Hands

(2019)

May 22, 2019

This week marks ten years since an accident that resulted in my mom’s hand looking like it belongs to E.T. All joking aside, that was an impactful experience. I wrote about it then, and have added a few notes today.

May 27, 2009

I had a positively lovely afternoon with my mother yesterday. We met at Freddy’s, where she bought me cupcake accessories and storage bins for my upcoming birthday (you know you are a real dork when that is what you ask for for your birthday). Plus she treated Blaine to some new sandals and swimwear. We couldn’t find the right size of gobbles, though. (goggles.) I promised Blaine we’d take him to another store, because he is really concerned. “I need gobbles so I don’t get water in my eyes!”

After dallying around Fred Meyer we met at Mom’s favorite nursery. When I got out of the car she looked at all the pony packs of flowers on display and then at me. “Isn’t it wonderful? All the possibilities!” She helped me pick out some lovely hot pink and white Zinnias for my house, since I am always admiring hers. I added a Dianthus to the mix and she grabbed a Begonia for her backyard. After a little more browsing, a little bit of my whining that my house isn’t shady enough for the hanging Fuschia of my dreams, and watching Blaine fall out of the double stroller repeatedly, we packed it all up into our two Hondas, planning to meet up at the blue house.

Back at home my mum helped me dig all the holes, pour in better soil than our lousy clay, added plant food and water, placed the flowers in, and then gave them all a drink with her Miracle Grow. As the sun beat down on our necks and the soil covered our hands I smiled at memories of planting flowers with my mother each summer. She has two green, GREEN thumbs. She once raised a whole army of African Violets from a single leaf. People bring her their sick Orchids to revive. As we finished, I stood back to admire our work, so happy to bring new life to the blue house. When we went inside to wash our hands Mom had me rub some sunscreen on the back of her neck. As I rubbed it in, I looked at her aging, freckled skin. I thought about all the summer mornings I stumbled out of bed at 10:00 to find my mother out in the garden picking green beans. She’d usually been out their working since 6 a.m. She has always worked hard out there to make everything beautiful and to grow and abundant crop of deliciousness to share with her family and neighbors. I wanted to be like that.

Blaine cried at Mom’s departure, but I promised him we would meet her at the ranch later. As it would turn out, I would get a call on our way to the ranch, that Dad was rushing Mom to the Emergency Room. There was an accident with a horse, leaving Mom with an injured hand. Mother was OK. Her hand was not.

I haven’t talked to Mom yet; I’m on my way over once my children wake up. I have the feeling she will be positive. And this is how I know: A couple of months ago we were talking about physical ailments and life’s trials. She told me something I am trying to always keep in the forefront of my mind. “Anne, I learned pretty early on not to ask ‘Why me?’ but to say, Why not me?'”

Continuation:

I’m at Mom’s now. I was right. Super positive. As it turns out, as she was helping Dad walk the horses down the gravel hill, a deer jumped out of the trees, spooking the horses. The big one she was leading jumped, knocking Mom to the ground, where she continued to slide down the gravel. Her left hand was mangled, and her pinky could not be saved. But, she tells me, “I have not shed a tear about this. I have so many friends with worse problems right now. And I feel so blessed. Just think of all that could have happened. The way I see it, this was the best appendage to lose. Plus I’m just a hunt-and-peck typist, I don’t play the piano, and I lead the singing at church with my right hand. The only frustrating part is that I’ll have this huge bandage on for weeks. How am I supposed to blow dry and curl my hair with one hand?!”

I love her. “Stuff happens,” she says. I want to be like that.

(2018)

May 22, 2019

My mom was her typical, British, stoic self through all of it, but the experience of losing part of her hand was no small thing. In fact, it was more than just her pinky. It was her entire metacarpal as well, so her left hand is rather tiny now. Gripping certain things is difficult, but mostly, ten years later, it’s hardly a thing. But the first year was hard. She experienced a lot of phantom pain and it took some time to reach the new normal. In true Hall fashion, we mostly made jokes about it. My brother, Brian, told her he was jealous, because she could now fit her entire hand down inside a can of Pringles. She rather lamented the fact that the pinky that had served her so well for over sixty years just went out in the hospital trash, and my dad was like, “What? We should have saved it in a jar?”

But the very best joke was this. To protect her healing hand that summer, my mom had taken to wearing a thin, white, cotton glove on her left hand. She wore this glove absolutely everywhere. This was the summer of 2009. The summer Michael Jackson died. One day, while checking out with her groceries at Albertson’s, the checker looked at her white glove and asked, “Is that to honor Michael?” We thought that was basically the best thing EVER.

Of course, my mom was right from day one. It was just a pinky. Her life isn’t much altered without it, thought the experience was educational to say the least. I have long been moved by what hands are, what they can do, and what they represent.

A week after the accident I wrote this:

June 4, 2009

Ever since Mom’s accident I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about hands. I remember when Dad spoke about his deceased mother and what her hands meant to him. He spoke of the hard work she performed with those hands–Idaho farm work. Raised during the depression, my dad watched his mother sew him pants made from old flour sacks and come up with a delicious meal from seemingly empty cupboards. All with her hands.

My mother’s hands have served us children (and so many others) equally well. Rolling out pie crusts and sewing ribbons on pointe shoes and planting tomatoes…

Hands are powerful. They are beautiful. They are symbolic. Call me cheesy, but I keep singing Jewel’s song in my head (I have listened to a lot of Jewel in my day).

If I could tell the world just one thing

It would be that we’re all OK

And not to worry ’cause worry is wasteful

And useless in times like these

I won’t be made useless

I won’t be idle with despair

I will gather myself around my faith

For light does the darkness most fear

My hands are small, I know

But they’re not yours, they are my own

But they’re not yours, they are my own

And I am never broken…In the end, only

kindness matters.

I like those words. A lot. There is power in them.

Mum, I know you are frustrated right now. But you won’t be made useless. Gather yourself around your faith. And The Lord thy God will hold thy hand.

(2018)

The greatest discourse I have ever heard about hands is this one.

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