256 Words

My Grandfather's Hands

M. Stanley Bubien

My grandfather's hands always fascinated me. One of my earliest memories was of holding his thumb and forefinger, barely able to grasp their girth as I rubbed his fingernails---turned wooden with age---wondering all the while if I would get a splinter doing so.

He put things together with those hands---huge enough to heft a hammer, but nimble enough to wield it with grace. Everyday after school, when I rushed desperately over to visit, I'd find him humming in his gravelly, smoke-worn voice, glasses perched on the edge of his nose as he pounded away at his newest creation. He never looked surprised to see me. He'd simply nod and say, "Need a couple quarter-inchers."

I leaned my bike on the garage door and grabbed the nail jar marked "quarter-inch."

Silently, I watched him align the nails and begin pounding. When he finished, the boards held together solid, as if they were now a single piece.

"Grandpa," I asked. "How can I stop Mom and Dad from splitting up?"

He pushed his glasses against his face. His head shook while his throat rumbled quietly---as though humming a song too sad for anyone's ears to hear---and he squeezed my shoulder mightily.

"Here," he said, offering me the hammer. "It's time you did more than fetch nails."

"Really!" I cried. "You mean it!"

He nodded and laid two new boards out. From behind, he reached around me and held my arm, guiding it up and down in a graceful motion with his hand.

For Robert Hejlik.

Copyright ©1997 M. Stanley Bubien. All Rights Reserved.

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July, 1997
Issue #15

256 Words