For a while here, I want to tell you a few stories about my Granddad. I wish you knew him. I wish I could replay every minute I had with him from little me to big me. I remember Granddad’s hands.
Granddad held my necklace over the sink. The stopper was carefully wedged into the drain so there was no fear of losing his seven-year-old granddaughter’s treasure. The links were hopelessly tarnished with tomboy grime. I wore the little pendant when I played softball, hide-and-seek, went swimming and when I slept. Soap scum clouded its luster and the sunshine charm didn’t sparkle very brightly.
I stood on tiptoe next to Granddaddy. The mysterious chemicals swirling in the sink’s depths smelled like the stuff mom used to mop the floor. Granddad’s hands were toughened from his wood working talents. I’m sure that his hands often did harder work than building decorative shelves for his grandkids, playing basketball in the driveway and greasing our bike chains. But Granddad did all these things like they were his highest priority.
His fingers were big and crackly, but always clean. Even when dark marks from the tool shed stayed on through dinner, they were cleaned marks. Black and browns ingrained in the lines of his palms so deeply that GoJo could’t reach to remove the stains. That’s why I had brought my necklace to Granddad, he could clean anything.
Granddad’s hands were never still. Whenever we pulled into my grandparents’ driveway in Bartlesville, under the sweet-gum tree, all four of us girls tumbled out of the car into Granddad’s waiting, working arms. Often he was outside washing his car while he waited for us.
We clasped his hands and drug him into the house to play Sequences, You Blew It, Spades and Mexican Dominoes. Granddad’s hands seemed to be able to splay an entire deck of cards without dropping one. After lunches (Grandma’s capable hands crafted special sandwiches: she put butter under the peanut butter on PB&Js) Granddad’s hands scooped bowls of ice cream as big as his fists.
Granddad’s hands created masterpieces. He made a little, just the right size to hold in my little hands. It hung on the wall by our front door. When guests entered and closed the door behind them, it dingled and sang a welcome song. I loved to reach up and pluck it myself. He made my sister, Jenny, and me our own little shelves to put above our bed. He carved roller skates as the brackets for my shelf and painted them my favorite shade of green. I remember he making a clock for my cousin, Chris. Granddad painstaking cut out figures from baseball cards and placed them at each hour. He built game-boards for Wahoo and Sequences and invented a game called Penny Toss. The prize for tossing a penny into a certain cup or circle on the floor won the player more pennies. I bet Granddad invested $20 a night into that game when all of his grandkids joined the competition.
When we walked somewhere, Granddad always swung his hand way back behind him. He would wiggle his fingers in the air searching for mine. If we were on the sidewalk, he would spin me around to the inside of the walk, farthest from the street. Granddad’s hands always caught the door handle first. If not, a sharp, “Ahem!” reminded me that a lady always lets Granddad get the door.
Granddad gingerly scrubbed my necklace with an old toothbrush. Rinse, repeat. I began to lose interest. How could Granddad concentrate on one little necklace for 20 minutes? I dutifully feigned interest, wishing I hadn’t asked him to polish my jewelry. Granddad did everything perfectly, to the tiniest detail.
Finally, he laid my little chain flat on a paper towel. A knot the size of pea made it look two inches shorter than when he had begun cleaning it. Then, like magic, Granddad’s big, capable fingers dangled the chain from one end. In a quick twist and pluck the knot slipped like butter through his fingers and my long chain slid to its full length. Wordlessly, Granddad draped the necklace around my neck managed to fasten the tiny clasp.
Granddad placed his hands on my shoulders and held me at arm’s length admiring his handiwork. “You’re beautiful, Abby,” he told me. I threw my arms around his waist and locked my hands behind him. “I love you, Granddad.”