I notice that my thoughts are changing this week. I had so many things I wanted to write about, so many ideas about my life with my ADHD devil. But this week they have lost their importance when I discovered today’s date, the 17th of March. This day, one year ago, was the last day my grandpa took his medication, the last day I was sure I would be able to see him, the start of his last days here, my last 3 days with him.
It surprises me how clear my memories of this day, this week and the moments before, one year ago, are. It feels like it has been much less than the year it has been. I notice now, how the memories of the year in between are much more vague. The day my father got a heart attack, the time he was in a come, but also the first time I met my boyfriend and our first holiday together all seem so much further away, they all have a kind of blur. I notice today how I might have stopped living after the day my grandpa died. How I might have stopped allowing other, new things, so I could hold on to the memories with him, our memories. The final ones.
I think the time has come to write about this amazing person. About what he meant for me, about our time together. Maybe it is time to write about everything. Maybe this will create some space to start making new memories, some space to allow new things. Because once I put everything in writing, I will never forget, even after 60 years I will be able to read, and remember everything.
What I want to remember most, are my grandpa’s hands and his eyes. When I think about the people I have met, when I think about family, friends or boyfriends, I always remember their hands. Their shape, size, nails and fingers. I don’t know why, but I remember people by their hands and my grandpa’s hands have always meant a lot to me. His hands have always made me feel safe. The funny things is, that my grandpa had the same thing with hands, with my hands. He often told me stories about the things we have done together. In all these stories he would describe my hands, how tiny they were, how precise, or too big for something I wanted to do. I loved this about him, him being the only person I know with the same obsession about hands, the same way to remember a person and a story.
My grandpa’s hands were special to me, and he had extremely big hands. I have one picture of when I was about 9 months old and het was teaching me how to walk. On the picture, I am in his garden, standing on one leg, trying to make my first step with the other one while my hands are small fists and my face is filled with concentration. My grandpa is standing behind me, bent over, holding my little torso. His hands reach from my armpits to my legs, all around my belly, big enough to support me on this big moment. Even when I grew up his hands were big enough to hold my entire shoulder, my face or both of my hands, with only one of his. This had always made me feel extremely dafe with him. In the lasts months together, he always held at least one of my hands, he never let go, and this made me feel like he would take care of me. His hands allowed me to feel a little less strong, they made me feel like it was ok to be sad, it was ok to cry, because I was safe and supported.
What has always surprised me about my grandpa’s hands was their softness. My grandpa was a big man, who often worked in the garden or build things for the house, but his hands were always soft. Never dry, never hard from the labour, always extremely gentle, always safe. Now I think about this, the softness of his hands might have started my obsession with hands. I remember my father’s hands as well, very clearly. The hands that he used to hurt me, so many time, have never been soft. They were always hard, always dry, always painful. This in contrast to my grandpa’s soft hands might have made me judge people kindness by their hands. My boyfriend has extremely soft hands, and to be honest, I can not remember a single person I have allowed in my life, with hard hands. Only my father’s.
In the last decade of this life, his hands started shaking, trembling. He started to loose control over his hands. Drinking from a glass or writing had become almost impossible for him. Even when he would be in bed and relax his hands on the sides of his body, they would not stop. He was very ashamed of this, it made him very insecure, especially when there were other people around. There were 3 things that he could do to make this stop. Falling asleep was one. But also when he would hold someone the trembling would stop. Whenever I would visit him, we would hold hands. His hand would cover mine and with his thumb he would stroke my arm or wrist (big hands). Whenever he did this his hands would stop shaking and I noticed how this made him feel relieved. The few times he did not hold my hand when I saw him, when there were other people visiting him, he had a third method to stop the tremble. My grandpa had thumbs that could bend in the opposite direction. Whenever he was sitting in his chair he was playing with this, he was always trying to bend them further, his way of twiddling. Like he was always trying to figure out which of his thumbs was the strongest one. But when he used his thumbs to press against the other thumb, his hands stopped. I still wonder if this was the reason his thumbs were able to bend in this way, or if they had always been like this.
The final thing I would never forget about his hands is the way he used them. The gestures he made with them were as big as the size of his hands. He would often tell me stories, but these stories were never just speech. He used his eyes, face and hands to tell me things, to give them something extra. This is pretty uncommon for Dutch people, that are not as expressive as for example Italians or Greeks. But he was. And because of him, I am too. In each story he told, he would often wave, slap on the table or his leg, hold his hand up in front of him or spread his fingers, always with just his left hand, because I would be holding the right one. The movements of his hand were always a bit uncontrolled, unexpected and always big. I loved this way he told stories, it was like our secret language, I knew what he meant with all these weird hand gestures that where often misinterpreted by the people that did not know him that well. When he used his hand in a way that meant uncertainty, other people thought he was angry. When he used his hand to show excitement, other people would think he was trying to scare them. You had to know him really well to understand his hand language, but once you did, he was telling so much. He did not only use his hands to tell me his stories, he also used them to respond to my stories, answer my questions or express his opinion. Sometimes, when he was too sick to speak, we could have a conversation. His hands, and his eyes could tell me anything.
Whenever we had to say goodbye, until this day, one year ago, we would kiss, let go of each others hand, and wave. Our wave. Every time I left, we would first wave normally, followed by a kind of fly movement with two hands and arms, then we would make big circles that would turn into a kind of jumping jack arm movement, after this came a vertical wave, followed by a horizontal one and finally again a normal wave, to say goodbye. Our thing, with our hands. Today, one year ago, I started with the wave, but when I got to the fly movement, I noticed the tears in my grandpa’s eyes. he couldn’t do it anymore. This is the moment I knew he wouldn’t have much longer, we wouldn’t have much more time together. I went back to his bed, I told him it was ok, we had done this more than enough times and I would never forget, always remember. I looked into his big blue eyes that were filled with tears. Together we cried, expressing our love for each other with our eyes. We promised to see each other again, at least once more.