Bill Withers – Grandma’s Hands

Just as I Am
Year :
Al Green / Allen Toussaint / Aloe Blacc

You’ll be forgiven if, upon hearing this song, your immediate response is to break out your sexy voice and croon “I like the way you work it,” causing you to miss the song itself, all of which happens before you realize that you’re still at work and people are starting to stare. Tone it down, there are people around.

Growing up, I probably spent more time with my grandmother than I did with my parents. That’s no knock on my mom and dad, it’s just the truth. They both worked long hours to support my sister and I, and I’m grateful to both of them for that, but it meant spending a lot of those hours at my grandparents’ house. I would spend my summers there, and during the school year there were certain days of the week that she would pick me up and watch me until my parents got out of work, usually pretty late into the evening. It was mostly just me and her when I was there, with my grandfather working long hours himself. She did all she could to give me the best childhood she could provide. We would try to guess the color of the sweater that Mr. Rogers was going to pull out of his closet, each of us choosing a few, and her always giving me all the likely choices so I would be right. She threw more high floating whiffle (meat)balls to me than any grandmother should ever have to throw, and always acted like it was one of the greatest feats in athletic history after I hit it. It wasn’t until later I realized how unimpressive a foul ball always is, no matter how much air you put under it. I don’t remember being a particularly troublesome child, but I wouldn’t want to have to put up with me as often as she did, and certainly not on trips to Boston to go to the Museum of Science and a Red Sox game. Everyone believes they have the best grandmother out there, I actually did.

I didn’t realize how much she was there for me until she passed away when I was about 12. I wish I had been able to know her as I got older, to look back together on the days when I was a kid, and to have her there for me when the grown up world showed me that there were worse things than scraping a knee and not getting dessert.

Blackstreet’s “No Diggity” has made the groove instantly recognizable to most, and it’s a groove that will loosen the knots in the tightest necks, but I’m concerned with the sentiment. I miss my grandmother every day, and if I never accomplish something that gives her the credit Withers gives to his grandmother in this song, I hope this at least comes close to conveying the message.

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Matthew Belair (@14Belair42) grew up on the classic rock of his parents and the 90s alt-rock of his older sister before discovering other genres to love, all of which are cool, hip, and in no way embarrassing to admit publicly.

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