by Emma Boyns
The backs of your hands used to remind me of oven-baked potatoes: tanned skin, wrinkled, speckled. That time you fell as you walked me home from school and all I could do was stand there, my heart pounding and my head spinning like it never had before. But when you showed me the bruising on the back of your hand, the faint combination of turquoise and purple that was already spreading across your papery skin, then I knew you were okay; your voice had its wise tone back and your words educated my 10-year-old self as the late summer sun filtered through the plants on the kitchen windowsill.
And then it was me holding your hand. Hundreds of miles from home, we walked into the ward where children weren’t meant to be, but the nurses ushered me in nonetheless, so I could hold your swollen hand and rub your tender legs. Your skin was different now. It was taut, smooth where there had been creases and pink where there had been branches of green.
“You were my walks-home-hand-holder, my swimming-gala-supporter. And I remember you in little details everywhere”
I was so proud of you. I was proud you came out of that hospital and survived that aneurism. I was so proud to have a great-grandad, a reason to argue with the teachers who said you couldn’t be my great-grandad. But you were. You were great in relation and great in life, you were my walks-home-hand-holder, my swimming-gala-supporter. And I remember you in little details everywhere: when I have fish and chips in a pub I hear you laughing because you knew I’d always choose that; when I have a mint choc-chip ice cream I turn to thank you for buying it; when I think of charity I feel pride at your passion for helping the blind. Because once a year, when we hang our heads to remember the fallen, I remember you and what you gave to the war and your family and to me. We can’t make more memories, but I can smile at those we were lucky enough to share.