Monday, December 12, 2011

My Mother's Hands

“Your hands are like your mother’s” he says.  This man who adored my mother, who has missed her every day for the last almost nineteen years since she left this earth, says this to me and I know it is my father’s awkward way of telling me that he adores me too. 

 My hands are like my mother's.  I remember the first time I looked down at them and saw my mother’s hands at the ends of my arms.  It took my breath away.  She was there, right in front of me.  Right on me.  But she wasn’t.  It was disorienting.  Sometimes it still catches me by surprise as a sweet reminder of who’s I am.  Today I have acrylic French nails on them, something my mother never had, and something I probably won’t have for long after I return to my home country.  But the hands, the size, the veins, the quality and quantity of the wrinkles: they are my mother’s. 

When you lose a beloved parent you fear you will never, ever be able to adjust to that void.  And then, before very long at all, you tell yourself you do not want to ever adjust to that void.  Because you fear that adjusting means forgetting and though the memories are meshed with the pain of loss, they are something to hang on to when you don’t want to let go.  Give me pain over void any day.  I cannot bear the weight of emptiness.

I got her hands.  This gift is there to surprise me on occasion as I look down at my working hands.  Nineteen years and I have not forgotten the squint of her eye nor the lines of her smile.  She was only seven years older than I am now when we lost her.  She fought back two times before: cheated death in her forties when breast cancer tried to claim her.  Postponed death in her mid-fifties when her heart failed her.  And then left at 59.  An angel, under whose wings and within whose hands I live.  An angel with my hands.