This morning, I sat beside my Nonna and did her nails.
They were long. Corrugated like cardboard. Dried blood crusted beneath the curling nail brought horror thoughts to my brain. But I pushed the thoughts away and focused on clipping and filing. Cleaning and massaging.
“These hands,” I said to her as she silently watched me. “These hands have made so much beauty. All the beautiful dresses and clothes you made.” I swallowed back tears. Swallowed hard. Pushed the tears away like the horror thoughts.
It took her a second to comprehend. Then she smiled and blinked. “Yes. Oh, yes,” she said.
It was a quiet endeavour between us though the hospital room was a concert of beeps and voices.
Nothing but giving my Nonna this simple pleasure.
I held her hand in mine. Marvelled at the translucent skin pulling tightly over jutting bones like a too-tight waist band over a lumpy belly. To the touch, her hand was cool but soft. I willed myself to not be afraid of what age can do to a hand. To her hands. These hands that sewed since they were ten-years-old. These hands that cleaned me, cooked for me, held me…
I held her tidied hand up so she could see it. She tilted her head back and batted her eye lashes. “Oooo!” She whispered.
“Like a queen,” I told her.
It didn’t take longer than twenty minutes for me to shine a light on her hands. I wanted the actions to last three forevers. I wished this was a tradition we had. I wished she wasn’t ill and in hospital. I wished I could put my face on her chest and weep. I wished I could reach in and pull the pain out of her.
All these wishes. Translucent and pulling tightly over us like skin.
“I’m putting a bubble of love over you, to keep you safe and happy,” I told her as I waved my arms up and around her frail body.
“Thank you,” she said.
And it took everything in me to be brave and breathe through the moment.
She closed her eyes. Said yes to rest.
I held her hand and watched her sleep.