Theme II: Pride, “Hands”

By Alexie Schwarz

My grandpa was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease when he was 65 years old. I imagine that he went home and stared at his garage full of woodworking, ran his hands over the hand-carved figures and tables and chairs and felt the full force of the things he would soon never be able to do again. I imagine his hands were trembling.

One day he’ll sit down and won’t stand back up.

My grandpa likes his coffee black and hot and sometimes that’s hard when his hands move a mile a minute but stay right where they are. I wonder how long he’ll insist on ceramic mugs with their open mouths, wonder how many times he can get burned and be fine, wonder how he can be fine when he can’t even be upright.

One day his muscles will be so tired they’ll have to take a break.

An engineer, his hands were made for the tiny moving parts in clocks and in circuits and in details; now he wants to drive all day and forget all night the strength that his body used to have; the capacity for so many things that he never used to need- independence, violence, deceit- that he misses now in their absence.

He used to break into apartments on the southside of Chicago and watch their black and white TVs.

He used to climb up fire escapes.

I have to keep my hand hovering around his back when he steps down off the curb. He won’t take his cane. I used to bring him straws with his coffee but my mom told me to stop wasting straws. He made me a bookshelf a few years before the shaking got too bad and he asks how I like it at least once a year.


It’s good. It’s strong. It’ll last.

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