My Kohkums Hands

17 Sep

I remember the first time my Kohkum (Cree word for Grandma) tried to show any form of affection. I was 15 years old and was watching a hockey game with Kohkum sitting beside me. She attempted to make small talk, which was seldom done. She placed her brown leathery hand on my leg and gave it a small pat then left it there.

I fidgeted at its unnatural presence and moved a foot away. Kohkum didn’t give up easy and she repositioned herself beside me and placed her hand on my knee again.

I became nervous and this time moved to the opposite end of the couch.

Kohkum stayed motionless and silent.

Stunned by the proceedings and unable to concentrate at the game at hand I finally stood up and exited the room.

My Asu (DaneZaa word for Grandma) from my mothers side has always shown affection and I have been known to let myself be cradled in her arms. I even do so now, at the age of 24. My Kohkum is a different story.

We grew up estranged from most of my Fathers family and have always felt seperated or unequal from all the other grandchildren. The reason being that my Father was raised by his Kohkum. The only child out of 5 to be raised apart.

My Kohkum went to residential school and this undoubtedly has impacted her ability to mother, to be a grandmother, but influenced her children on such a level that it has rippled into my generation, and may continue if we do not break the cycle.

I’ve never heard my Kohkums story. I have heard her cries at night while being swept back to this time of terror for her while she slept. My Kohkum lives with ghosts she never speaks about and never acknowledges. Yet traces of their presence are everywhere.

When I look back at that defining moment where she first initiated affection with me, I realize how scary it must have been for her. How brave she was to try to display affection when it went against the teachings she recieved as a young girl.

My Kohkums hands are triumphant ones.

My Kohkums hands are healing. They are extensions of her spirit that are trying to remember how to be earnest, to be kind, to undo the unspeakable moments of her past.

My Kohkums hands serve as her tool for her navigation and through using them in new ways she finds herself.

My Kohkums hands are the most beautiful hands I have ever seen.





Helen K


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