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He wanted a manicure. These days, I barely scrape the dirt from my own nails to go to work, after gardening and giving Night a good grooming, not to mention scratches regularly to my smelly dogs. I sat before him, holding his hands in mine. Hands that had coaxed fields into gardens, rough earth into food, hands that knew a life-time of work. I carefully fumbled and held his bony fingers, trying to snip away at hardened nails without catching flesh. I’m no manicurist. I tried to remember how my manicurist had held my hands as she shaped my nails and applied acrylic the many years I worked on Wall Street.

At first I shifted and turned, trying to balance his hands and the tools, holding  his wrists and sliding my fingers to the end of his digits to manipulate the clippers. I filed his edges into flat shapes and found my rhythm.

He gazed down at his hands and asked me about my family; who was I, did I have siblings, and what did my life look like? We had never spoken so intimately about me.

I looked up, was suddenly amazed at how clear his gaze was upon me, and stopped to try to see how he envisioned who I was. He was quiet for a moment then he smiled and winked. His eyes closed and he drifted off to sleep as I tended to his nails.

I let his hands rest on the soft worn khaki pants he wore. As I shifted on the hard wooden chair next to him, I cast a glance sideways and saw his eyebrows twitch upwards in a dream, a memory I could never share. I watched as his hands curled tightly on his thighs;  a conversation happening in his mind I was not part of. His face softened and he bent forward into a deeper sleep.

The crickets sang and every once in a while a plane flew overhead. “We never used to hear the air traffic!” he said, without opening his eyes.

“I remember 9//11 and the eery silence of no planes flying for days,” I remarked.

“There have been times of silence in the sky and they are always to be noted,” he added. I knew he was thinking of his life as a boy in the midst the Second World War.

Suddenly, he shook himself, yawned and brushed back his sleeve to look at his watch. “I believe it is time for a meal.” he declared as he lifted himself from his chair and looked around for his walker. “Shall we?”

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10 comments on “Finger Nails

  1. julieallyn says:

    Great flow and rhythm. Good descriptions. True story or fiction? Nicely done Martha.

    1. True story. He is wonderful and I am blessed to be in his life.

  2. I don’t think I’d have the courage to cut someone else’s fingernails!

    1. It was a bit scary but I think it brought him such comfort. Now toe-nails would be another thing entirely!

  3. Touring NH says:

    Perhaps it was the closeness of you holding his hands that brought him comfort, more so than the actual want of a manicure.

    1. Ah, you are probably right. Thanks, Laura.

  4. iamyourme says:

    So warm and tender. I felt as if I was right there with you two. Your words kept me wondering what was going through his mind as you were describing the moment. *Sigh* That’s what I kept doing, sighing. Really powerful in a quiet breath. Thank you. 🙂

    1. iamyourme, thank you, I am humbled by your comment. Appreciate you dropping by and taking the time to respond. It’s so rewarding when someone from out of the blue is touched my my words.

  5. mariekeates says:

    I love to hear about these little moments of comfort you bring to him. They sound like such times of peace and calm for you both.

    1. Thanks Marie. I love my time with him. Some days are tough and the lesson to be learned is patience. Others are full of peace.

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