Great-Grandma’s Hands

I remember my great-grandmother’s hands. The woman herself I hardly knew because by the time I was aware of her, she was simply a quiet presence in the corner of the trailer home where we would stop by and visit. For the most part my job as a child was to greet her when we arrived and then to occupy myself, quietly, elsewhere while the adults visited. Yet her skin fascinated me. She was the only person I knew who had that many wrinkles. There was one day when I was left un-attended near her and I touched the skin on her hands. It slid across the bones and tendons underneath. I discovered that if I gently pinched it and pulled it upward, the pinched portion would stay put as a miniature ridge on the back of her hand. That was the point at which some other adult realized what I was doing and began to scold me into stopping. Great-grandma told that other adult it was fine, she didn’t mind. So sometimes when I visited, touched the skin on her hands and was amazed at how translucent it was and how loosely it was attached to the rest of her.

The other day the skin on the back of my hands was so dry from all the frequent hand washing, that when I pinched it, a small ridge stayed put for several seconds before sliding back into place. I noticed this, and the increasing accumulation of wrinkles. Some day it will be my skin which slides loosely across my bones. I put lotion on my hands and the skin sprang back into place for now. The skin on my hands has adapted to the increased washing. Redness, cracking, and wrinkling have subsided. Yet there is still a texture difference between the skin on my hands and the skin on my arms. Each portion of skin adapted to its regular use. The older I get, the more my body bears the marks of how I’ve used it.