The parchment paper skin is blotched with brown here and there and the scar from a snake bite is a white bump between the third and forth fingers. These hands have bumpy looking veins, wrinkled knuckles and cuticles a little dry. The nails are clipped short, as they have always been. The gold band on the left hand is worn down so that it resembles a fine copper wire. I have never seen these hands in repose before, the left folded over the right, perfectly still.
Grandma’s hands were always busy, always moving. They started the morning rolling biscuit dough and frying bacon and eggs. The day would be filled with chores; cooking and cleaning, feeding chickens and pigs and grandkids, gathering eggs and churning butter, washing clothes and hanging them to dry, always working. Come evenings after the kitchen was put back in order after supper there would be sewing to do. Mending torn pants and patching an apron or piecing a quilt top in preparation for the weekend when Grandma and the aunts would gather in the front room to quilt.
When Grandpa came into the house looking tired and worn Grandma caressed his cheek with her hand and taking his hand in hers told him to have a seat at the kitchen table where she brought him a cup of coffee and sat down to talk with him while she finished snapping beans for supper. A grandchild with a skinned knee would be wrapped in a hug followed by iodine and a band aid carefully placed by Grandma’s hands. Those same hands could deliver a stinging swat to a small, round bottom when the need arose.
When Grandma died her children had the usual viewing, visitation and funeral at the funeral home in her small hometown as was expected back then. As I filed by the open casket with the other grandchildren I paused to study her hands and noticed the very pale pink polish on her nails and thought to myself that she would have laughed at that. Grandma would have said it was silly to paint your nails knowing that you would chip it all off by the end of the day.