see.

I can remember many times when I was young, pulling my hand out of hers, and now I wish very much that every time I’d held her hand as tightly as she always held mine.