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 what I accomplish with them that matters.
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 they pulled his body through tight spaces under houses, in muck and mire, to fix broken pipes. My dad also had working hands–he climbed poles to restore electricity and helped mama cows birth their calves. My brother, five 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, builds music studios, and creates CD music recordings. My sister, in her 60s, still cleans their cabin rentals every day and works with her husband to gut and remodel houses.
I was ten years old when my youngest brother, Brian, later nicknamed B, was born. Already infatuated with babies, he became my living baby doll. When he cried nights on end with ear pain, I rocked him back to peaceful sleep. My hands cradled him so lovingly as I cuddled him close, feeling his strong heart beat 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.
Years passed, and our dad got cancer and ceased being the role model this now teenage boy so desperately needed. My brother began to drink with his friends, then left home.
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 dropped by to visit us in New Mexico 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 rusty and dented, old Ford SUV filled with a giant, stuffed, black bear, brought back from Alaska, peered out the back window. The girls, infatuated with Uncle B, begged to take 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.
Finally empty-nesters, we moved to Austria for a few years. 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 B’s 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 remembered what it felt like to cuddle that soft, tiny babe-in-arms. I caressed his hands, as memories flooded back of days long gone, when I called him “my baby.” I leaned over and heard his heartbeat, just like I had done as a ten-year-old girl. Tears welled up in my eyes, and I gently laid my hand on his chest, and it ever so slowly moved up and down.
And then he breathed one last breath.