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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Mother (as in maternal parent) (04/24/08)

TITLE: These Hands
By Pam Carlson-Hetland


I held my mother's hand. With the other, she fumbled with the oxygen tube at her nose and made an impatient comment referring to her 'leash.' Tonight, I wondered if she resented this lifeline--not as an inconvenience--but as a tether to an earthly existence that has become wearisome for her.
We chatted of daily things, of news from relatives, and of the weather. I recounted a humorous conversation with my daughter. She laughed.  Her eyes told me she was happily engaged in our conversation. I looked down at the frail hand--surprised by the strength at which it grasped mine. It reminded me of a story I read recently about hands. I placed my other hand over hers as if to protect it. Its thin covering, like parchment, revealed blue veins and intricate bone structure. The fingers are misshapen from arthritis and years of hard work. These are such small hands to have done so much for so long a time.
These hard working hands bathed babies and emptied bed pans for patients in a hospital during WWII. They ran a manually operated elevator in an office building and packed fruit from an orchard.  Later, those same strong hands helped her husband run a family farm. They pumped water for livestock, planted and weeded gardens, and canned the produce.
Efficient hands lovingly cared for her family's needs.  Skilled hands cooked and baked until the kitchen was filled with mouthwatering aromas. Nimble fingers pinned dazzling white shirts on a clothesline for her husband's new political career.  Gentle hands rocked babies and fluffed pillows of sick children. Firm hands disciplined but were swift to wipe away tears and give hugs. And even after more than six decades of marriage, these hands still care for her husband.
Creative hands wrote notebooks full of poetry. They embroidered beautiful linens and pictures, sewed doll clothes, and styled the neighbor ladies' hair.
Hospitable hands welcomed friends and family. Compassionate hands held the hands of others throughout grief and hardship.

Sometimes, these hands expressed frustration. A line from one of my mother's poems described a less than perfect cake decorating attempt, “My palsied fist I can't control, while listening to rock and roll.”* Another time, a cake came from the oven full and fluffy but within minutes deflated to a lopsided, clay-like mound. Determined hands painstakingly tried to mask the flaw with frosting until patience reached an abrupt end. Angered hands dove into the gooey mass with vengeance, pulverizing that culinary disappointment. Within seconds, hands dripping with evidence of cake mutilization hung limply over their victim while my mother's horrified expression sent me into peals of laughter. And then those same hands calmly cleaned everything and began the cake baking process again—guilty hands doing penance.
Most importantly, these hands folded in prayer. Daily, my mother brought concerns for her family to the Lord. With her earthly hands, she offered tangible help in any way she could.
I was a teenager when Mom began to examine her hands and say, “My hands look like my mother's. I used to watch her sew on her treadle machine for hours. She had arthritis bumps on this finger, too. Poor Mama.  She had a hard life.” 

My mother once held my grandmother’s hands the way I now hold hers. I glanced down at my own hands.  In that instant, I saw my mother’s hands at my age and I thought, “My hands look like hers.  Poor Mom, she had a hard life.”  Then I wondered if my daughter would hold my hands like this some day and think these thoughts.
Soon--much sooner than I want to contemplate--there will be another pair of hands that will hold my mother’s. His hands will dry all her tears and take away her pain. He will reward her for the work of her hands here on earth.

Until then, I will hold these precious hands.  
 * Excerpt from a poem by author's mother


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This article has been read 1008 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Peter Stone05/01/08
Beautiful perspective, looking at your mother's life through her hands, and tying it into her doing the same with her mother. My favorite paragraph was the one with the cake mutilization.
Verna Cole Mitchell 05/02/08
This is a lovely piece. The strong verbs made a good portrait of a strong woman. Very well done.
Kristen Hester05/02/08
This is beatiful, tender and touching all at once. I love the descriptions and the images...the description of the hands, her "leash," etc. I love the flow and pace...so lovely. Great job.
Debbie Wistrom05/02/08
What a woman, what a tribute. You are so right, hands do say many things...I could read more of these lives. Much more!
Emily Gibson05/03/08
Wonderful illustration of the "full circle" through the metaphor of your mother's hands. As I sit at my mother's bedside, I too wonder what another 30 years may bring.
Joanne Sher 05/04/08
Lovely, with beautiful descriptions and poignant emotions. Beautifully done.
Mariane Holbrook 05/05/08
Oh, I've been through this! Have I ever! I used to study my mother's hands and thought "If only they could talk and tell me all the secrets of Mother's life." I love the way you put this together. It's so sensitively written, so beautifully done, so YOU!
Shirley McClay 05/05/08
I tried to pick a favorite line but couldn't.. it's all beautiful. Makes me miss my Grandma and Mom so very much. Beautifully done.
Joanney Uthe05/05/08
Beautiful tribute to your mother. I can picture you sitting with her holding her hand, reliving her life in your memories.

My favorite was the reference to her eyes telling you she was actively in the conversation. I remember many conversations with my Grandma where that wasn't the casse.

I enjoyed the line from your mother's poem and how you incorporated that into your story.
LauraLee Shaw05/05/08
This is beautiful. You took the hands of a mother and worked an entire story around them. That must have been very difficult to do, yet isn't that what most of us think of when we think of a mother--What her hands were busy doing? Very well done.
Joy Faire Stewart05/06/08
Oh, this really touched me. It reminds me of my 86 year-old mother's hands. It is beautiful how her life unfolds around her hands. So tender.
Lynda Schultz 05/06/08
I love how you ended this piece.
Joshua Janoski05/07/08
I sure hope that this entry places high this week, because it is amazing! I loved all of the different descriptions that you were able to give to one pair of hands. This is a truly special and tender story. I loved it! :)
Edy T Johnson 06/03/08
Dittos to all the above comments! I'm sorry I've been AWOL and missed this touching tribute earlier.

Dear Pam, your writing has so much depth to it. You pull the tears born in our hearts right out through my eyes.