Apr 12, 2009

My mother's hands.

I have held my mother's hand more in the last 72 hours than I have since I was a child. The procedure they attempted to repair the hole in her mitral valve did not work. She will have to undergo open heart surgery again. The procedure lasted for 9 hours as they tried over and over again to position their instrument in the proper location in her heart but they couldn't do it.

She had a very difficult time coming out of the anesthesia, which is not unusual for older people but still very scary. She reverted to her native German and the recovery team needed us back there to be with her and comfort her. She called out for all three of us. The first night was very rough. She was disoriented and scared. My father stayed with her that night.

She is afraid to be alone because she is having bad dreams. My sister and I tag teamed last night. I held her hand for 7 hours as she fell in and out of sleep. It brought me to tears several times. You see, I had forgotten about my mother's hands. Over the past few decades we have given each other the occasional hand squeeze but I haven't really held her hand in a long, long time.

My mother's hands are beautiful. She has long slender fingers and beautiful strong fingernails that she used to keep polished, usually red. I remember rubbing my thumb over her nails feeling the smoothness and wondering at the strength of her nails. Everybody used to say that her hands were so beautiful she should have been a hand model, if there even is such a thing.

Those who know her better got the chance to feel her touch. Her hands are always warm and soft, incredibly soft. She has just the right amount of padding in her palm. My hand always fit perfectly into hers.

My sister and I are the lucky ones. We got to be mothered by those hands. Strong hands that were always working and getting things done. Not only taking care of what needed to be done but teaching us how to do them too. Caring hands, whether she was washing our hair over the kitchen sink, being careful to keep the soap out of your eyes, or whether she was combing our hair. She loved cooking dinner for us every night with those hands. I remember her comforting hands pressed against my forehead when I was sick and rubbing my back affectionately. When I was very young I hated how she would lick her finger, or a tissue to wipe a smudge off my cheek but now appreciate the strength and capability of those hands, even in that.

After this is all over and done with, and she is fully recovered, I have made myself many promises. To appreciate my mother more, to get her to do things she has never done before, to try harder for a better relationship with her. But above all that is the simple promise to hold her hand more often.


  1. How disheartening that must be,to have been under the knife for 9 hours with nothing being accomplished..So much of our character is displayed in our hands.This was a lovely sentiment Thinker.

  2. I recently read the book "Your Inner Fish". The author describes various aspects of human anatomy and traces them back to fish. Not recommended for fundamentalist Christians. He describes an autopsy he performed in college, explaining that before it started he expected to be emotionally upset by it. What he found was that it was not upsetting at all until they reached the hands. I understand exactly what he means.

  3. This was sooo sweet and touching-- a beautiful tribune to your Mom.

    So sorry to hear that your Mom has to go through more surgery...I'll say a prayer for her.

  4. When I was part of a cadaver lab the head, hands and feet were covered up to prevent us from getting emotionally attached. In my anatomy classes I remember the professor talking about the hyoid bone as being one of the pieces of evidence of humans evolving from fish. I will have to read that book.

  5. You hold her hand and hug her often...how to go from being a mum with all the hugs of husband and babies...

    then the kids grow and then its hugs only when you see them...husband's hugs gone...no touching or hugs at alll how do we deal with this...those of us with kids still, husbands still need to consider the lack of tactile input we give to our old mums and dads...those hands of your mum's are so important

  6. Thanks for the well wishes everybody. Mom is doing better and will get to come home for a little bit before the surgery.