A few weeks ago, sitting across the table from my mom, she looked up suddenly and said, “Oh! I forgot.” (Literally, it appeared like she must have been hit with this message in the millisecond between talking about work and how awful the Reds have played this season.)
“Your dad meant to ask you the last time you were home, but he forgot, too. How have your hands been feeling?”
For a second, I was confused. How are my hands feeling? I don’t know, they’re feeling, like, well – hands? For a second, I forgot why she would ask about my hands.
I forgot about the months of tears and piercing pain and frustration. I forgot about not being able to untwist a toothpaste cap without my brother’s help and begging my Honors English teacher to let me type my final essay instead of writing it in class. I forgot about the dozens of doctors’ appointments, the days of my dad leaving work early or going in late. I forgot about having my fingers and toes injected with shots and steroids to try to decrease the nodules that had grown on my joints.
I forgot the nodules.
I forgot the deformed hands, the doctors that gathered in panels and groups to study me and “my case”. I forgot the days where RA meant Resident Advisor, someone I knew I’d one day meet in college, instead of Rheumatoid Arthritis. I forgot the days of trying to spell “idiopathic” because that’s what the “I” stood for in JIA. I forgot seeing Phil Mickelson’s commercial for Enbrel and finally feeling a connection to golf (for the first and last time, ever). I forgot the name of the disease that I couldn’t pronounce that I allegedly have.
I forgot because in that moment, “My hands feel good, Mom. They haven’t been hurting a lot.”
I forgot one of the most challenging seasons of my life because, right then, I didn’t feel the pain that went along with it.
No, I didn’t make it out completely unharmed. We were left with bills and pages of reports and medical documentation that I still don’t understand. I remember it often, actually, more than I prefer.
I remember it when I hit my hand against a wall or a car door or a wood table and, whereas most people could walk it off, I have to sit down for a second because the throbbing ache has made my vision go dark. I remember it on the days where I want to buy a band for my right ring finger, but it’s only sold in size 7 or 8 and since that was the finger that was chosen to be cut into, it’s unfortunately a size 35 now. I remember it when I realize I have an uncanny ability to predict when it’s going to rain a couple hours beforehand, because my hands being to feel creaky, like a car desperate for oil or a plant desperate for water.
I remember then.
But when it’s okay? When I’m just sitting across enjoying a sandwich with my mom? I don’t always remember.
I don’t always remember when I’m gripping the wheel of my car – so tight my knuckles begin to turn white – because seriously, the traffic is this awful? It’s not even 5 o’clock yet. What the heck? I don’t remember then that there was a day where I was unable to do that.
I don’t remember when I’m joyously high-fiving the crowd as I run a race. I don’t praise God for my hands not hurting, I more-so remain in prayer for my knees and sore hips that ache.
It’s kind of like when you have allergies. Most days you don’t wake up praising the Lord and kissing the ground that you are able to breathe out of your nose easily today. Yet, when you have a runny nose, the gates of hell have been flung open and every part of your day just became more miserable. Everything is harder, more tedious, more frustrating as you try to keep snot from trickling down your face.
I don’t think we are bad people for not always recognizing the good days. I sometimes think that our me-me-me culture has made it so we only recognize when things are wrong, and we aren’t always aware of just how good they are in the in-between.
I think we need to remember that our phone-that-isn’t-even-getting-service-here . . . seriously-what-in-the-world . . . do-you-guys-have-service . . . isn’t a device we are entitled to have to begin with.
I think we need to remember when our daughter is frustrating and sassy and you, as a Mom, are a split second from ripping your hair out, that she is the same daughter who sat on your lap when at age two, and she’s the same daughter that was an answered prayer when the Doctors didn’t know if it would be possible.
I think we need to remember as children that there are an unfathomable amount of sacrifices that our parents made for us that we will never understand, and some we will never even be aware of. So sure, maybe we can ease up on them when they check in for the hundredth time on a Saturday night to see how we are.
We need to remember when we feel burdened that we have to pick our younger brother up from practice, we really should simultaneously be thanking the Lord that we even get to have a car and live in a country where we’re allowed to drive.
Today, though, I remember.
I remember because as I hit each key on this board, a tiny, shooting sting comes through my joints and my hands.
I may not remember tomorrow, when I am able to intertwine my fingers and hands with another’s freely, or when I quickly finger-comb my hair before sprinting out the door to work, but today – with each little nag of discomfort – I remember.
And I’m grateful. I’m grateful for my hands and the fact that I have the ability to hold another’s, that I have the ability to throw them in the air out of a convertible’s rooftop and feel the breeze lace through them.
While I’m at it, I’ll be grateful for the fact that I just cut my leg shaving, because that means I have legs to shave and a razor to use. And hey, I’ll be appreciative for my air conditioner that smells slightly like mildew and New York on trash day, because that means I have a luxury item and – if it’s running – that means it’s summer.
We would be a vastly different culture of people if we praised before we pouted. Be grateful for each step without pain, each heavy box you have the ability to pick up, the eye lashes that fall on your cheeks and your toes and maybe a few of the intangibles, too.
You won’t think of it today, but tomorrow, when it may all be gone, oh how we will miss the glory days that we do not even realize we are in.