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?”