Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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Daughter of Ishmael by Diane Stringam Tolley

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by Diane Stringam Tolley

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Saturday, April 23, 2016

Scarred by Life

Hands tell everything.
I was sitting in Church beside my dad and comparing my hand to his.
Mine were small, white and smooth.
Unmarked by life and softly innocent.
His were large, square, calloused.
Scarred by barbed wire and by life.
Hands that had wrestled cattle and the occasional bronc.
Hauled hay and grain.
Twisted wire or pounded nails.
Held books and rustled important papers.
Sewed up wounds and dispensed medications.
Smacked the occasional errant backside.
And tenderly held babies.
Hands that had accomplished something.
I measured my hand against his.
Would mine ever grow to be the same size?
I looked at my Mom's hands.
Long, tapered fingers with close-cropped nails.
Hands that scrubbed surfaces and small, wiggling bodies.
Punched bread and rolled out pie crust.
Cooked and stirred.
Gathered, sorted and folded.
Swept and cleaned.
Hands occasionally stained with ink from her writing.
And dirt from her gardening.
Scarred by her forays into the barnyard to help when help was needed.
Hands that soothed when others hurt and applied love and bandages in equal amounts.
And finally folded, blue-veined and fragile, over a still breast in peace.
Hands that had accomplished something.
Yesterday, my granddaughter was sitting next to me.
She placed her hand, soft, white and innocent, against mine.
"Will my hands ever grow as big as yours, Gramma?"
"Yes, dear. Certainly."
"I like to look at your hands, Gramma." She pointed. "What is this scar here?"
"Barbed wire, sweetheart."
"Did it hurt?"
"Probably. But not for long."
"You have lots of scars, Gramma."
"Scars are life, written in your hands," I told her.
"Oh." She turned my hand over. "Lots of scars."
"From doing things," I said.
I thought of the 'things' that my hands have done.
Cooked. Cleaned.
Baked. Sewed.
Wrestled cattle and chickens and pigs and puppies.
And small children.
Turned pancakes and pages.
Built houses and fences.
Written.
So many things.
Wonderful things.
I smiled at my granddaughter. "Your hands will do things, too," I said. "Important things."
"Like yours?"
I nodded. "Like mine." 

5 comments:

  1. This has to be one of my favorite pieces you've ever written, Diane. The eyes are not the only window to the soul, the hands are.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I made it past the halfway mark before the first tear fell, Diane, and thought I was doing well ... lovely essay.

    ReplyDelete
  3. So beautifully written Diane. We had ours out today for swimming, playing in the sand, and a grill out. I was watching it all in front of me today when my husband caught my eye and said, "just think because two people fell in love." I was so sweet. Life is good my friend.

    ReplyDelete
  4. How lovely! I remember looking at my GrandMother's hands and her veins and my Mother's and now my hands are like theirs, veiny and wrinkled but well lived.

    ReplyDelete

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