Hands

His hands were so massive.

 

Even his palms were long, and the fingers were even longer.  It was like his forearms didn’t end, but rather just ran down to where his fingertips should have been.  I would almost be willing to bet that his hands and forearms were the same length.

 

The Seiko on his wrist looked tiny in comparison, and the faded old tattoo from the army on top of the rolling muscle above it didn’t really even catch your eye.

 

It was those massive hands.

 

Truck driver’s hands.  That’s what my brother-in-law called them.

 

Hands that knew hard work.  Hands that knew the cold, and the wheel.  Those hands had clutched coffee cups at 14 degrees below zero, and wiped sweat behind a middle buster pulled by a team of mules.

 

Those hands would pick and even shell black-eyed peas, but hate every minute of it.  They fit a shotgun grip and a fishing pole much finer than the handle of a five gallon bucket, by his standards, anyway.

 

I had noticed how large they were before, but it had never really registered with me until now.

 

Because I had rarely been so close to them.

 

And they had never been this still.

 

His breathing was ragged, and it was obvious that each rise of his chest was an extreme effort.  He was sleeping, but fitfully.  I wondered what was going through his mind.  I knew he was worried about Mamaw, but we had said everything we could to console him, and let him know that she was going to be fine.

 

But Papaw had never been a man you could convince easily.

 

I reached over the rail of the hospital bed and took one of his hands into mine.  As frail and weak as he was, his hand still engulfed mine.  I felt like a kid again, seeing how small and smooth my hand looked against the time worn leather of a man I had once thought invincible.

 

I’ve held on tight to a lot of things in my life, but rarely had I ever felt as helpless, holding a hand that lightly gripped mine in return.

 

I longed for the days of those hands pulling me up from the creek bank, popping me on the head with a sharp rap, pressing a twenty into mine when he knew I was short on gas.  I even missed the hard knock on my bedroom door at 6am during the summertime, telling me to hit the pea patch.  “Let’s get these peas picked, boy! They ain’t gonna pick their-self!”

 

June will be four years since I lost him. But I can’t really say that I lost him.

 

Because something is only lost when you don’t know where it is.

 

And he’s in bigger hands now.

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