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My Mother’s Right Hand

Posted: April 2nd, 2011 | Filed under: feature, random image | 13 Comments »

It’s funny, the things that stick with you when you’re a kid. I always knew my mother’s right hand was damaged. I knew there were at least two things that contributed to it — a polio infection when she was five years old, (around 1935), and some kind of freak lawn mower accident involving my grandfather, when she was about ten. Whatever the case, I was always fascinated to watch her write a letter. She just held the pencil funny. But oddly, her handwriting was always immaculate. It never added up.

Today, I drove up there to Kentucky, to check on her. She’s now almost 81. We walked around the yard, and did our customary “inspection of the grass, and the flowers”, then I asked her if I could photograph her hand. She laughed and said, “Sure, if it doesn’t take too long, because I’m hungry”. I set up the still camera and shot some frames — both the top and underside of her hand. I was looking through the viewfinder, and then I’d take her hand in mine, and I’d move it around on the tabletop, in order to compose the photograph. Was wonderful to just take her hand in my hand, like that. It was warm and soft. After the stills, I set up the other camera to shoot some video, (see below). I love just watching her talk, and watching her think, and pause to recollect the memories. I asked her to write something, to demonstrate her “penmanship”, as she calls it. And she wrote, “I love you, Mark”, unprompted by me. Promise.

Also, below is a scan of one of her letters to me. She’ll cut up anything to write on. I save the letters now that she’s getting older. Some of them I don’t even open, because I don’t want to mess up the envelope.


[Edit/Update: Last night, literally five minutes after I published this post, I received an email from my dear friend Lanie Gannon. With her permission, I’m posting this nice poem and her note].

Just one second before seeing your post about your Mother and her hand I was reading this poem and feeling the mother love… The unconditional and utterly devotional love of (my) mother…

My mother will never die.
As soon as one of her eyes grows old, I’ll rush to her
and turn her eyelids young again.
As soon as her face begins to wrinkle, I’ll immediately commission painters
to repaint her.
Without a moment’s delay, I’ll choose the greatest painters
and send them on an emergency mission
to restore her wondrous body,
fresco by fresco,
like antique friezes
in secret attics, naves, and balconies.

My mother will never die.
I’ll swallow her myself, piece by piece.
I’ll gulp her down and spit her up
more beautiful
and pure.
I’ll sprinkle her with hyssop.
And she’ll be as white as snow.

Mother won’t die because I’ll betake myself to her
and pray, and on the spot my prayer will become my mother.

Mother won’t have a chance to die
because I’ll turn into an air-bag
before the fatal accident. I’ll die in her place every time.
I’ll go and methodically rejuvenate her,
I’ll bring her the water of life
from where hills clash and rear,
the mountains battling tooth and nail.

Everyone who tells me my mother will die
I’ll butcher. I’ll put them up in the coarsest, most barbarous salt
and throw their heads to steep in a barrel,
in a sea of wine.
Of wine and Easter cake.

And Mother died. But just a little.


13 Comments on “My Mother’s Right Hand”

  1. 1 Kat said at 5:13 pm on April 2nd, 2011:

    Your mom is a hoot. I love listening to her.

  2. 2 june said at 5:41 pm on April 2nd, 2011:

    i love you too Mark

  3. 3 Tricia said at 6:05 pm on April 2nd, 2011:

    Mark, she is perfect just the way she is.

  4. 4 Tamara said at 8:01 pm on April 2nd, 2011:

    She is precious. This is the best. I laughed and loved all the way through this. In my opinion she is a movie’s worth. This best yet you’ve done. And btw, you look just like her!

  5. 5 Bill said at 12:00 am on April 3rd, 2011:

    Simply precious. She’s so much like my grandmother at the same age-even the handwriting is almost identical. I was very close to my grandmother, so watching this is very comforting for me. So glad you are doing this Mark.

  6. 6 Roz said at 6:18 am on April 3rd, 2011:

    Be ever grateful for your Mom and your relationship together…how easy it seems to be. Not every Mother and child have the uncomplicated love that you two seem to share. The moments are so few. Enjoy them.

  7. 7 Lisa said at 6:26 am on April 3rd, 2011:

    Oh she’s wonderful. Reminds me of home. If you will excuse an overused word, priceless.

  8. 8 Anki said at 10:02 am on April 5th, 2011:

    Wow … your mother is an amazing woman and I like the photos of her hand.

  9. 9 Leonardo said at 2:40 pm on April 6th, 2011:

    Lovely video portrait.

  10. 10 Chris Gibbs said at 5:16 pm on April 10th, 2011:

    “Have you got a pen…..?”

    Pure gold, just brilliant, thanks for sharing! (:-)

  11. 11 natalie said at 12:04 pm on April 11th, 2011:

    oh my goodness.
    love love.

  12. 12 Sally said at 7:44 pm on April 15th, 2011:

    This just made me cry.

    It’s obvious that she loves you, and you love her too. What a precious gift.

  13. 13 Lizette said at 8:14 am on April 17th, 2011:

    I’ve always, always loved your mom. Thanks,