Those warm wrinkled hands

[A brief excerpt from a fictional story I’m writing]

Snow fell heavily around the house that day.  It blanketed the world in loud quiet that my nine-year-old mind could barely grasp.  Silence like that is hard to come by, and it was a new experience for me.

I could see Grandpa standing at the window watching as I played in the snowdrifts that grew like wildflowers all over the landscape.  I could barely see his wrinkled hands clutching the cold windowsill.  Even if I couldn’t see them at all, I knew they were there.  I loved his hands.  They were always warm, gentle yet firmly reassuring, always ready to catch me when my latest endeavor to climb that enormous tree in the back yard ended like all the attempts before it—with me falling, although sometimes it was less a fall and more a skidding down the rough bark.

I stopped my play for just a moment when I saw him standing there.  I waved and he waved back.  Even through the heavy curtain of white air that separated us, I could see his loving gaze and the smile he offered in return for my own.

For just a brief moment, that picture of him mesmerized me.  The fireplace behind him offered a reassuring glow that seemed to silhouette him against the windowpane with warm amber tones behind his dimly lit countenance glowing from the snow’s reflection.  I was struck by the sight of his white hair and how it seemed to be a halo made of whispers and dreams sketched with gray sunlight.  Even from where I stood I could feel his love for me.  The watchful gaze was nothing more than a gentle reminder of it.

So I turned back to the snow and romped through the powdery wonderland completely oblivious to the fact that it would be his last winter.  I’d never again be stricken by that view of him in the big window, safely cloaked in warmth as I dared the cold to stop me from having fun.  I’d never again be comforted by knowing he would be there in case I fell.  I’d never again relish the embrace of those warm wrinkled hands, those living promises of safety that wouldn’t survive the day.