The other day I noticed my hands. I mean, they usually are just there, doing what they do: typing, chopping, addition (I’m terrible at math).
But this time, I was taken aback.
Whose hands were those on the ends of my arms? Prominent blue veins ran along the tops, age spots popped up all over, and even wrinkles on the knuckles.
Those hands belong to someone a lot older than me.
I’m 56 in actual years, but in my “head years” I’m a lot younger, maybe 20 years younger. I suppose looking in the mirror should be enough to shock me into reality. But it hasn’t, because I get dressed and go back to my delusion that I’m still a cool young(ish) thing (wearing all black helps).
I’ll never forget watching a movie featuring Goldie Hawn – who also was 56 at the time. The camera lovingly panned across her perfect body – in a white bikini, no less. She was impossibly young looking for her age. Then the close-up moved to her hands, and the jig was up.
While the famous song says the hips don’t lie, when it come to your age, the hands don’t lie (actually, these days, my hips aren’t lying either; they hurt a lot).
Seeing my hands made me think of my own mother’s hands, which now at 88 are so thin and luminescent. Last year, when playing my hero in the play Erma Bombeck: At Wit’s End (coming back this March) at Geva, there was a passage towards the end of the play where Erma notices her mother’s hands and sees the advancement of time. Every time I said the line where she notices how her mother’s ring finger has “shrunk” from years of wearing it, it caught in my throat.
It’s one thing to gauge your mortality by your mother’s hands, but it’s another to see the stark reality of the passage of time on the ends of your own arms.
While Nora Ephron famously wrote a book called, I Hate My Neck, I do not hate my hands. I am grateful for all that my hands have done and can still do, like tickling my babies, grasping my husband’s hand, holding my mother’s hand at my father’s funeral.
These days, they can’t open a jar, so I have to rely on my husband’s hands for that. And in winter, I develop those itchy chilblains on my fingers from the cold, which makes me feel like I’m a character in a Dickens novel all season.
But I fight back. I spend way too much money on manicures. Every two weeks I get to hang out with my friend the manicurist so my hands can be buffed and painted into submission. I come out loving my hands and the cool colors we pick to match my mood that day.
The day I noticed my hands, I decided to take a picture and put them up on Facebook. The response? Women sharing images of their own hands with pride. One woman put up three generations of hands for all to see. One friend wrote how a woman’s hands tell a story – the story of their life.
One story my hands tell means the world to me: My dad had the softest hands of anyone I know. He was a gynecologist, after all. I’ll never forget stroking his soft hands as he lay dying and thinking, "I’ll never get to feel these hands again."
As seen in the USA Today Network, Garnett Newspapers and the Democrat & Chronicle.
As first published in the Democrat + Chronicle and on the USA Today Network