My 8-year-old daughter kneeled in front of a blue metal wheelchair. With her smooth, slightly plump little fingers, she began to paint the fingernails on the stiff hands of her great-grandma.
The two sets of hands were such a stark contrast from each other. With dirty fingernails and marker tattoos, my daughter’s hands were just longing to experience the excitement of the world and what was to come. And lying gently in her palms were the accomplished hands of her 94-year-old Mimi.
Tiny little fingers quickly massaged sore, stiff, wrinkled hands. In a world where everything moves so quickly, these hands had begun to slow down. They had accomplished so much and were becoming tired.
Tired from rocking three kids, five grand-kids, and seven great-grand-kids. From changing diapers, scratching backs, and writing children’s books. The hands had started caring for themselves at 6 years old. When they were smooth and agile they dressed dogs in dolly clothes and won blue ribbons at the fair for amazing sculptures.
The hands my daughter was holding had created beauty.
They produced hundreds of paintings, drawings, and illustrations. They wrote songs and played the piano. They taught preschool to high-risk children and life skills to adults with special needs.
Boy, had these hands learned to turn! They turned the dial on the family radio in order to listen to The Shadow and power switches on a brand new black and white tv, a desktop computer, and an iPad.
They turned the steering wheel of a brand new 1960 Ford Convertible.
In amazement of the scene in front of me, I sat on the floor with bright orange nail polish and began to give my Mimi the first pedicure she had ever had.
As I held her small size 6 feet in my hands it struck me.
These tired, dry, and swollen feet have done so much in 94 years.
They learned to walk with assistance from the family dog and jumped on beds that weren’t quite bouncy enough. They ran bases in the neighborhood sandlot and climbed trees even though girls weren’t supposed to do such things. And they trod the ground of the 1933 World’s Fair in Chicago.
These amazing feet walked kids to the swimming pool and ice cream parlor in the summer and marched through a snowstorm with a newborn baby.
They danced with young handsome soldiers at the USO during WWII and marched to Pomp and Circumstance during a Master’s Degree graduation.
These feet bounced down the aisle for a beautiful wedding and dragged slowly up the aisle for funeral processions.
And these feet have paced.
Paced with worry when teenagers weren’t home on time, with excitement in the halls of maternity wards, and with exhaustion while rocking a sleepless baby.
In nearly 100 years, the hands and feet of an amazing woman truly experienced life. The feet now spend their time on the foot pedals of a wheelchair or relaxing in a soft recliner. But the amazing hands that have held three generations of babies are still going strong. They are stiff and numb. They can’t quite feel the softness of a flower petal or the rough bark of a tree but they can paint it! And they continue to create new experiences every day.