When I was little, I loved sitting next to my Grandma in church. She would do this thing called the "tickle rub" where she'd lightly brush your skin with the tips of her fingers. It was pretty much the only thing that could keep me awake during Sacrament meeting.
I also liked sitting next to my dad, though that was mostly because he'd play hang man with me. It definitely wasn't his church back rubs, which were somewhat subpar, and more often than not, he'd want me to massage his hand with the permanently broken thumb. I used to tease my dad that he had lobster-fisherman's hands. Thick, beefy hands with fingers like sausages.
I never really liked my hands as a kid. My hands and feet are disproportionately small for my body, which may sound good at first, but really just serves to emphasize that other parts of me are disproportionately large for my hands and feet. On top of this, my fingers are kind of stubby. My mom and sister have delicate fingers, which led me to conclude that I had inherited my dad's hands and soon would have thick sausage fingers of my very own. Yay.
Skip forward a few years and I am 18 and leaving for college. My dad has loaded up all my things into the back of his truck, and I can see my Grandma waving to me from her bedroom window. She hasn't been feeling well, otherwise she would have come next door to see me off. I am running late and my parents are losing their patience with my disorganization, so I wave back and don't go next door to say good-bye myself. After all, I am only moving 30 miles away.
Roughly two weeks later, my Grandma has had surgery, and what initially seemed to go well has turned out to have gone very badly indeed. On Sunday, family members went to McGrath's to celebrate, and on Friday afternoon my cousin Abby is picking me up at my dorm room so we can be there when the hospice company brings our comatose grandmother home so she can pass away in her own room.
It took until Sunday morning. My father and Abby's father, who hadn't spoken for about six years, spent the weekend doing a lot of hugging. Abby and I, who had been inseparable as kids but who hadn't hung out much as teenagers due to the awkwardness our parents' disagreements, sat in our grandmother's kitchen chatting just like we had when I was ten and she was twelve. A cousin who lived on the East Coast, and whose wife was due to have a baby any day, was there nearly all weekend. I can't even remember why he happened to be in town that particular week. People took turns sitting by my Grandma's bedside and keeping my Grandpa, who looked lost for the first time in more than 90 years, company.
Around midnight on Friday, my dad, his siblings and their spouses all decided they needed chocolate-banana milkshakes, including my diabetic uncle, who promised his wife he'd only eat half. (I'm pretty sure he ate the whole thing.) So Charlie and I were sent out to get them. Until that point, my parents had rarely let me drive their cars, partly because they're bizarrely over-protective, and partly because I was (and sometimes still am) a terrible driver--facts which were overlooked or forgotten that night.
The mood in my grandparents house would swing between somber and cheerful, a really depressing and yet oddly enjoyable family reunion. And on Saturday afternoon, while I kept my dad company as he sat by his mother's bedside, two of my aunts began bickering over which one of them had inherited Grandma's hands.
I didn't say anything, since it was clear to me, at least, that both of them had inherited their father's hands--graceful hands, with long, slender fingers. My Grandpa had played piano all his life and paid for college during the Depression by performing in dance halls. I sometimes wonder if he had groupies. (Nice, upstanding, pin-curled groupies, of course.)
At some point, the two of them got up to get something from the kitchen. My dad, who hadn't said anything during the argument, turned to me and smiled.
And without saying a word, he picked up my Grandma's hand and held it up to his own. Then put his other hand on his knee, palm-side up. I put my hand over his.
A perfect match.