I've always been able to grow long strong fingernails - never had a problem with my nails, or my fingers, or my hands. Yet this past year my hands have ached - nails fallen off because of chemo, finger tips freezing with neuropathy as a result of chemo, hands aching because of stress fractures, again the result of chemo.
But I'm not here to complain. I'm wanting to acknowledge the hands that have braided, picked, caressed me.
I loved spending time with my grandma Jensen. One classy independent lady - she would have been 100 this past December 26; she died more than 10 years ago, shortly after my grandfather passed away. When we had sleepovers I would kneel at her bed to pray; she would sit next to me and gently push my long blonde hair behind my ear, over and over again. I don't like having my ears touched, but I'd give almost anything to feel her caress, just one more time. As she aged and I grew, her hands fascinated me. Almost paper thin, wrinkled, covered in sun-spots, I would caress her hands, trace the outlines of her veins, look at her palms - her life-lines, and look at mine to see if they matched. They did.
My mother's hands have always been busy. Mom is more a doer than a caresser. Her hands are often wet, doughy, dirty, or filled with laundry, food, books. She has her sunspots routinely removed - pre-cancer or to postpone aging, I'm not sure. Her hands pulled my hair back into a tight bun, trimmed my bangs, spanked my butt, and baked me dinner. I enjoy watching my mom's busy hands - she is a giver, perhaps her caress is one of service.
My daughter's hands - long lean fingers, long nail beds, strong, gentle. Her hands are those of an artist - her hands are creating - whether a baby, a piece of jewelry, or a tune on her guitar. She paints her nails, but seldom are they perfect - chipping and peeling from being needed - chipped nails showing me she cares for herself and for hers. I look at her hands and see fresh, authentic, and brilliant.
I have one fingernail that is split in half. 27 years ago I was weeding my front yard flower bed when I should have been resting. I lifted a boulder to reach the weeds rooted under it and then quickly dropped it on my hand, smashing my middle finger. My nail disappeared, and when it grew back, well, I must have damaged the nail bed. Interestingly, even the chemo did not change this.
Tonight, with long beautiful fingernails, still nicely bearing last week's polish, I see my grandma's hands - skin wrinkling, sunspots now almost touching each other. I see my mother's hands - quick, often wet, agile. I see my daughter's hands - I see my past in her future. My hands are a tribute to my women's hands - eager to teach, eager to serve, eager to caress.
And when they are aching, when they are tired, when they are stiff, I think of Grandma's busy hands that still had time for me. I hope I will have a grandchild who will kneel next to me, or lay their head on my lap, and allow me to pray with my touch.
Have you heard of the Buddha goddess, Kuan Yin? When I think of the women in my life, I'm reminded of her and her outstretched hands, ready to serve -