My grandpa had a couple of the most interesting and special hands and arms that I ever saw. They were strong. They reflected the hard work that he did on the railroad. They were rough but he had a way of making them feel soft when they needed to be.
Those hands would work all day in a grimy dirty atmosphere working with metal and repairing the old steam engines and the newer diesel engines as his years wore on working on the railroad. Those hands would then come home and work in his large garden most of the evening.
He was an ace with the garden tools. He could swing a scythe all day on a Saturday without them giving out. His forearms would fill with blood and the muscles in those forearms and biceps would harden like a rock. He would take a hoe and and pound at the earth hitting precisely where he wanted to hit, ripping up the soil and loosening weeds without missing a beat.
He had a heavy big axe that he would chop firewood for his beautiful fireplace and stockpile enough wood to last a whole winter. You put a tool in those hands, any kind of tool, and he knew how to use it and would make it look so easy doing whatever chore he was doing.
One day that I remember was when I was out picking up and stacking the wood that he was splitting. I was about ten years old and the wood seemed so very heavy to me. I watched him pick up the logs with a single hand and whip them up on the chopping block and then raising that axe high over his head, bring it down and split that log in one swing. then he would wait for me to pick up the split wood and get out of the way before he slung another log up to be split. He stopped in the middle of all this splitting and held his forearm out to me. "Feel that.." he almost seemed to order me. I reached out and grabbed a hold of that rock solid forearm. I couldn't hardly make a dent into the skin his muscles were pumped up so much. "That's what work gets you" he said proudly.
Then there were times when those same arms were so soft and gentle. He would gently put a necklace on my grand mother's neck and then kiss her on the cheek so easily. He would take grandma gently in his arms and do a little dance with her in the living room of the old house. His mighty hands and arms holding her so lightly.
At the celebration of their fiftieth wedding anniversary, those big strong hands held my grandmother's hands with a soft touch as he recited his wedding vows to her once again. He had that special sparkle in his eyes as he said those vows so quietly and sincere to her with those big strong hands.
He could hold a book firmly but gently as he read and educated himself through the whole of his life. He would walk up behind Grandma while she was cooking and gently put those hands on her waist while he was looking at what she was cooking and he always kissed her on the cheek while he hold her in those hands.
When Brett joined our family, I took Brett to see grandma and grandpa right before Christmas. Grandpa took that little eleven month old boy in his hands and talked to him almost in baby talk. He fiddled with the bells that Barb had put on Brett;s shoes and talked to him about them. The whole time he was holding Brett as gentle as he would a china doll. He told Brett and a couple of his cousins "A Visit From Saint Nick" otherwise known as "The Night before Christmas." Grandpa had a gold tooth and Brett became very interested in it. I saw those big strong hands hold Brett's little tiny hands and let him explore the tooth talking to him the whole time.
Grandpa had a firm handshake that gripped solid but never squeezed. It was a proper handshake that many men strive for but never achieve.
He did have one flaw on his hands. He had lost half of his index finger while changing a tire. He turned that flaw into a tool of its own. He would use that finger to pack his pipe. It was that finger that he always pointed at you when he was trying to make a point. The half finger never held him back from doing the jobs that those strong hands had always done. If anything, it made his hands that much more impressive.
You could feel safe when he wrapped those strong hands and arms around you. I have never seen a man with stronger hands and arms then my grandfather's. My dad's hands were much the same way but then again, grandpa was SO much older than dad.
Towards the end of his life, as the rest of his body began to weaken and fail, his hands and arms were not immune to the weakening. His arms became skinny and his hands lost some of that firm grip they use to have.
But for the record, I have never seen a man with such strong arms and hands that could do what they could do and in the next second be so gentle and easy and soft, handling things like glass.
My grandpa's hands were one of his most impressive features, and I will never forget them.