Withering Hands

These hands. Strong and powerful. Soothing and gentle. As if these embody a complete character, the whole persona. A person engrossed in her life, fulfilling its duties religiously. Duties as a daughter, as a wife, as a mother, as a homemaker — as an epitome of tolerance, patience and acceptance as life comes.

Her hands do not have manicured fingers as an epitome of fashion; her hands are age ridden, filled with lines, time-worn yet experienced and comforting. You are seeing the hands of my 79 year old grandmother. Her hands are diligently working on an Indian cutting utensil.

Usually, a picture of withering hands doesn’t exude common appeal or beauty — but this image has a significant effect on me, on us — to be precise. Those hands offered a soft and silent refuge when we needed it, being most articulate through an unique quietness.

Those hands raised my mom, my uncle and aunts, me and cradled all of us from a bout of pain to a restful sleep. They are hands that quietly calmed the storm of life that surfaced from time to time.

I remember the blessed, peaceful touch of her fingers. She held us all; even if she wasn’t feeling well and especially when our entire life seemed upside down. Her hands soothed us without a question or judgment; she understood our need for the human caress.

I remember those anxious hands on my forehead when I was running a 104-degree temperature and trying to soothe my pain. It’s amazing I don’t recollect her face — I only remember her touch.

I remember those hands shaking, trying to hold the phone steady, while absorbing the news of her daughter’s accident, and then later offering help in an open hand and clenched assurance, all in prayer for everyone.

I remember those hands clapping to celebrate her grandson’s achievement — but interestingly enough — I do not remember those hands doing something for their owner.

Never.

Did she feel deprived? I am not sure.

Did her hands spoil us? No.

Did they punish us? Negative again.

Grandmother knew the perfect combination of indulgence and discipline blended together ensuring a wonderful, complete world.

At this point in my life, 10,000 miles away from that relaxing assurance, I know how hard it can be to offer the same tranquility through all those years.

Was my grandmother ready for these earthly responsibilities when she was 19 instead of 79? She never raised a hand to complain.

The amazing strength of those two hands working in unison still surprises me — of which she is probably not aware.

Where did she gather the courage and power to absorb all pain of her life and still be able to offer that soothing pat on our backs when our life seemed crushing down?

There was no martyrdom; not even a slight trail of claiming it.

Can I be that consistent when I am 79 years old? I wish I could, but I am not that certain.

(Credit for the image of my grandmother’s withering hands goes to my cousin, Baijayanta, who is involved in social work — you can tell by his wonderful work that those hands touched him, too.)

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