Holding Hands

By Stephanie Dethlefs

March 6, 2017

Holding Hands

We walk up the stairway of my grandmother’s porch. Towers of brick flank the stairs, which later we will scramble up to leap into the soft green grass below. Through the screen door, I see her sitting in her small armchair covered with beige woven upholstery. She leans slightly to the left, ankles crossed. With her left hand she cradles her powdered neck, her small manicured fingertips pressing gently into the nook behind her ear. She lifts the pencil to her tongue, wets it, and answers 34-Down before noticing us and smiling softly. She presses her hands into the armrests and rises to greet us, placing her small, soft palms on each of our cheeks. “You’re here,” she says.

Alone in her bed in the nursing home, she looks out the window at the gray day beyond the wintry trees. There, dancing on the bare branches, she sees a black shadow. They watch each other for a long time. Days later, her daughters sit next to her bed, holding her tiny withered hand, cradling her head, as the pauses between her breaths get longer and longer.

When our daughter is born, we sit together on the hospital bed, wondering what to do with one another. I lift her tiny hand out from the tangle of blankets. It is so small, smaller and more delicate than I could have imagined, softer than any silk. “You’re here,” I say.

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