Grandpa Shorty was my grampaw. He was the backbone of our family. When he passed in 2001, he left a canyon in the fabric of our family that no one can fill. His upbringing in the mean hills of West Virginia’s coal mining territory formed his character. He understood what is means to be a family.
Shorty took the time to have a special relationship with each one of his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. He was a hero. In his honor, I offer this poem. It fully describes how he was in my eyes.
Grandpa, some ninety plus years, sat feebly on the patio bench. He didn’t move, just sat with his head down staring at his hands. When I sat down beside him he didn’t acknowledge my presence and the longer I sat, I wondered if he was OK.
Finally, not really wanting to disturb him but wanting to check on him at the same time, I asked him if he was OK.
He raised his head and looked at me and smiled. “Yes, I’m fine.
Thank you for asking,” he said in a clear strong voice.
“I didn’t mean to disturb you, Grandpa, but you were just sitting here staring at your hands and I wanted to make sure you were OK,” I explained to him.
“Have you ever looked at your hands,” he asked.
“I mean really looked at your hands?”
I slowly opened my hands and stared down at them. I turned them over, palms up and then palms down. No, I guess I had never really looked at my hands as I tried to figure out the point he was making. Grandpa smiled and related this story:
“Stop and think for a moment about the hands you have, how they have served you well throughout your years. These hands, though wrinkled, shriveled, and weak have been the
tools I have used all my life to reach out and grab and embrace life. They put food in my mouth and clothes on my back.
As a child my mother taught me to fold them in prayer.
They tied my shoes and pulled on my boots.
They have been dirty, scraped and raw, swollen and bent.
They were uneasy and clumsy when I tried to hold my newborn son.
Decorated with my wedding band they showed the world that I
was married and loved someone special.
They trembled and shook when I buried my parents and spouse
and walked my daughter down the aisle.
They have covered my face, combed my hair, and washed and
cleansed the rest of my body.
They have been sticky and wet, bent and broken, dried and raw.
And to this day, when not much of anything else of me works
real well, these hands hold me up, lay me down, and again
continue to fold in prayer.
These hands are the mark of where I’ve been and the
ruggedness of my life.
But more importantly it will be these hands that God will
reach out and take when he leads me home.