In Memory of My Hands, or The New Ghosts in the House

You were beauties back in the day. Some would have said graceful, especially in your mother’s black velvet gloves up to the biceps (also slender then) with a million black pearl buttons. I know, you couldn’t even button one now. It’s okay. You had a good run, and it’s not over yet.

I want to remember you with a paintbrush balanced between right thumb and index finger—all those horses you painted and scenes of light on sea water. How you used to point at things as a small girl. “What that, Tata” “That?” “Over there?” “Here, Tata?” Why, sky? Why, river?

Fondly– I shall always remember you both flying so frenetically across the keyboard into all hours of night and daylight. Elegant birds alighting from the tallest pines, finding cloud and sky. At your own piano. The pads of your tips so different back then at the keys and holes of clarinet and oboe. You could feel heat and didn’t get cut up so much and turn white in the cold. Not to mention all of those pens. Your cursive –the envy of your Catholic school peers. “A+” on every composition for handwriting and content. Now, the ink a tangle of loopy, foreign language—I can’t even read. I don’t hold it against you, please know. I just miss you both so much. And this has hardly begun.

You used to carry the most fragile things, stacked up antique china and glass, with such strength and so gingerly, quickly, moving things always from place to place in the House—rearranging everything for me so I could stay on track, focused, not drown.

You were adept at donning necklaces and applying makeup for battle. Please believe you will always be integral to my warrior name. You were so strong, muscular, gentle. You could pull the most tenacious weeds out from the patio pavers and even from the cracks in the driveway without any tools. I loved that about you. And yet your delicate, fluent shadow puppets entertained cities of children for decades. All of the long hair you French-braided for them. Learning to knit, sew, embroider, quilt, and crochet with your mother. Your gesticulations also– were exquisite–pure ballet–accompanying me even when I spoke, carrying me. It was a language all your own. The cello grew to love you as much as I do—even now.

When you can no longer hold paintbrushes and glass without your grasp opening to shatter—and fallen items on the floor I can no longer bend down to pick up–I have a plan in place. You mustn’t worry. I will put you out of your misery. A hand-made small coffin for left and right lined with the blackest velvet of raven wing. I shall bury you under the largest pines and visit you at night. Do not be afraid. The two dogs buried back there, three cats, one rabbit, one blue jay, two sparrows, two robins, one owl, and one possum—shall keep you company when I’m in the House—missing you.

In time, you too, will wander back in the House through the cellar with Rita, her husband, and my father. Yes, we had a good run. And it’s not over yet. This chapter has just begun—though its pages fly faster than I am able to fathom–or believe.



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