I believe in hands.
Recently, I noticed while text messaging that my thumbs were trembling and kept pressing the wrong keys on my phone. I held out my arm and saw that not only my thumbs, but also all my fingers, were shaking and shivering. My neurologist tells me that this is normal. But my mother has seen it before too, and it made her a little anxious, because it reminds her of my father’s Parkinson’s disease. My father’s hands tremble so much that it takes him a while to open doors and to bring a pair of chopsticks to his mouth. Every time I come home and embrace him, I can feel his hands just barely touching my back, trembling: maybe in quiet delight, or in love, or just in misfired nerves.
Recently, when he became ill at the beginning of my winter break, the first sign that my mother noticed was how much he was shaking and shivering—more than usual. My mother and I each drew one arm around his jerking shoulders and one hand over his hands. His whole body was cold to the touch, even though he had a fever. We prayed for his healing, that his temperature would go down and for his shivering. By grace we found out later that he had been in the early stages of a deadly bacterial infection, and had we not brought him to the hospital when we did, he would have died. He spent a week in the hospital before he came home, recovered.
Finally, a month later, it was time for me to leave for school. We embraced each other as I headed for the security line at the airport, and I felt the same trembling, somewhat tentative hands on my shoulders: shaking, but warm. During that long break, I sometimes wondered whether it was all right for me to leave town again. But the warmth in his hands somehow assured me everything would be all right. I’m reminded of the way Doubting Thomas wouldn’t believe that it was really Jesus until he saw the wounds on his hands. Jesus’ wounded hands were the evidence of faith and hope and love. The warmth in my father’s hands was kind of like that.
Now when my hand picks up the phone and presses it to my ear, and I hear my father’s soft, halting voice on the line—it’s reassuring. It’s because I know that he had dialed the number and was holding the phone in his hand too. Of course, they’re human hands. I’ve seen my father hold a phone before. The cradle trembles in his grip. One day, he won’t be able to hold a phone. But right now, I am talking to him, about politics, about health, about the latest computer problem. He waits patiently for me to actually come home so I can fix those problems, by hand.
And that’s why I believe in hands.
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