Jul 8, 2017



Do you ever look at the magnificent engineering at the end of your wrist? Pulleys, scaffolding, interior structure, circulation, heating and cooling systems, and strength we take for granted. I wrecked my wrist some time ago, spent four months in a brace with orders to not so much as waggle a finger until the worse of it healed. 

Mercifully, I’m extremely right-handed and this was my left, but I certainly missed being able to type two-handed, carry groceries in more than one bag at a time, fold laundry efficiently (try rolling a beach towel one-handed!), and even minor tasks like slicing a cucumber  required an awful lot of thought. Actually, I’m rather proud of that: realizing I needed the darn thing to hold still while I cut it, instead of it squirting across the itch, I rigged up a nail at the end of my cutting board –also one handedly—and simply impaled whatever I needed to chop. Not pretty, but I resented the loss of independence threatened by not being able to cook unassisted. I needed my hands.

Hands come in handy (you knew it was coming) for more things than we notice in a day. Just this morning, I stripped off wallpaper, brushed teeth, painted half of a wall, colored my hair, turned pages in a book, and here I sit typing, remembering I forgot to eat breakfast. As often as I forget to eat, I really should be a size two and the fact that I’m decidedly not is just further evidence of the universe being an unjust place. I digress.

Hands are good for waving a greeting, offering a thumb's up of encouragement, hailing a cab, stroking a baby's soft cheeks.

Hands mark different phases of our lives. When my baby granddaughter was born, her hands were tiny, seashell-shaped fists, cunningly formed, but suitable only for waving around frantically when she cried, often startling herself as they flew by her face. Now that she’s a big girl of six months, she can hold toys and suck on her hands and even pull her big brothers’ hair. She enjoys that more than they. 

I have four small grandsons whose hands are learning fast.  Big boys now of age 2, 2, 4 and 4, they can drive toy trucks and make intricate Lego layouts, eat unassisted, dress themselves, (complete with superhero capes, some days) and the older two can write their names and draw recognizable pictures, if you squint. Their cousin is seven, already writing stories and coloring within the lines when she feels like it. My oldest granddaughter is fifteen, confidently working math problems that look like Martian to me, and she can text (accurately!) with both hands in her pocket. Her hands are artistic, careful, deliberate.

My daughter’s hands are those of a young mother, in constant motion, helping a child, comforting a baby, creating another meal, teaching, nurturing, helping her little ones learn to care for themselves and others, to use their young hands for good. In her rare spare moments, her hands crochet at the speed of blur. When Daughter was twelve years old, she and I took a crocheting class together. I never quite figured out how to make my hands maintain proper tension...something to do with recalcitrant fingers, I think...while she went on to create baby dresses, little-boy sweaters, crocheted toys, slippers, shawls and scarves, designing new patterns, happily churning out gifts from her heart and her talented fingers. I never quite mastered a chain stitch.

I see a few more wrinkles in my tired hands that I’d like, but nowhere near as many as my mother, in her late 80s. She says that when she was a little girl, she’d stroke her grandmother’s hands, worn by decades of work and living, marveling at the thin blue veins just under the surface of her translucent skin. And now Mom’s hands are the same, thin and boney, the skin so smooth and soft, barely covering her insides like a cellophane-wrapped anatomy display. Her tendons ripple as she works another NY Times crossword puzzle in the too-quiet afternoons, proud of the fact she missed only one word all last year. 

I suspect they’re thin because she simply wore the skin off; I’ve never met a person who washes her hands as often as Mom. Take meatballs; hers are cleanest in seven counties, because she lathers her hands between every single one. I bought her a meatball-maker years ago, but she said she has to feel the meat in her hands to make sure each meatball is just right, then wash off the grease and goo in between. Mom’s hands are old, and no one can count the number of tasks those old hands have accomplished or how patiently she instructed her sons and daughters.

When we lost our first, second, fourth, and fifth pregnancies years ago, I sobbed in prayer, and the soft answer came, “If your arms are empty, your hands are free.” To heal my broken heart, I turned to helping others, to using my hands to serve, to aid, to teach, to uplift where I could. Sometimes, I’ve even succeeded.

I use my hands several hours a day now for writing, since my home is empty much of the time and my hands are no longer needed to raise a family.  I find pleasure in composing books, carefully crafting sentences with my mind and my hands.  

Hands are not to be taken for granted as they bear testament to the seasons of our lives. What do your hands tell about you?

1 comment:

  1. Your wonderful post reminds of a book I plowed through years ago about our bodies and how each part should be used for the glory of our Savior. He had a whole chapter just on hands.


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