Most of us come into this world with two hands and ten fingers. Once the early infant discovery of our hands and their abilities is over we give little thought to the miraculous appendages that serves us so well in our lifetime. Now, at the age of 53, I am deeply appreciating what my hands have allowed me to do.
I do not know how far back the genetic disposition to arthritic thumbs and fingers go in my family, but I have seen my Dad struggle with it for many years. Since my late 40’s my thumbs have given me increasing pain and this year every finger has expressed its displeasure in the tasks I put upon it. It is a rare day that there is no pain now.
All these 50+ years I have been blessed with the finest motor skills in my hands. In one of my many retail jobs the jewelry department would bring me all their tangled, knotted necklaces for me to carefully unbind after they discovered I had the patience and motor skills to work the tiny chains apart. My hands have allowed me to make almost anything I wanted to make from pottery, clothing, embroidery, Halloween costumes to jewelry. I have used them to repair my home and car as well as dig in the earth for my garden and train delicate tendrils of vegetables and flowers onto a trellis.
I have braided my daughter’s silky hair, buttoned tiny baby buttons and trimmed tiny baby fingernails. I have doctored many scrapes and bruises on young knees and elbows, stroked the soft fur of many loved pets and chopped thousands of vegetables to feed my people.
All of this I took for granted.
No longer will my hands go unappreciated. As a “Do-er” not a “Be-er”, I am struggling to learn how to sit with my hands at rest. No more can I mindlessly keep my hands busy while a movie or TV show is on. No more can I ask my hands to move heavy tile for hours and expect them to be able to still knit scarfs that night.
There are long standing activities that I am questioning now. My signature is no longer as pretty as it was, closer to a doctor’s scrawl, so writing is limited. The crochet hooks may be retired soon. Knitting is less painful, though even that will be pared down to what I truly enjoy making. My jewelry making supplies are likely to be given away after I squeeze out a few more pairs of earrings and my long time plan to learn the craft of stained glass work probably is not going to happen.
Is there a positive side to the aging process? I am finding that though there is a mourning process as the children leave the nest, the face in the mirror looks strangely different and the body parts become more vocal about their distress there is good in the transition.
Like the cleaning of a cluttered, heaped up closet it is cathartic to pick and choose the most important elements of your life. What do you truly love to do? What sooths the soul? What brings a smile? What brings the most good to you and others?
I can still paint and draw. That makes me extremely happy and I am finding that the limitations of my hands are making my artwork better. Now instead of getting sucked into the vortex of detail that has been my nemesis, I am forced to be looser and more expressive in my work. I now question what is most important to be done before I tax the strength left in my hands.
I can still hold a baby and the hand of a toddler. These are becoming increasing joys as D’s kids have kids and I look forward to the possibility of my own grandbabies in the future. I can still hug and hold the hands of those I love. As each year brings the loss of more special humans and animals in my life, a simple touch is precious and golden.
I can still play in the dirt and tend to the plants. As long as the spot is large enough, sunny enough and nourishing enough the plants do not complain about how unwieldy my fingers are. They respond to my energy and my commitment more than my finesse.
My hands have given and given and given over the decades. They are asking for more gentle treatment and appreciation now. They will no longer let me take them for granted and I concede they deserve better. There are still many things I want to do and would like their cooperation for another 50 years. From here on I will thank them for their service on a regular basis, listen when they ask for a rest and appreciate what they are willing to do with me as we head into our next half century!