This prose-poem grew from a prompt to write about someone we will always remember, and my paternal grandfather came immediately to mind. I feel he is always with me, sometimes talking to me, but always walking beside me.
I took a few liberties in the descriptions, but it’s essentially true.
I am shoulder-high to his hands—the hand that hugs me to his thigh at a street light, the hand I reach for as we walk, the hands that show me how to thread a delicate worm onto a hook then use a rock to pummel the catch. I feel his palm and fingers fanning across my ribs, pressing me back into the car seat as he slows for stop signs, the loose seat belts dangling.
The joints of the first two fingers on his left hand are orange, stained by nicotine. The nail of his right index finger looks like the flesh of a walnut, mangled by a curling rock long before I was born. He drops ice into glasses and shows me how to measure out two fingers of rye. When I bartend his parties he asks for three, because my 10-year-old fingers are small.
There’s a picture of me at two years old, standing beside him in a big-fish photo, as tall as his knee. The salmon he caught hangs between us, longer than I am. We are in sunlight, I am in a bonnet. Two fingers of his right hand hook into the fish’s silent mouth. Two fingers of his left hand hold a Du Maurier regular.
He is always beside me, never in front or behind. Those two big hands hold all my memories.