Joni B

The very idea.

His Hands


I’ve been very reflective over the holidays. Traditions seem to stir up memories most of which are warm and leave me longing to return to that place in time. I promise tonight will be my last post – at least for this year- of looking back. Sunday night I had a small get together with my friends from high school. That always brings up remembrances of yesteryear. One girl told me she was always jealous of the relationship I had with my granddaddy. “You were special to him. You could tell by the way he looked at you. I don’t even think you realized what a gift that was. I guess it was just your normal.” She was right. That remark has stirred up a well of memories and raw hurt. I miss him like crazy. There is a specific moment that I remember when I realized how uncommon our relationship was and how much he truly loved me.

I was just out of college and had moved back home. He invited me out on a date. I sat across the table from him as he told me more of his crazy stories. I still don’t know what is true and what is not. At some point, he reached across the table and held my hand. I looked down at his wrinkled hand, now spotted with age. He still wore the wedding ring my grandmother gave him years after she passed away. She was his great love and with good reason. At that moment, I realized all the things his hands had done and how blessed I was to be the hand he wanted to hold. Something in me told me to memorize that hand holding mine and to this day, I have never forgotten.

He grew up in the hills of Tennessee. Buck’s Branch to be precise. It was just a homestead on Duck River in Hickman County. He pulled many pranks and those hands even rescued a couple of kittens – which actually turned out to be skunks. His hands got scrubbed in tomato juice that night and most likely several nights later. Later in his childhood, his family traded the hills for delta farmland in the bootheel of Missouri. There he thrived as an outstanding athlete. He was all of 5 feet 8 (maybe 10) inches tall, but he was unstoppable. His hands gripped basketballs. That game was his first love. His hands served up tennis balls and he became the Missouri State champ. His hands gripped baseballs and bats and he was recruited by the St. Louis Cardinals to play for them. His father wouldn’t sign for him to go because he wanted him to be a preacher. His hands later provided for many athletes seeking a job at his drugstore or even seeking an education.

His hands brought healing as he ground and mixed drugs for the sick and built his drugstore into a thriving business. Those hands shook hands with Presidents, businessmen, fishermen, garbagemen, saints and sinners. Those hands gripped a steering wheel night after night to transport athletes to out of town games before there were buses to take them. His hands helped bring a library, a hospital, and electricity to our county. His hands served and made life better for people.

His hands humbly accepted many awards. I am proud of him and the legacy he left me, but in the end, those things are not what matters most to me. What I love about his hands the most is that they held mine. His hands held wet rags on my feverish forehead. His hands brought me toys when I was too sick to get out. His hands picked me up to his lap and taught me to love Cardinal baseball. His hands held his Bible and he taught me to love God. His hands held a hymnal while he belted out Victory in Jesus in that deep voice of his. I love that his hands loved my grandmother. I love that his hands raked a huge pile of leaves for me to jump in and scatter everywhere. His hands held pens that wrote weekly letters to me while I was away at Camp and college. His hands helped with homework, taught me to throw a ball and bait a hook. His hands tried to teach me to clean a fish, but I would not have any part of that! His hands covered his heart in patriotism. To me, that’s what made his hands so incredible — that He loved me loved me with an everlasting and unconditional love.

My granddaddy’s hands….if only I could hold them one more time. One day I will.

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