07:11:56 pm on
Sunday 19 Sep 2021

Her Hands
AJ Robinson

Source: ajp.com.au

Last Saturday was he memorial service for my mother. It was a wonderful, touching service. I’m proud to say that, yes, I did get through telling my tribute to her; granted, I had to edit it a bit.

One film skipped.

I couldn’t talk of her love for the film, Terms of Endearment, for example. I knew that if I spoke of her weeping at a film, I’d lose it. I skipped over that part.

The rest of my talk went well. Now, today, sitting here thinking of her, memories flood my mind. I’m especially reminded of another Saturday not so long ago.

Saturday, May First, was the last time I held her hand. I didn’t know that at the time. If I had, I never would have let go.

I made the mistake of letting her hand go. I held on as long as I could. I told her how much I loved her.

How many times was that? Eight, ten or more? Not nearly enough. I held her hand as I kissed her goodbye. That was at least six times, her lips, her cheek, her forehead. Yes, I know, not nearly enough.

Her hands were old, frail, feeble. Yet, they were her hands, which meant I would gladly hold them instead of the riches of Midas. As I turned to go, I let go first. Mom never let go first.

Her grip lingered. She might be old, but those hands still retained a little of their youthful vim and vigor. Her hands had done so many things over the years.

Although I have no memory of the first years of my life, I know those hands cared for me. There were baths, diaper changes, feedings and endless games of peek-a-boo. My earliest, dimmest memories are of bath time, helping me to dress, tucking in at bedtime and filling my plate for meals.

Her hands made me tea and didn’t scold me over too much sugar. They made me Cream of Wheat, my favourite, and didn’t scold me over too much sugar there either. Her hands showed me how to paint and draw pictures; how to tie my shoelaces, which took me a while to get.

Those hands never struck in uncontrolled rage. They scolded, but never was no violence. I don’t know if I was just a good child or maybe she mellowed by the time I came along, but I tend to think it was the latter, as I heard stories of those hands in action in her youth.

That night is infamous in our family.

There was the infamous “Night of the Gravity Falls,” with Steve, Greg and Dave. They were young, mom and dad were out for the night. Mom’s parents, visiting from Florence, were the sitters for the evening and let the boys play in their room unsupervised.

Big mistake. The boys happened to toss a baseball or some such out the window and watched it fall to the backyard. They thought it was cool and decided to see how other things would drop to the ground and they also wanted to see if they could get a rise out of their Nona and Nono.

In no time virtually, everything in the room, including their sheets and pillow were down in the yard. It took all three of them to hoist the mattresses up to the sill and out the window. The power of play.

The grandparents eventually caught sight of the items dropping. They were watching television in the living room, as one item after another zipped by the dining room window. Later, mom and dad came home to a full report from her parents.

To say that mom went thermal does not do justice to her anger. She marched upstairs and found the boys asleep on the bare floor. She attacked.

The three of them awoke to find themselves of the receiving end, pun intended, of the worst spanking of their young lives. How she was able to smack three small behinds at the same time and hold onto all of them as they tried to squirm free, I will never know, but that was our mom a virtual human octopus. Mom asked her parents why they didn’t stop them.

Her mother’s reply was that she didn’t know how. Mom’s answer was simple: “This is how.” Do grandparents, from anywhere, spank grandchildren?

Frankly, grandma was lucky mom didn’t turn her over her knee as well, despite being her mother. Once the boys were suitably chastised, they were marched downstairs and outside, they had to bring all their stuff back up to their room and put it all away. They never again pulled such a boneheaded stunt.

An amusing family tale, but thankfully my tail,” pun intended, never suffered such a fate. No, I saw those hands masterfully prepare meals, banquets large enough to feed fifty people. I’m not being facetious.

Her hands dealt cards, held dominos and Mah-jong tiles, wrapped and unwrapped gifts and reached out to offer love and comfort. Over the years, age spots appeared, the nails grew thin and brittle, the muscles weakened; the wrinkles grew.  Yet they were always her hands, and so in my mind’s eye they never changed.

The last holding of her hand.

That’s just as my love for her. On Saturday 1 May 2021, I held her hand and proclaimed that love. Then I had to let go. Last Saturday at her memorial service, I had to do the same. I let her go, but only in the physical sense. Those hands continue to guide me on the journey of my life. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Combining the gimlet-eye, of Philip Roth, with the precisive mind of Lionel Trilling, AJ Robinson writes about what goes bump in the mind, of 21st century adults. Raised in Boston, with summers on Martha's Vineyard, AJ now lives in Florida. Working, again, as an engineeer, after years out of the field due to 2009 recession and slow recovery, Robinson finds time to write. His liberal, note the small "l," sensibilities often lead to bouts of righteous indignation, well focused and true. His teen vampire adventure novel, "Vampire Vendetta," will publish in 2020. Robinson continues to write books, screenplays and teleplays and keeps hoping for that big break.

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