from Bristol


To me they’ve always been old (but I know they were young once) – these big hands with veins running through them that somehow pumped blood until so recently, even though he didn’t want them to for a while yet.

The last time I held them, we talked, then he slept, then I said goodbye. It was the last time even though there could have been another. Because there was another miraculous recovery, piled on another and another that stretched from the age of seven to ninety four and a few hours.

And I shouldn’t be sad because that body was so tired of pumping blood through those hands, but on his ninety fourth birthday I promised a friend (who had worked in a care home and held many old hands), that I’d take a photograph of these ones that I’m so fascinated by, and now I can’t. I liked to know he was there.

There’s a photo of me, aged three, held between his hands and Nana’s – we’re on a train platform in the sun and I’d been swinging between his and hers. I imagine they were different then.

Recently the skin was see through and the veins black and large, but the fingers still wound around mine – the familial resemblance – twenty three and ninety three but both with long fingers that might have been good for playing the piano if either of us could, but were nevertheless so good for holding on to: on train platforms, at home, in the street and then, for the last while, next to his bed.

And it’s hard not to wonder if my hands will look like that when, if, I am ninety four. And I hope they will, and I hope I’ll still remember his and be glad of getting that far.