Lately I’ve thought a lot of the phrase from Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi.” The refrain is, “Don't it always seem to go that you don't know what you've got till it's gone?”
Every time I look at my swollen thumb, that phrase runs through my mind. That’s the course of rheumatoid arthritis; joint by joint it eats away cartilage and soon the bare bones are rubbing against each other, grinding away. With this process, one’s abilities are diminished, diminished, diminished until few remain.
Oh, I’ve learned many adaptations to my disability. I use tools such as pliers, scissors, and jar openers for tasks my hands used to do with ease. I’ve switched from one-handled saucepans and skillets to ones with two handles. I use a pasta fork to pull clothes out of the dryer. But there are some tasks, such as putting sheets on a bed, for which there are no tools. For those things, I have to depend on others.
With each loss of ability I come to appreciate what I had but have lost. I look at undamaged people with awe as they skip up steps, lift heavy objects, use a keyboard, and much more. I admire hands that can use nail clippers and aerosol sprays, hands that can reach into the back of a shelf to retrieve objects.
Once, long before I developed this autoimmune disease, my mother watched me pulling weeds in my flowerbed and remarked, “Shirley Carol, you are going to ruin your hands.”
In the arrogance of strength and vitality I retorted, “Mother, God gave me hands to use.” This warning haunts me. Why didn’t I listen to my mother? I just didn’t know what I had. Now that it’s gone, I do.
I still have good eyes, though, and can appreciate Nature’s beauty, such as this geranium brightening the deck.
And I can admire the burgeoning prairie coneflowers attracting great spangled fritillaries to their nectar. Two fritillaries were feasting when I took this photo earlier this afternoon. I hope you can spot them.
And don’t forget to appreciate your hands and to treat them as the treasures they are.
Copyright 2015 by Shirley Domer