Thursday, January 10, 2008


My Oma's hands were always moving. Even when she was idle, she had the nervous habit of running her thumb against her fingertips as though her hands were itching to be doing something. My mother is much the same way. She can't just sit still and do nothing. When you can get her to sit at all, it is not uncommon to see her busying herself with yarn and a crochet hook or knitting needles as she watches t.v. Although my restlessness is more of a mental than a physical sort, when my mind isn't adequately occupied, I too find myself compelled to do needlework, sort mail or futz around on my laptop rather than just sitting quietly with my hands at rest.

They are starting to show their age, these hands of mine. Their faint lines, scratches and scars may not be visible to anyone else, but I can see them. When I try to show my mother, she says I am crazy. I tell her I think it must run in the family. A coworker used to tell me: "When your skin starts to look like crepe paper, then come back and talk to me!" But some days my hands feel like they have seen a lot. They have raised abandoned birds, carried protest signs, turned a million pags, flown over violin strings, written letters on behalf of political prisoners and held the hand of my father as he was dying. They are unused to idleness. They want to be doing something. I want to be doing something. It might sound pollyanaish, but I think that perhaps the biggest crime one can commit against life is to not have done something (whatever it might be) to make the world a richer, better, and kinder place.

So, yes, my hands are busy. When I look at them, I can only hope that at the end of my days they will have acheived as much as those of my mother and her mother before her.

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