The slow aging of our children makes us acutely aware of our own progression of life. Our own mortality.
The slow aging of our very last child creeps the nail ever more definitively towards our coffin.
They learn to crawl, our bodies spread.
They learn to walk, our legs begin to ache.
They learn to talk, our voices mellow out and become stronger, more confident.
And their hands….especially their hands….their hands learn to manipulate larger objects while ours learn to finely tune loving caresses.
I often notice people’s hands.
I’m drawn to them.
Just like faces, hands age as life takes its toil and their appearance silently displays someone’s inner story. Strength. Fragility.
The hands of my friends in their mid-30s and 40s have taken on a more mature look over the years that I’ve known them. Mine have begun to change as well.
Gone is the plump thick smoothness of our 20s.
We have scars.
Skin is thinning out.
Knuckles more defined.
Lines are deepening.
Age spots appearing.
Weathered and worn.
Those accustomed to hard manual labor are easily detected by now, betrayed by the permanent calluses and sandpapery feel of their inner palms and fingertips, with grime ground so deep even the harshest soaps can’t return the shine.
Others are pristine, palms and fingertips kept soft over the years due to the activities of their own life path.
But none of us escapes the aging.
I remember my Granny’s hands during her 70s and 80s.
Rough. Gnarled like a century old tree along a nearly dry riverbank.
Fingertips always painted blood red.
Arthritis prevented her from pointing straight, a quirk that didn’t escape teasing by immature grandchildren.
I watched those small leathery hands feed hens and goats.
Plant corn and water flowers.
Fry chicken legs and spread peanut butter.
Once, as a small child, I even watched those hands shake while chopping wood for her pot belly stove, causing her to miss the log and drive the ax head deep into her calf bone.
She didn’t flinch.
She just sighed, glanced at me and said, “Well……shit.” as those aged hands pulled the ax head out, blood pooling down her leg, turning her white ked sneaker a dark mottled scarlet.
Surprisingly, of all the hands I’ve known, I associate those gnarled, leathery aged hands with “strength” because of that one moment.
And I thought of all this while watching a friend’s hands last night at dinner.
Funny what moments trigger memories in us when we should be focusing on other things.