If anyone ever doubts the importance of hands, google “words that begin with ‘hands.’ Many of them are active words – as hands always seem to be working. All those words, like crafted, sewn, writing, shaking, springs, picked, painted, embroidered, and so on, are preceded by “hand.” And then there are those physical acts of kindness that only hands can do. Holding, caressing and comforting with a hand’s gentle touch. Or when the task is too big or hard for you to manage and you need a pair of helping hands? And could there be music without our hands? Or a hand decorated cake?
I look down at my hand, my left hand. My right hand is okay, a valued member of my body, but it is my left hand that holds my talents. It is with this hand that i write, that I hold my embroidery needle and my paintbrushes. It is my left hand that plinks away on my guitar, tinkles the ivories and guides the pastry bag when I decorate a cake with tiny rosebuds. As a young child, my teachers were determined that I should be “right-handed.” Being a “leftie” was looked down upon. We were lesser beings. In some societies, considered evil. But my right hand was independent and refused to be coerced into something she wasn’t. She was not about to take the lead, leaving that up to her left-sided twin. I was perfectly content with being left-handed and as I grew up, found myself among an impressive cadre of lefties, including Barack Obama, Sir Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Whoopi Goldberg, Paul Simon, Ben Stiller, Diane Keaton, and many others. I like the idea that I am one of the privileged ten percent of the world’s population and I am in good company.
It is, alas, also the hand that is showing signs of age, as evidenced by a small knob protruding on its pointer finger. This does not impact my hand in any way, but what does cause me discomfort is my thumb joint, riddled with arthritis. This is not physically evident, but I’m painfully aware of this when I open a jar, or attempt any action requiring the use of my thumb. The orthopedic surgeon I consulted explained a procedure to replace the arthritic cartilage with another piece taken from another area of the hand. This is usually successful; however, it requires a hand cast for nearly three months and then very limited activity for another three months. I’m holding off on that for a while. I’m fortunate that my fingers are still relatively straight, because I use my hands, especially the left one, for all the activities that bring me joy during these troubled days. Of course, along with the small arthritic “bump” there are the wrinkles. And despite all the ads promising “youthful looking hands in 30 days,” the only way I can make those wrinkles disappear it to make a fist, and one can’t go through the day with your hand willingly clenched. Nowadays, a clenched hand, even minus its wrinkles, is not a good visual. And there are days when I have to suppress the urge to clench my fists (and yes, my teeth sometimes), aware it can too easily lead to an unhealthy confrontation.
So while I can no longer offer up my hand for a handshake, my hands, both of them, are out there, doing what they do best. Painting, embroidering, cooking and yes, even cleaning (but as little as necessary). I hope my hand, my left-handed partner for life, understands why the surgery will have to wait. For those of us, and it should be everyone, who are doing our best to adhere to the guidelines, our hands are needed more than ever – to comfort and to bring us joy and happiness. And they are not to be taken for granted.