Today I took my 86 year old grandmother to see her son, my uncle, who is in the final stages of lung cancer. He’s not bedridden and is still able to get around and do things, but he gets winded easily and is in constant pain. He is currently under hospice care who are keeping him as comfortable as possible. My husband and myself have told my grandmother that we will take her every weekend to see him and more often if needed.
My grandmother is not one to show emotion and never has. Most people of her generation are that way I think. The only way I can tell when something is bothering her is when she wrings her hands together. Today, they were in a constant state of motion. She was very quiet today and would occasionly give a little smile, but her hands never stopped moving. Her and my uncle talked about the weather, his garden and his navy buddies that had just come for a visit, but his illness was never brought up. My uncle knew why she was there and I think that’s all that mattered.
My uncle lives next to a lake, so I took my camera and had planned to take pictures of the lake and surrounding scenery while they visited. Instead I felt moved to photograph the interaction between mother and son. As they talked, I sat back and took picture after picture after picture. They were completely unaware and that was what I wanted.
I think you can tell a lot about a person just by looking at their hands. Some are calloused; some are well manicured; some are stained, like that of a painter. Some have long fingers, some have short. But to me, none are as beautiful as my grandmother’s. Yes, they’re wrinkled and old, but there was a time in her life when those hands held her son when he was a baby or nursed a scraped knee. There’s a history to those hands and if you look close, you can see the history. This is why I felt compelled to photograph my grandmother’s hands today. I will have the photos printed and they will go in a frame that will sit on my bedside table so I can see them every morning and every night. She’ll never know about the photos. She thinks her hands are old and ugly, but I don’t see that. If I’m lucky, I hope to get old enough to have hands just like hers, wrinkles and all.