Wednesday, January 7, 2009


Just after Christmas, my mother fell and broke her hip. I spent several days, along with my father and most of my siblings at the hospital. It's just what we do. No one in our family ever stays alone in the hospital. While there, I went down to the cafeteria with my father to eat dinner. He ate cherry cobbler, I ate an ice cream sandwich.

My father has always been a man of few words. While we were eating, I noticed his hands. His fingernails are cut neatly & are clean and his cuticles are smooth. No cuts, grease or dirt were on his hands and they were free of callouses. My dad worked hard all of his life. Radio repairs, airplanes and cleaning equipment, electrical wiring, woodworking and gardening were all things with which he was proficient. In recent years, he has worked on an electronic scrapbook of sorts, trying to name the people in as many family pictures as possible. They are hands that have worked hard to provide for our large family.

My father's hands look different now because his life is different. A cancer survivor of nearly two years, his surgery left him with a diminished lung capacity. Coupled with failing vision, it became apparent that he would not be working anymore and indeed, would most likely not be carrying on with some hobbies that he enjoyed. His hands are at rest, used for the simple tasks of daily life - feeding his beloved dog, caring for my mother, keeping up with his friends through e-mail.

In contrast, my hands have ragged fingernails and cuticles. The palms are rough and my nails are constantly breaking because I use them as "tools" in my daily life around the house. I look at them and I can see that I am older than I used to be & my hands aren't so smooth as they were as a youth. Then, I look at my father's hands & wonder if my hands will once again be smooth.

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