de(tales): my grandmother's hands
Micha Boyett is a wise and kind voice on her blog. Hers is one of the places on the internet I always go to find peace, as well as reality and grace. It's been lovely getting to know her in the past few months. She is truly as delightful off her blog as on. Her first book, Found, a Story of Questions, Grace & Everyday Prayer, will be out April 1st. My copy is sitting within reach, and I'm looking forward to sharing more about it with you soon.
I'm so pleased to have the opportunity to kick off my de(tales) series with Micha's beautiful piece. Enjoy friends.
Every summer of my childhood, my brothers and I spent two weeks at Deenie and Grandaddy’s house. They lived in a simple suburban ranch style home in Dallas. It had a small backyard set into a steep hill where my grandparents, both children of West Texas farms, found enough time to grow green beans and okra. I remember summer nights in the kitchen, learning how to snap those beans and wash them ready to cook.
We always did the same thing every day of those two weeks in their home: mornings outside before the temperature rose into the hot and sticky 90’s, peddling our bikes and rolling scooters down their steep sidewalk, joining my mother and grandmother in their near-daily treks to malls or shopping centers. And sitting in the afternoons to watch Deenie’s favorite talk shows.
She had a rocking loveseat and I can still see the way she held herself in it: chest up, shoulders straight, knees together and ankles crossed. She sat on the right side of the loveseat, rocking and reading the book in her lap, or staring at an 80’s Oprah on the screen.
When I think of Deenie, I think of her simplicity, a sort of contentment in the patterns of daily life. Makeup applied the same way at her table each morning. Carmex, then lipstick. Morning ironing. A lunch of sandwich and Lays potato chips. The bright Dallas sun streaking the round kitchen table set with vinyl placemats.
And always, her place on the right side of the rocking loveseat, her knees together, ankles crossed, reading or watching, reading or watching. The left side of the small sofa was the most coveted spot in their living room, at least among my brothers and me. Deenie was, in our opinion, the world’s best back-tickler/scratcher (depending on your preference). The seat beside her guaranteed a spot for us to sprawl our upper bodies across her lap and, once in position, ask Will you scratch my back? She never said no and we never stopped asking.
When I wasn’t draped across her upper legs, I would sit to her left and stare at her hands, hands I somehow knew—even as a child—would belong to me one day. I had her lean body and her eyebrows, and I hoped, her beauty. Her hands were thin, her wrists small. And her veins were raised up, almost resting on top of her skin, like magic, like roads that led to somewhere beautiful. I held her left hand between mine and traced the blue roads, sometimes using a childish finger to press into them, feel them fold beneath the weight of my fingers.
Deenie, I love your hands, I’d say.
Oh, Micha. She’d say.
Always “Oh Micha,” her Texas accent gave the long i in my name a soft “ah” sound. She couldn’t bear to gaze at her own hands. Those raised veins exposed her age. But her longing for a younger self with smooth skin was something unknowable to me. I accepted my grandmother as an old woman. I loved her as an old woman.
By the time I was in fourth or fifth grade, my brothers were far past the days of back-tickling. They were teenage boys with better ways to spend slow summer weeks. I went to Deenie’s for a week on my own. One morning that week, she and my grandfather received news that her sister’s husband in California had died. He was more than a brother to them; he was my grandfather’s dearest friend. They had shared so much life and history together.
My family’s not much for grand displays of emotion. There was no weeping that morning in my grandparents’ home. Only quietness. I knew there was more going on that I wasn’t privy to, pain that wasn’t being displayed. So I moved quiet through the morning. I kept to myself and tried to make sense of the loss I saw in front of me. And when Deenie found her place on the rocking loveseat, I did the only thing my nine-year-old self knew to do. I sat beside her and took her left hand. I pressed the veins and moved my fingers across her thin skin.
She said, Your granddaddy and I are real sad today.
I said, I know. And I moved my pointer finger as gently as I could along the blood paths working their way through her body: across her hands and up her arms, all the way to her heart.
Micha (pronounced "MY-cah") Boyett is a writer, blogger, and sometimes poet. Her first book, Found: A Story Questions, Grace, and Everyday Prayer will be released in April 2014. A born and raised Texan, Micha lives in San Francisco with her husband, Chris, and their two sons. Learn more at www.michaboyett.com.
Come back next Wednesday for the next installment in the de(tales) series.