Hands of Time


by

Tina Blackledge

Sunshine peaks over my shoulder
through a window in need of some
attention. Warming rays ease the ache
in hands I find myself inspecting too diligently.

As often done before, I wait.
A crowded room, everyone on his
own journey either waiting to open the
next door or continuing their next step
upon a well worn path.

Although I hear the buzz of a busy office,
chit chat of fellow patients, a discussion of
lunch choices by hungry staff, and the
peel of laughter from daytime talk
show audiences emanating from a distant corner.

My vision is focused upon my hands but
my thoughts are inward. My hands are not
feminine, delicate, or beautiful. Rough skin
indicates years of laborious activity.
A lack of manicured nails accentuates the
fact these hands have seen
more work than pampering play.
A bit bent, a bit swollen, fingers
glide over the many scars that
have accumulated over the years.
Touching each evokes memories
embedded in the patterns.

These hands have know tenderness
tickling a niece or nephew to sleep.
They have known labor that was
both paid and to fulfill an open need.
Fury and rage have been expressed
when they were clenched tightly.
Yet, they have also created
beauty, recorded words of
some worth, and just
clasped the hand
of another whose
heart had just broken.

These are not great hands
of great worth but they
have done important
things for many in a small
circle of friends, family, and strangers.
I thank God because they should be
twisted and gnarled by now, useless,
and nothing but claws but
God has allowed me to keep
the use of my hands regardless
of my body’s failings. I Thank
God for loving mercy, for these
hands still work.

My thoughts are interrupted when
the nurse calls my name. I clasp
the walker and pull myself up
pausing a moment to allow my
legs to get the message that
it is time to work now. As
I take my first step,
clasping the walker
with all my strength, I silently
thank God for his mercy and love,
for I should not be able to walk.
No, I should be bed ridden, but
against the odds, I stand, I walk,
I have use of my hands and my
mind is still sharp.

As I traverse the waiting room,
I smile at fellow patients who
are at least two to three decades
older than I. Some are in
worse condition but some
are only beginning this journey.
They look at me with an array
of expressions; confusion,
skepticism, scorn,
judgment, empathy,
and the most destructive,
Pity.

Again, I answer each of their
expressions with a polite
smile, for they do not
know my journey
and what I have
conquered to
arrive in the
now.

I
feel pity for them
because they do not understand
but they will as the disease progresses
and begins to rob them of everything
they have ever held dear.
Eventually, they
will arrive where
I find myself today
in the
very lonely
very isolated
now.

The doctor’s visits
have become routine used
only to fulfill insurance
requirements. The care is not
curative but palliative, for I
know she will say, “I am sorry
but there is nothing we can do
to stop this monster from
destroying your body.” Of
course, I already know this
and try to reassure her that it
is Okay and that I know
she has done all she could
do in modern medicine.

Yes,
I am grateful, for
I know my now should be
much worse than it is so I
thank God for his mercy and love.
For some reason, He is delaying the
worst this disease has to offer and I must
take advantage of the now because
tomorrow will be too late.

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Family Friends and Dumbasses: Part II


Family Friends and Dumbasses: Part II

Family and friends usually try not to hurt you and there are things that they will do or say now that will cut deeply but did not phase you before your life changed. There is a clear societal expectation that we all will become lesser versions of ourselves as we grow into the twilight years. It is almost expected and accepted; however, when a disease “suddenly” hits you in the prime of your life ( including any age thought to be “too young”) then society looks at the afflicted as if they deliberately changed the rules of play. People are dismayed and shocked showing ample degrees of pity and compassion at first until the realization of what ‘chronic’ really means. Most individuals will hang with you during the short-term but as time and the disease progress their resolve becomes shaky. Finally, you will find yourself with  one, maybe two people who “get” what you are going through and be willing to join you on your arduous journey; however, most will flee. They will flee either physically, emotionally, or spiritually from you as they feel they are being “dragged” down by your ailment.

Now, to be fair, some who develop a chronic aliment become impossible, hateful, and spiteful human beings. They choose to be miserable and make everyone around them miserable. If you know someone like that then I say run…run as fast as you can from them because more than their body is broken and if they are not seeking help to heal then they are condemning themselves and all those who love them to misery and heartache. However, I will discuss the monster disease-ridden personality in a subsequent post, for it is lengthy.

We humans must find an answer, a reason, a solution for the problem we are facing. We have great difficulty accepting that there is nothing we can do or accepting the limitation of what can be done. We want more, we want healing, we want an explanation! The scientific/medical community can give us a plethora of data detailing every facet of the disease that is trying to destroy us. But no one can answer the question that burns deeply within our core, “Why me?”.  If you have a belief in a creator then you begin lamenting toward God, blaming, questioning, accusing, even hating. Your faith will be shaken daily and may break in the wake of a nasty flare or when you are sitting alone trying to figure out how you are going to make it. As if you were not struggling enough with your faith and self-worth, others in your faith community begin to question the cause of your circumstances.

If you are a Christian, as I am, you are familiar with the story of Job. Job was a man afflicted by Satan, robbed of everything God had given him including his health. Job was desperately miserable and struggled greatly with his relationship with God. Three of Job’s “friends” came regularly to see him. First they tried to encourage him but as Job’s problems worsened and continued their own faith became threatened. Because of their own fear, they began to berate Job accusing him of not having enough faith or of possessing some un-repented sin in his life. You see, what was happening to Job made them fear that such turmoil could happen to anyone, unless, Job was to blame for his own misery. In the end, God ended up punishing Job’s “friends” and restoring Job ten times better than was his lot the first time.  The story of Job offers great solace to me because it has helped me to understand why people attack me because my illness or my life, for that matter, fails to get better. FEAR…it is a cruel master and uses it’s minions to spread misery, disdain, and mistrust. This group of people can do more damage to your emotional, psychological, and spiritual health than most others. If you encounter a stranger who is ignorant, it stings, but you move on. However, if someone who calls him or herself a Christian and then allows the fear to make them use scripture to make you feel poorly about yourself or your ailment then the wound left behind remains a gaping hole, raw and seeping. You are struggling already and now others are suppressing your spirit with the error-filled idea that sin or lack of faith is keeping you ill. It is too difficult to comprehend that sometimes the answer to our prayers is , “No”.

My mother was terribly and chronically ill for most of her adult life and I was her caretaker. I, with my ailments, and she with hers made quite a pair. She was a very strong woman of faith but that fact did not deter the  “well-meaning” believers to take it upon themselves to show her the error of her ways so that she may be healed. I prayed diligently for healing for both my mother and myself for over 35 years until I woke up one morning realizing that I had succumbed to the majority mentality. If God had wanted to heal my mother or myself then he would have done so; instead, the diseases progressed. I finally understood that I should have been praying for strength, endurance, and wisdom through the pain and disability because my suffering had/has a purpose. Would I get off this fast moving train if given the option? Hell yeah! However, I have learned that after a lifetime of struggling with my faith and relationships, some will never be able to “get it”, others will rationalize it away, some will blame me for my ailments and poverty, and still others will be vicious and openly cruel. The motivator to each reaction: Fear. After all, if something like this can happen to me or you for no apparent reason, then it could happen to anyone. Faith is not a guarantee of safety; instead, it is a call to arms. God will call upon you to play your part. Disabled people of faith know or learn this fact far sooner than the average Joe. We know we are not ill due to a lack of faith. We are called to challenge the ignorance of  humanity because we know that God did not afflict us but he will utilize our affliction for greater good IF we allow it. I say none of this lightly as it took me a very long time to come to these conclusions and the journey nearly claimed me time and again. There are so many hurdles within our own beings with which to contend but we must also navigate the negativity of family, friends, and dumbasses.

Regardless of whether you use your ailment to help others or wallow in self-pity it  will not change the fact that there will ALWAYS be someone, somewhere wanting to tear you down. You will be able to handle more pain and misery in one day than some do in a lifetime, you will be the unsung hero because you will conquer the effects of your ailment and the impact they have upon your life, your mission, your purpose. You will not win every battle, and many will stand against you.  There will be casualties along the way but you are not alone on your journey. There are many of us standing against the darkness and moving forward…together. The war has already been won, we only need catch up to  the victory party.

So, do not let people tear you down. Do not heed their criticisms. Do not take their hatred and ignorance into yourself. It is theirs, let them keep it because it will do you no good. If friends or family give up, then it is on them. You cannot accept their defeat as your own. You cannot accept their lack of faith and decision to be ruled by fear as your own. You know better…your life, your suffering, your heartache has a PURPOSE and they will NEVER get that. How could they? Pity is all we should offer to them, for the road to understanding is hell on Earth.