My Mother’s Hands

 

My mom is the babe with the dark hair. I’m the kid on the left.

I have my mother’s hands.   That’s not something I’ve ever taken as a compliment – no offense, Mom.

Our hands are broad and short-fingered.   A network of lines criss-crosses both palm and back.  The adjectives “sturdy” and “capable” come to mind when you see them.  They’re milkmaid hands in search of a cow.

When I was a kid, my mother’s hands were rarely still.  I remember them…

wrist-deep in noxious substancesAs the mother of 9 children she handled more than her fair share of disgusting stuff.   Fully 4 little bottoms might be diaper-clad at any one time.  Dad helped, but as a stay-at-home mom, the lion’s share of the doody duty fell to her. Mom was a one-woman bomb squad, at least until us “big girls” were old enough to be sent to work in the doo-doo mines.

defrosting broccoli.  It’s not that Mom was a bad cook; it’s just that the unrelenting drudgery of putting breakfast, lunch and dinner on the table for that many people sucked most of the joyful creativity out of the process.  Her go-to menu consisted of hot dogs, frozen broccoli and baked potatoes.  In the summer she switched to my Dad’s favorite: corn-on-the-cob and BLTs for almost every meal.

up to her elbows in a laundry tub.  With 11 people in the house, the mountain of dirty clothes never really wore down.  All she could do was take a little off the top of the pile when it threatened to hit the ceiling.  Mom spent so much time in our dank basement she should have been a troll.  She never complained about it because it was the only place she could go to get away from us.  We kids never went down there for fear of being pressed into service carting baskets of clean clothes up two flights of stairs.

ink-stained, clutching the edges of a newspaper. My mother is a voracious reader.  The Detroit Free Press, the Detroit News, the local paper, the Wall Street Journal – she’s read them all for years.  Back in the day, sticky little hands would rip down the newspaper barricade she tried to hide behind before she ever finished an article.  Her passions have always been politics, biographies and history.  She has been a proud member of the AAUW and their book club for almost 60 years.   She is still one of the most widely read people I know.

slapping at my Dad’s hand as he absent-mindedly raised it to his mouth to chew on a nail.  Mom is the eternal optimist.  She remains confident she can break him of this detested habit, even though she’s had no luck in 61 years.

wielding scissors.  Her passion for current events and politics leads to a need to share.  After we grew up and moved away, rarely did more than a few weeks go by without a familiar manila envelope showing up in our mailboxes, chock full of articles.  The salient parts are underlined and extra commentary written in the margin.   Hers is the voice of our civic consciences, exhorting us to stay informed, to write our congressmen, to DO something to right perceived wrongs in the system.  Mom is Jiminy Cricket to all of her little Pinocchios.

writing notes.  My mother rarely forgets a birthday, a holiday, or a special occasion.  She takes the time to pick out just the right card (usually mushy), and then underlines the sentiments that really speak to her.   She casts her net wide to keep the far-flung edges of our extended family together.  No matter the card, no matter the occasion, the message she is sending is clear: you are special to me.

bandaging boo-boos.  Over the years Mom has handled more injuries than the local emergency room, not all of them physical.  I remember being home from college one weekend when my little sister Judy interrupted us while we were making up a bed.  Struggling to navigate the shark-infested waters of junior high school, Judy dissolved into tears at the betrayal of a “friend”.  I slipped quietly out of the room, but the image of the two of them seated on the half-made bed remains with me to this day.  Judy sobbed on her shoulder while Mom cradled her awkward, adolescent baby in her arms.  Her capable hand gently smoothed her daughter’s hair, over and over again.

There, there.  Mommy’s here.

Mom doesn’t wear nail polish.  Her hands’ only adornments are her engagement and wedding rings.  These are sparkling testaments to her good taste in both diamonds and men.  She and my father celebrated 61 years of marriage last summer.

A stroke some years back has slowed her down a bit, but at 86 she’s still a force to be reckoned with.   She worries that her handwriting is illegible since the stroke, but we all  reassure her: “No, your handwriting was always horrible, Mom.”  Dad attached a bicycle horn to her walker and she gives it a brisk squeeze if she needs to clear dawdlers out of her path at Big Boy Restaurant.   Going out to breakfast is her favorite sport – another of her features I inherited.

When I look back on life with my Mom I realize I will be lucky if my hands accomplish ¼th of what hers have done.  And if mine can hold even a fraction of the love that hers have, I know I will have been blessed beyond measure to have my mother’s hands.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

It has been a little less than 9 months since my Dad died.  Mom “missed her sweetie”  and her poor heart couldn’t carry on anymore.  With all 8 of us pitching in to care for her at home in her final days, she passed peacefully in her sleep.  Nobody could ask for a better death.

I love you always, Mumma.

  Mary Rosalie Richart 1/11/31 – 6/24/18

Rest in Peace

Mom, Dad and all their children at our sister’s 60th birthday last year. Our brother Pat is no doubt making devil ears behind all of our heads from his perch in heaven.

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About pegoleg

R-A-M-B-L-I-N-G-S, Ram...Blin!
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44 Responses to My Mother’s Hands

  1. Lynn says:

    Oh my gosh, what a beautiful testament to your Mom. I have no doubt those hands are now entwined once again with her sweetie. Sending you hugs & friendship.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. bwcarey says:

    she left you with great memories, bless her

    Like

  3. susielindau says:

    I’m so sorry to hear this terrible news, Peg. I’ve missed you and wondered what was going on. I wish I could be there to give a hug and smooth your hair. This is such a wonderful tribute to a very special woman. And she gave birth to you!

    Sending lots of prayers to you and your family. (((hugs)))

    Liked by 1 person

  4. k8edid says:

    I saw on Facebook that your mom has passed. My condolences. And I remembered this post. I, too, have my mother’s hands, short stubby fingers, soft, peeling nails, but Oh! the wonders they held, made and touched. Wish I could give you a hug, my friend. Much love your way.

    Like

  5. sarah9188 says:

    Your mother sounds like an amazing woman, and your tribute to her in this post was absolutely beautiful. It made me so incredibly thankful for my own mother and all the work she’s done for me and others. Thank you for sharing. ❤

    Like

  6. Margy says:

    A lovely farewell and touching reminder of what mother’s do for their families!

    Like

  7. bone&silver says:

    Stunning tribute- thank you for sharing your loss and appreciation of her so eloquently. Blessings to you and your own creative hands, G ❤

    Like

  8. That’s a beautiful piece of writing. If it weren’t for my sensitive nature I’d admonish you for taking so much time off. All good wishes to you and your family. Your mum had a good run. She left this place in better shape than she found it in.

    Like

  9. Heide says:

    Oh, Peg … I’m so sorry to read your sad news, but grateful and privileged to have read this gorgeous, eloquent tribute to your mom. She must have been so proud of you! My heartfelt condolences to you and your family.

    Like

    • pegoleg says:

      What a nice thing to say! I’m sure she was proud of me, as well as all of her chickadees, but she also felt it her duty to guide us to the very end. 🙂

      Like

  10. absolutely beautiful-what a touching piece. As sweet a tribute as I have ever read. Gods’ Grace to you.

    Like

  11. Love you, Peg. I’m always here if you need me.

    Like

  12. Lovely post, Peg. You represent all of us kids so eloquently. Glad to see you’re back and blogging. Love and hugs (and tears).

    Like

  13. In this culture of moms and daughters always being at odds against each other, it is sweet to read the words of a daughter who truly loves and respects her mother. I’m so sorry for your loss. It sounds like your mother is a wonderful example for many women to follow.

    Liked by 1 person

    • pegoleg says:

      Thank you so much. It’s not that we didn’t have our moments – all mother/daughter relationships are subject to problems. But I did love and respect her, as she did me, and that was the important thing.

      Like

  14. blairine says:

    Your Mum reminded me on my Mum. A mother of nine and a teacher. Her hands still look like they were made for smacking. Taught all of us including Dad how to behave. Tough but loving. A big hug to you and every mum out there.

    Like

  15. The tribute to your Mother’s hands was a lovely eulogy. Hands often speak a language of their own, that may or may not say the same thing as the mouth. From many years of observation, those broad hands with short fingers are the most competent and the most reliable.

    Like

  16. A wonderful piece of writing; honest and loving thoughts brought out in a fantastic way.. Your mom was nothing short of a blessing,one you definitely count every day over and over

    Like

  17. Pingback: My Mother’s Hands – The HOTSPOT

  18. Peg, you have shared a wonderful testament to your Mom. You’ve allowed us to really know the amazing woman, wife, mother, and more that she was. I am sorry for your loss. I am also completely overwhelmed by the memories you must have. Thank you again for sharing this bit of your Mom.

    Like

  19. Onile Martha says:

    Whoa, so sorry for loss, she was an amazing mother

    Like

  20. That was amazing, a truly amazing piece, thank you for sharing

    Like

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