They were thick, meaty. Each finger a bratwurst, inflamed from decades of milking, bailing, plowing. The raising of cows for slaughter. With age, he’d grown warmer, softer. His hands as well.
A few years back, at Thanksgiving, as we were wrapping our boys in Carhartts with mismatched mittens to tour the farm, he let slip that he loved me — a clumsy and welcome non-sequitur. Pride sprouted from my grandfather, as the octogenarian shuffled our boys around the sagging barns, the rust-kissed tractors. The woodworking shed was last.
No one could remember quite when — but it had started with something simple. A wobbly end table, maybe. Then the spinning wheel that he’d fashioned for his wife, spokes askew. A bassinet that would hold no baby, smoothed over by those formidable hands. Each one rudimentary and cockeyed. That was the charm of it.
The rocking horse was hideous, though. It was the eyes. Wide open and vacant, set too high on that giant head. The foot-pegs had snapped off on Black Friday. The neck splintered sideways soon after. At Christmas, he’d cornered our oldest before we could run interference. “Boy, what do you think of that rocking horse I made you?” There was that beam of satisfaction about him. His hearing had gone, so when our son answered that “Dad threw it away yesterday,” the old man just went on smiling, enormous hand on the boy’s shoulder.
Ignorance is bliss and trash day is Thursday.