I was sitting down to have my nightly glass of wine and to read a book the other night, my usual routine, and as I settled on the sofa I happened to look down at my hands.
In the soft glow of the lamp on the table next to me I noticed something which caused me to take in a sharp, deep breath…my hands looked old! Somehow, in the blink of an eye, my hands got old!
I had to do a double-take. The back of my palms looked like those I remember both of my grandmothers having. When did this happen??? I kind of freaked out for a minute as I continued to stare at them, turning them this way and that in the light to try and get a better look and to comprehend this change in my body.
The discovery made me both sad and happy. My grandmothers were both incredibly beautiful souls, each one had their unique personality and qualities they’d brought into my life, though I am sad to say they’ve both been gone for many years. However, I wasn’t crazy about the idea of having old lady hands at the age of 52!
My maternal grandmother, Mary Ellen, had a quiet strength about her. Her tiny frame housed a super quiet voice, though she had a deep sense of strength about her. She was also a really good listener. Her frequent visits to our home while growing up brought loads of homemade treats. Everything she made was special because you just knew it was baked with lots of love, you could literally taste it! My grandma had these tiny cookie cutters and she would bring me a special small tin of sugar cookie cutouts that I loved to use with the tea set in my pretend kitchen. Grandma was also famous for her chewy caramel popcorn balls and from scratch rye bread. Man, I miss that bread!
My paternal grandmother, Helen, was also tiny in stature but she had a booming voice and she loved to laugh. She was also a wonderful cook and I was fortunate that she lived closer to our home so I got to spend more time with her. I loved to sleep over at this grandma’s house when I was a little girl. Grandma Helen would then take me and my cousin for rides on the city bus downtown to visit the museum and have lunch. We felt special and small on the streets of downtown Milwaukee amid the high-rise buildings. The city bus was my grandma’s way to get around as she never learned to drive.
It’s funny how looking at your aging hands can bring back memories of people.
I think about all the things our mothers and grandmothers do with their hands that help to age them… millions of loads of laundry, endless sinks full of dishes, floor washing, baby changing, bath giving. No wonder our hands get shriveled, our nails look worn, and the skin begins to appear translucent over the veins that pop out more and more with each passing birthday.
However, when I think of my grandmothers’ hands I also think of softness, I think of love, and I think maybe it’s not so bad to be aging. Though my kids have never benefitted from the level of Mary Ellen’s talent to bake or Helen’s desire to show us a world beyond our suburban homes, I know someday, when the time is right, I’ll get to carry on the tradition of being the loving grandmother I once knew and keep dear in my heart. None of my kids is anywhere near becoming a parent so I guess my aging hands and fond memories will have to do for now.