My hands are dirty.

Painting Hands

My hands are dirty – paint stained, chemical burned, broken nails – but mostly they’re dirty (and into the Doritos). And old.

Nowhere, as much as my hands, does my age show. My hands have done so much.

As I try to coax paint out from under my nails, I think of all the dirt, grime, debris, and ick my hands have been in during my fifty years. Those thoughts lead to all the other things my hands have done.

Munchie Hands

I have painted so many times – my first apartment the first time I did it alone. (A tasteful beige to cover up the hideous peach that attempted to mute the reddish orange carpet.)

Last summer, I was up to my elbows in garden dirt, ripped to shred by blackberry thorns, and happy.

I’ve cleaned houses, cars, cat boxes, and cement floors.

I’ve been midwife to dogs and cats having puppies and kittens.

Puppy Hands

As a child, my hands were always dirty – finger paints, mud, dirt, tadpole ponds, pudding from the bottom of the bowl, and all the grime a little girl afraid of Not Much could get into.

I hesitate to say dirty, but my hands were bathed in the blood and fluids of my newborn son when they let me hold him just a few moments before rushing him to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit – his tiny body held carefully and joyfully and tearfully.

Camping Hands

My hands were clean for my first day of school, girl scout meetings, to make the pudding that later ended up on fingers and face.

My hands were clean for my wedding and for my divorce hearing. They were clean for job interviews and parent/teacher conferences and visitation hours at the hospital. They were clean under the white gloves I wore to church in frilly dresses and patent leather shoes.

Baby Hands

My hands had been cleaned until as sterile as possible to caress that 3 lb. baby through the openings of an isolette.

They’ve caressed a lover.

Clenched in pain at news of a death.

They’ve put roses in a coffin and roses in the ground.

Rocked babies.

Held wine glasses and coffee cups.

Washed mountains of dishes.

And laundry.

They’ve gripped bicycle handles, steering wheels, and jump ropes.

Cake Hands

Whisked cream.

And cut pasta.

My hands have wound music boxes and played air guitar.

They’ve carried evening purses, groceries, backpacks, diaper bags, apnea monitors, bouquets, and the lifeless body of a beloved dog.

They’ve comforted a breast cancer patient.

Typed a million words – some at 90 words a minute.

Loving Hands

Answered phones, opened cans, and checked for heart beats.

They’ve wiped my tears and the tears of others.

Applied bandaids and makeup.

Poured wine on hot summer nights and mulled cider on cold winter evenings.

They built cement block houses during an earthquake recovery mission in Guatemala.

Fed chocolate pudding to street urchins in Mexico. Carried a passport in London and luggage in Canada.

Om Hands

They’ve handed things and passed things and dropped things.

Tried to crochet a hundred times.

They’ve needlepointed yards and yards of yarn.

And mowed acres of grass.

My hands are old with the joys and sorrows of life; like my eyes and mouth, the wrinkles are my life written on my body – witness to fifty good years and some bad times.

With palms up, my eyes closed and my mouth open in a near silent om, I wish for fifty more years of filthy hands. Clean hands. Holding hands. Busy hands.

16 Comments

Filed under January 2010

16 responses to “My hands are dirty.

  1. I am in awe of this post. It’s beautiful, touching, funny, sad and completely honest. Connie, you can write, girl.

    I look at my hands now, nearing 60, and see new things–age spots (damn them),arthritis bumps on my knuckles (ditto), lines and wrinkles. I remember my young pretty hands so soft and smooth. And still, with all their lumps and spots, these aged hands tell my life story. As yours do.

    Long life to you, my friend. And another 50 just as interesting as the first 50 were.

  2. Just beautiful, Connie. Thank you.

  3. Wow – I spend so much time and energy rubbing anti-aging cream into my hands every day (not that it’s helping), but after reading this …. well, I don’t think I’ll waste my time anymore. Very touching.

  4. Roseann

    Gotta hand it to ya, well written. I did mentally change one word–“answered phones, opened cans” became opened letters in my mind–opening letters can really make you hold your breath sometimes…

    I was going on in my mind this morning about my feet in a similar fashion. I saw a friend last summer (we went to the art fair) and his comment was: “You still have such pretty feet.” I used to think so too, but now, I compare them to the young Asian teens who do my pedicures and they’re old. No more plump little toes and smooth, shapely ankles, I’ve worn them down with all the miles I’ve walked on life’s long path.

  5. Sherri

    What an amazing post Connie, what a gift you have in your hands, I had a good cry this morning as I am grieving, thanks for sharing your gift..
    Love you,
    Sherri

  6. Ann

    Connie, this is the best blog post I have ever read.

  7. That right there wuz some good stuff now I’m tellin ya!
    Wished I cud git one to write itself like that.
    Niiiiice.
    OMMMmmmmmmmmm……..

  8. I got this from Marissa…..thanks for making us stop and remember all the things we tend to forget

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