Last week I listened to Something understood, Holding Hands whilst trying to get to sleep, and since then I’ve been thinking about hands – hands I’ve held and hands that I miss holding and the different roles hand holding can play in all of our lives.
The programme started by John McCarthy reflecting on the significance of holding hands as an act of trust, commitment, unity and love between fellow human beings.
He interviewed a retired academic physician Professor Tony Pinching who had major involvement with HIV/AIDS and CFS/ME patients. Tony talks about the significance of the first handshake when a doctor meets a patient for the first time, and also about the special place holding hands can have at the end of a patient’s life.
Ambassador Mart Tarmak describes the peaceful protest of 1989, which became known as the Baltic Way, when around two million people joined hands to form a human chain spanning 600 kilometres across the Baltic States of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. As the people held hands, they sang. These countries were granted their independence from the Soviet Union shortly afterwards.
Then there is this poem by Sarah Kay …
“People used to tell me that I had beautiful hands. Told me so often in fact that one day I started to believe them, until I asked my photographer father ‘hey daddy could I be a hand model? To which he said ‘No way!’.
I don’t remember the reason he gave me, and I would’ve been upset but there were far too many stuffed animals to hold, too many homework assignments to write, too many boys to wave at to, many years to grow. We used to have a game, my dad and I, about holding hands. Coz we held hands everywhere. And every time either he or I would whisper a great big number to the other, pretending that we were keeping track of how many times we had held hands. That we were sure this one had to be 8,002, 753.
Hands learn more than minds do. Hands learn how to hold other hands. How to grip pencils and mould poetry. How to tickle pianos, and dribble a basketball and grip the handles of a bicycle. How to hold old people and touch babies. I love hands like I love people. They are the maps and compasses with which we navigate our way through life. Some people read palms to tell you your future, but I read hands to tell your past. Each scar makes a story worth telling. Each callused palm, each cracked knuckle is a missed punch or years in a factory.
Now I’ve seen middle eastern hands clenched in middle eastern fists, pounding against each other like war drums. Each country sees their fists as warriors and others as enemies. Even if fists alone are only hands. But this is not about politics, no hands are not about politics.
This is a poem about love, and fingers. Fingers interlock like a beautiful zipper of prayer. One time I grabbed my dad’s hand so that our fingers interlocked perfectly. But he changed position saying “No, that hand hold is for your mum!” Kids high-five, but grown ups shake hands. You need a firm handshake, but don’t hold on too tight, but don’t let go too soon, but don’t hold them for too long. But hands are not about politics. When did it become so complicated? I always thought it was so simple. The other day my Dad looked at my hands as if seeing them for the first time and with laughter behind his eyelids, and with all the seriousness a man of his humour could muster he said “You know you’ve got nice hands, you could’ve been a hand model!” And before the laughter can escape me i shake my head at him and squeeze his hand 8,002,754.”
The picture above is of Kate Andrews and I holding hands, I love that she captured the moment in a picture. Then there was the time I woke up holding my best friend Kat’s hand – that was special and I wish I’d captured it. My mum often tells me about the way she used to wash and manicure my grandpa’s hands when he was stuck in a hospital bed. And the look my dad get’s on his face when people say to me I have the hands of a pianist – he gave me them you see.
Whose hand do you want to hold and why?