Rosie's hands raised me. They did things for me that my own mother's couldn't. They caught me and held me as my parents’ marriage dissolved while I was still barely teething. They covered my eyes from the fighting, my ears from the screaming.
Grandma, Bubbie, Nanny, Grams. All perfectly good names but Rosie worked best.
Sometimes when I really miss Rosie, I try to remember the way she looked. To prove I still know her. To prove we can still love each other past passing.
Behind closed lids, I see the little dot in the white of her eye, the regal bump she hated on her nose, and, of course, her hands. They had a long, lean look just like she did. Even though she was small, she seemed big to me and those hands seemed so capable.
Those hands fed me. They scratched my back. They liked to hold me close so that their nose could take deep, deep inhales of me. They waved to me from the Cedarhurst train station platform -- and kept waving as the train pulled further and further away, disappearing. Taking me to Brooklyn and leaving her in Long Island.
They drafted pleading notes to my parents about their smoking and my asthma. They made sure I took my vitamins and did my homework and went to Hebrew School.
They taught me how to roll meatballs and matzo balls. They wrote notes that said “At Walbaums.” “At the Peninsula library.” “I love you.”
Unlike other first-graders, I needed those hands to hold mine in the schoolyard. Sometimes, if I was too scared to go to class, those hands let me come to work with them.
They would let me fall asleep in their bed and then gently sleep-walk me to my own. Her hand holding mine as she delivered me to the bedroom she kept for me long after I moved out and grew older.
When I reminisce, I can almost feel the security I experienced when I dozed in her bed. It was in those moments that I had the carefreeness my parents could never, ever give me.
And while those hands gave and gave and gave to me, they were forced to sacrifice.
They were plagued by a disease so rare no real treatment existed. Pieces and parts of them stopped living. The tip of a thumb gone. The top two bits of a pinky. And more.
Then the hands that gave me everything but life became shameful to her. They were hidden behind bandages at parent-teacher conferences. Or under gloves while buying me shorts at the mall or picking produce at the supermarket.
Yet, I knew what those hands looked like when they weren’t concealed. Because they held my own and guided me through life for as long as they could.
They were the hands of my patron saint. My Shabbos queen. The sculptor who made me Me.
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