I’ve found myself thinking a lot about hands the last few months. It’s kind of a strange thing to think about, but it’s also something I think I’ve taken for granted in my life. Most people have them, unless they were born without them or lost them in a horrible accident, and I think it’s something that it’s easy to overlook. Like breathing—we don’t stop and think about the fact that we breathe, we just breathe. In a similar fashion, I think that we use our hands in much the same way. We don’t necessarily think about how much they do for us.
The thing that started me down this thought process goes all the way back to graduation in May. My mother gave me an incredibly meaningful graduation gift—my grandfather’s wedding ring. She had it sized to fit my right finger, and I’ve worn it every day since graduation. The ring itself isn’t anything overly ornate—a squared gold band with a single diamond set in the center, in comparison to my wedding band, it’s borderline boring—but as I’ve worn it, I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on my grandfather.
Grandpa worked in construction. He was an incredibly hard worker, having grown up in the depression and worked in the Civilian Conservation Corps. He was also incredibly handy—I remember visiting my grandparents as a child, driving out to their house in Hebo, the house that he built, and peeking in to his shop to see him working on whatever woodworking project he had on the bench. In my house currently, I have a coffee table and end tables, a blanket rack, and a wooden game board that my grandpa crafted in that shop with his own two hands, and they’re items that I cherish because I know he made them.
Contrast that to me, who I am—I’ve not had a terribly difficult life when it comes down to it, and I’ve never spent anywhere close to the same amount of time working with my hands as my grandfather probably did by the time he was my age. When my grandfather passed away my freshman year of high school, one of the things I was most upset about is that he never taught me how to work with wood, and while I was left all of his tools, they’ve lay dormant in my grandmother’s garage for nearly two decades. I’ve not yet taken the time to go through and find out what works, what doesn’t, or what all I even have at this point. I know for sure I have a Shop Smith, and the only reason I know that is because my grandmother had been looking to get rid of it several years ago to make space in her garage. I didn’t know what all it did, but I did know that a new one would be downright expensive to go out and buy new, so I asked a friend to store it for me until I had a place that I could put it.
Cut to today—my wife and I have been homeowners for all of a month now. We moved into the house just a few weeks ago, and I’m getting a crash course in working with my hands. After not so much as mowing the lawn as a kid, I’ve ripped up carpet and painted a bedroom. I’ve rewired a clothes dryer and installed a new light fixture. I’ve pruned a Douglas fir and a Japanese maple. I’ve mowed the lawn and whacked some weeds. I installed a new gate latch. And I’m probably nowhere near done. If there’s one thing I’ve heard from others about homeownership, it’s that there’s always something else you want to do. Remodel a bathroom. Redo a kitchen. Build a shelving unit for the garage. I’ll probably never be done.
And you know what? I’m okay with that.
I’m finding that the more things I find that need to be done, the more of them I want to learn. While my grandpa may not have been the one to teach me woodworking, or how to care for a yard, the more that I do work at those things, the more connected to him I feel. The works that his hands wrought, my hands can do, too. I still have a lot to learn, and it’s not something I’m going to be able to do alone, but I’ve been blessed with friends who can teach me what I need to know. I’ve had people teach me how to run and care for a lawnmower and weed whacker. A friend who is an arborist gave me tips on pruning trees. Another friend told me how to check the air filter in my home, and another helped me fix my garage door opener. My father in law patiently checked my work while I rewired the dryer for a four pronged plug. All little things, but things that have helped me immensely in learning from experiences I’ve not yet had.
My hands may never build a house from the ground up, and I’m okay with that. But I’m starting to realize that I can do more with them than I thought. I’m just hoping I can live up to a fraction of what grandpa was able to do with his.