I stare at the back of my hand, so sun-damaged, resembling stained parchment. It is the same but different. It is mine, but I don’t want to own it. The veins peek out, trailing blue rivulets and my once-slim fingers are laden with random knots and bumps. The evidence of the knocks, injuries, the wear and tear of over five decades.
See, right here, on my middle right finger, a knurl, birthed from holding my ink pen for seven dreary years at secondary school, of always scribbling furiously, filling grey feint-lined schoolbooks.
Here, on the right index finger, is the largest carbuncle of all, a veritable Vesuvius, whereas the right ring finger has escaped relatively unscathed.
How strange, I think.
However the right pinky is bent, curving outwards, although the left pinky is straight as an arrow. No longer pinky twins.
A memory – holding my mother’s hand – half a lifetime ago – on that last hospital visit – paper thin skin and attenuated fingers, and in contrast my own, so much broader; solid and strong. Mum stroking her index finger across the back of my hand, an old familiar gesture, at which my heart turned over.
‘You grow into your hands,’ she’d told me. It is true.
They reveal my work journey, the blithe carefreeness of sunny summers, a distaste for gloves, and a white crescent scar when the fruit knife slipped and bit deep.
Now there is a new mark – the indented circle created by my wedding ring. I’ve worn the gold band for over two decades, but I’ve had to free it from my finger. Its tightness upon my skin has made its removal a tussle of panic-making proportions.
It is mum’s ring which I have dethroned. She wore it for fifty years, so add my two decades and that makes seventy years – a span encompassing two marriages – two sets of vows, two markedly different couples linked by the same gold band.
The burnished gold has worn thin, its original pattern a faint memory. It is plain, narrow, downright unfashionable. Yet, it carries, in its eternal loop, heartfuls of my history.
An early memory – me fiddling, with mum’s ring as I hold her hand, walking home from infants school, finding comfort in the circle and its constant presence.
Now, I stare, uneasy, at the empty space on my left ring finger. It is denuded. Naked. The indentation fading already, like a ghost slipping away into the night.
I do not know what to replace it with.
There is no simple answer.