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Yesterday, June 6th, was my grandmother’s birthday. In honor of this wonderful woman, I’m posting a short essay I wrote around Valentine’s Day in 2015.
I looked down upon my hand poised over my keyboard and saw a hand familiar but not mine. The hand had an agedness—an oldness. No more a young, fleshy, supple hand. Now a hand that showed knuckles. Veins. Wrinkles. Age.
I move the fingers to prove to my eye and my brain that they are in fact my fingers.
They are. They move to my command.
But they don’t look like what I think they should look like. They don’t feel like I think they should feel. I feel my joints. I feel my tendons, my skin, when I flex my fingers into a fist.
They are not quite my grandmother’s hands—yet. But they do remind me of my grandmother’s hands. Not quite so arthritic, though.
With a little thought, and a bit of free writing, this does not trouble me. Seeing my hands like my grandmother’s does not bother or frighten or trouble me.
My grandmother was a lovely, wonderful, caring, brave, free-spirited woman. She lived and led a very different life than I have.
And maybe not. She wasn’t married young like most of her generation. She married at twenty-three. Practically an old maid in her time. Not because she had no choices to marry earlier—she had, and she had just said no—but because she was having too much fun not being married any sooner. She married when she wanted to marry. When she had found a good man.
At the age I am now, she had a married daughter living overseas.
I have no daughter. I have no child, adult or otherwise, married or single, living anywhere, let alone overseas. And yet my hands begin to look as my grandmother’s eventually looked.
Aging follows no playbook. It just plays.
I didn’t follow the playbook from my grandmother’s time. Anymore than she did. She was supposed to get married in her teens and have kids. She waited until her twenties and had just one kid. I went to college in my teens. I never married and will have no kids.
My mom. She learned a trade, but married younger than her own mother, and then made her trade a business. Not enough to live on her own. But close. Then she had me. And made sure I’d learn to make my own way. On my own. And I have.
My grandmother. My mother. I see them both in my hands. I see age in my hands. I see the passing of youth in my hands. But more importantly, I see the women who came before me in my hands. I see them pass on to me their strength.
They are my Valentines. My mother and my grandmother. Happy Valentine’s Day, Mom and Gram. I love you more than you knew, more than you know.