Old hands, young hands, wrinkled hands, calloused hands, soft hands, freckled hands. I love to study hands. I don’t think I have pretty hands, but they are what God gave me and I must realize He gave me these hands for a purpose. So, I need to embrace the fact that how my hands look are not what is important. It is how I use them.
My brothers, sister and I have similar hands, just like my dad’s and grandfather’s. My grandpa’s hands were working hands. He was a plumber. His hands reached deep down into the recesses of toilets to unclog them and plodded through tight spaces under houses in muck and mire to connect pipes. My dad also had working hands–he climbed poles to restore electricity and helped mama cows birth their calves. My brother, 5 years younger than me also works hard with his hands, but not the same kind of hard as my dad and grandfather. He assembles sound systems and builds music studios. My sister, in her 60s, still cleans their cabin rentals every day and still works with her husband to gut and remodel houses.
I was ten years old when my youngest brother, Brian, was born. Already infatuated with babies, he became my living baby doll. When he cried nights on end with painful ears, I rocked him back to peaceful sleep. My hands cradled him so lovingly as I cuddled him close, feeling his heartbeat thump, thump, thump against my chest. Sometimes when he was fast asleep, I jiggled his bed to wake him, so I could scoop him up with my small hands and love on him more.
Then our dad got cancer and ceased being the role model this teenage boy so desperately needed. My brother began to drink with his friends, then left home.
Years passed and I went off to school, married, and moved far away. My baby brother grew up and we drifted apart.
He still worked with his hands. He built a house and played guitar for a living in faraway countries.
Once he came by to visit us in Tennessee on his way home from Alaska. He loved our girls and they loved him. He, the fun uncle, tickled them softly with his freckled hands and made them laugh. Big boisterous laughter! His car, filled with a giant stuffed bear brought back from Alaska, peered out the car window. Our girls, mesmerized by their amazing uncle, begged to have a picture with him and of course, the bear.
The girls grew up and began families of their own and didn’t see their uncle nearly as much as they would like.
We, finally empty-nesters, moved to Austria for a while. I worried about my brother. I knew he participated in risky behaviors, like drugs and alcohol.
We decided that after retirement we’d move to the Texas Hill Country where he lived, hoping to be a positive influence in his life. After two years in Austria, we received news that he tested positive for liver cancer. He finally gave up his drug and alcohol habit, but it was too late.
As he lay in the hospice bed, looking like a shriveled up old man, I tried to remember what it felt like to cuddle that soft little babe-in-arms. I caressed his hands, as memories flooded back of days long gone when I called him “my baby.” I gently laid my hand on his chest and it ever so slowly moved up and then down. I leaned over and felt his heartbeat just like I had done as a ten-year-old girl.
And then he breathed his last.