I reach under my daughter's chin
and gently drum my fingers--
a movement I learned from my grandma
who in doing that would look into my eyes,
and strum her fingers beneath my grin,
playing a lovely tune.
No matter how old my grandma got
I picture her hands the same:
wrinkled and worn with love,
a map folded so many times
in searching for directions in getting from here to there.
The map on the palm of her hands
gives directions on how to raise four children
moving from place to place, year to year,
following the orders of the military.
Her hands held my mother's hand
as they crossed the Pacific Ocean
on an ocean liner full of sea-sick people
(except my mother)
traveling from Japan to home--
in a whole memory of homes.
I smell love on my grandma's hands,
the scent of lavender, of vanilla,
of roses and detergent and baby lotion.
I know no one who can clean like she does,
get laundry as white as she can,
make blankets smell as wonderful as
the smell that I smell in her hands.
I hate to wash the clothes, the blankets,
the towels, the coats, the aprons that she
passes along from her hands to mine
for fear that I will wash away the smell
that carries part of my grandma.
In her left hand I read the path that says
you must be right-handed
you must give up your native language
you must stay home from school at 14
to clean for others
to help raise your six siblings
on this farm in North Dakota.
Studying her right hand I see the roads
that led her from North Dakota
to Oregon California Nevada Japan Hawaii
and finally Washington, the Family Farm,
where she holds me and teaches me the directions
and stories of her handy maps.
I see her hands together
holding her great-granddaughter and rocking her to sleep
holding the pie dough and slapping it into a ball
holding the book she reads to my daughter
holding the bucket of August's blueberries
holding the flag that the soldier gave her
when my grandpa couldn't hold her hand any longer.
She opens her hands, and I see the roads
that lead to faithfulness and love
and all the places I want to go someday.
I press my hands into hers
hoping my palms memorize the paths my grandma took
in getting from there to here.
Originally posted February 23, 2007
Thank you from the bottom of my heart for all your prayers and kind words. It has been a great comfort to me.