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His Strong Hands

[My Grandpa, Earl Bumstead, passed away March 20, 2008. I wrote this one year later. It’s one of my favourite pieces so I thought I would share it.]

I have always admired my grandfather for his strength, even in the worst of times.  I remember the toughness of his hands, so large that he once held my baby brother in the heart of his palm.  I remember when he used to take us kids to the small park in my hometown where he would push me on the swing as I pumped my tiny legs as fast as they could go, climbing higher and higher towards the giant branches of the great elm tree that towered over my childhood.  The branches would reach out to me the same way my Grandpa’s arms did when he’d arrive for a visit and I’d run up to greet him.  He was always so happy to see me.

There is a quote by Kevin Arnold, “Memory is a way of holding on to the things you love, the things you are, the things you never want to lose.”  During the last years of my grandpa’s life, Alzheimer’s slowly erased his memory.  Although his mind was clearly fading, his strong hands grasped on to those final years of his life for as long as he could make possible.  He is gone now; not just his mind, his body too.  But my memories remain just as clear as they were the day he pushed me on the swing at the park.  I have held onto them very closely because I knew that he could not, and even though he couldn’t remember, I will never forget.  Sometimes I still like to go to the park and swing as high as I can fly.  I am not afraid, because I know that even though I can no longer feel him pushing me towards the sky; his strong hands will always be there to catch me when I fall.