Friday, July 31, 2015


In this instance, a right hand.

In the middle of winter nights I often had to pull the blankets up on my hospital bed using my left (good) hand. It was an action familiar to me by now, some 4 months after I had clambered onto the comet. At that time, I was not yet using my right hand (I was originally right-handed) because it was still short-circuited and sensitive. So my right arm lived pretty much on its own during this time, and seemed to have forgotten the finer points of handship altogether. I was doing exercises, but the response was primitive, so I wasn't expecting too much too fast; for the time being, at least, I had resigned myself to left-handedness, which had a new interest all its own.

Then one winter night I was again aroused from deep sleep by a cold right arm and had to pull the blankets up. My left hand was maneuvering the covers with the usual drowsy impatience when all at once, from out of  the darkness came a ghostly right hand, emerging slowly from beneath the blanket! It scared the hell out of me. The hand then proceeded to try awkwardly to-- lend a hand. My right hand was wanting to be a hand again! It had ambition! And some form of manual pride! It wasn't going to be left behind, not if it had anything to say about it.

That was when I began to think I was going about this in the wrong way. My right hand was telling me something. I had been thinking that I knew more about being a hand than a hand did. I was treating a hand like a mindless tool, or at most a tool with my mind, currently short-circuited. But here was a hand trying to be a hand all on its own; I wasn't a party to this effort. What I call my hand was wanting to be a hand again: it missed its old job!

As I've said or intimated more than once in these scribblings, my mind knows more than I do. I should pay deeper attention to myself.


Tabor said...

Well, I have missed this whole milestone in your life. Guess I have been reading your blog only sporadically and did not know you were in the hospital. As usual you handle the description with finesse and surprise to the reader. I will never look at my symmetry in quite the same way again.

Kalei's Best Friend said...

Years ago, my MIL suffered a stroke.. She completely lost all movement on her right side.. hand included.. she learned to write w/her left... speech still was bad and wheel-chaired bound...but getting back to your post.. I guess there's a reason why we do have two legs,hands, eyes, ears, etc... when one is no longer in use, the other mate takes over... 'its a good thing' as Martha (Stewart) would say... :-)

esbboston said...

Wonderful piece of writing.

Deb said...

Wonderful Bob! I don't know if you've ever read of Dr. Edward Taub's work with stroke patients, but he restrains the "working" limbs and does intensive therapy on the ones which have been affected by the stroke. Even after 25-30 years patients recover use of limbs long dormant. His method is fascinating. You might enjoy reading a summary of it on wikipedia:

Who knows, that axe and stump might see you again?

Unknown said...

Hi Bob, this is Nevin from Tsuruga. Keep it up! I think you will swing the axe again.