The work of my hands

Over the years I have worked my hands hard. They have turned wrenches, guided planes, worked saws and screwdrivers and pliers. And they have typed and typed and typed. I started out with a manual typewriter that got two of us through bachelor’s degree and graduate school. these days my fingers dance on the keys enough that I have external keyboards for my laptops at work and at home. It is far less expensive to replace just the keyboard than to have the keyboard in the laptop replaced and yes, I have had to have keyboards replaced because I wore them out before the computer had reached the end of its life. The keyboard I’m using to write this journal entry as several keys with letters that you can’t read, which is not a problem because I don’t look at the keys when writing. it does, however show how often those keys have been depressed. I’ve been told that such motion is hard on hands. Repetitive motion can lead to carpal tunnel problems. I’ve been fortunate. My wrists are working well.

Over the years I’ve abused my hands from time to time. They once had a few more scars on them, each with a story of why it is a bad idea to use your thumb as a guide for a saw blade, or how not to handle a knife, or why you look for protruding nails before picking up boards at a construction site. In 2001, however, I burned my hands in an accident and when the new skin grew and my hands returned to their normal some of the old scars were gone. I don’t however, recommend this method of getting rid of scars. Besides, the scars tell a story of where my hands have been and what they have done.

We have a joke in our family about the lid on a peanut butter jar. We both like peanut butter and often buy it in rather large jars. I can often get the lid off of the jar when Susan cannot. I claim that it is my one point of usefulness. She keeps me around because I can open the peanut butter. If I were to use the skill she might not have a reason to keep me. It is, of course, a joke, but I admit to a bit of pride when it comes to opening jars.

A few years ago I developed a trigger thumb. The tendon that pulls the thumb toward the palm became inflamed and would not slide smoothly through the tissue at the base of my thumb. The initial treatment was a steroid injection that worked very well for about six months. A second injection gave relief for just a few weeks. A third injection was not recommended so I opted for a simple surgical procedure. The surgeon opened up the tendon sheath to give the tendon more room to move. The procedure took only seven minutes. After a brief recovery, I was in good shape and the problem has not returned. Then about 16 months ago the problem appeared in my other hand. I got the first steroid injection and it took it about a week before I got relief. However, once it kicked in I had no problems at all for more than a year. The pain and lack of mobility have, however, returned. I’m hoping that since a I got longer relief on this side from the first injection a second injection might buy me a year. As long as the injections are good for a year I think they will continue them. It is possible that I eventually will need to have surgery on this hand as well. I’m not worried about it because I had such success with the other hand.

It is true, however, that I am dependent upon my hands and I really notice when I have a problem with one of them.

Our son has a mild hemiparesis in one of his hands. It is the way he was born and although he has had therapy and exercises, one of his hands doesn’t function as well as the other. The affected hand is on his right side. In practical life it is mostly that he is really strongly left-handed. The right hand can do all sorts of things and is a good helper to the left one, but there are some tasks that he has learned to do one-handed because it is more practical for him. It doesn’t really rise to the level of disability, but rather just a need to adapt to his circumstances. It hasn’t inhibited his ability to work.

My father lost the ends of two of his fingers in an accident when I was six years old. He leaned to live and work and function with the shortened fingers. They were far more sensitive to cold than the rest of his hands and he had to be careful to wear gloves and mittens whenever it got cold, but the injuries didn’t seem to limit his ability to do the things he wanted to do.

These experiences have made me very aware of hands. I notice when others are experiencing pain in their hands or when they have limited motion in a finger or in an entire hand. I pay attention to others. I am well aware that there are many who struggle with their hands. There are arthritic hands that ache with a pain that will not subside and must be endured. There are hands that have been injured.

One of my favorite Psalms is number 90 which ends: “an establish thou the work of our hands upon us; yea, the work of our hands establish thou it.”

The work of my hands has not only been manipulating tools. My hands are also called upon to hold babies and baptize them, to shake hands with strangers and welcome them, to touch and administer oil to those who are sick, to comfort those who are grieving and to reassure the uncertain. Gentle touch is a skill I never want to lose.

Psalm 139 gives praise because “I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” Certainly my hands are reason for wonder. How fortunate I am.

Copyright (c) 2018 by Ted E. Huffman. I wrote this. If you would like to share it, please direct your friends to my web site. If you'd like permission to copy, please send me an email. Thanks!