I realized something tonight. I do the arthritic hand rub I would always see my dad do. The one where you rub one hand over the other in a sideways motion over the knuckles. I've been doing this for a few years now, but much more than I care to admit this year. And once the rub is done, fingers are massaged and then kind of held by the other hand all the while hoping this will somehow take the pain away.
The year I turned 30, I began noticing the arthritis had started in my hands. First it started in my pinky fingers, then almost year by year, it crept through the rest of the fingers; the ring finger being next and so on. My grip has lessened and I've noticed I drop a lot more things this year. My hands swell, and my knuckles are definitely getting bigger. My hands look like old lady's hands already with this and the lovely dry skin I have. The arthritis is prevalent throughout all the knuckles, and now, my middle finger and pointer finger will feel like they are trying to curve over at times; almost like they are trying to twist right around. I know what this is. Or so I feel like I do. Rheumatoid arthritis. My dad's side of the family has it terribly in their hands. My grandma and almost all her sisters had the crippling type that left big knuckles and their fingers twisted in ways you never want to see fingers go; almost a wave like look to them like the ocean had caused them to curve over. When I think of the Thackers side (my Grandma Kenison's side), their hands are one of the things that I remember most. My mom's side has rheumatoid arthritis as well, but not as crippling as my dad's.
I remember about 4-5 years back. Jim and my dad stopped by for a minute in Jim's truck. It was spring time and warm enough that we only had to wear jackets at night. I walked out to the truck to say hi to dad and I saw him rubbing his hands. He'd said he was having a lot of trouble with them with lots of pain and swelling. I looked down at his hands and was shocked at how swollen they were. It was like he was wearing a fat suit that included his hands. They were so puffy, it almost looked fake. He could barely make half a fist. He didn't know why they all of a sudden became so bad, but I could tell it was miserable for him. It was hard for him to work and use the tools he needed to to repair the machines. I asked him to go to the doctor and he said he had decided he needed to. Aunt Kathy was on a trial pill that was working well for her. She wanted dad to get on it, but he never did. He ended up taking some kind of inflammation reducer and it did help. His swelling went way down and he could work without hurting as much. Dad became my arthritis buddy. I've had arthritis in my knees since I was a teenager. In fact, when I had a surgery at 17, the doc said he had "cleaned up" the arthritis, so who knows when I actually started to get it. Dad and I would compare pains and ask how the other one was doing. We'd predict storms coming and I tell you what.... we were right. Dad always knew what to say to comfort me when we'd take about arthritis and I'd tell him how it was moving in on me more. I miss that. I miss how strong he was and would work through the pain no matter what. He always inspired me and continues to, to just keep going. He was the one who told me why I couldn't make fists in the morning. I'd wake up and it was like my hands wouldn't work for a bit after I'd wake up. This started in my early 20's, but I didn't say anything to anyone except Jared. They were so weak, I could barely hold on to or pick up things. It was the arthritis. Dad's did the same thing. Aunt Kathy told me at the luncheon after dad's funeral that she would be my new arthritis buddy. Sadly, I know Aunt Kathy knows what arthritis pain is like, too. We Kenison's are lucky enough to be plagued with this, I guess.
It just hit me as I was doing "the rub", how for years I'd see my dad do the same thing. I'd see him rub his knuckles as he was sitting in his chair watching tv. I see him do the rub as he was working and would take a break as he'd let his hands rest. I'd see it as I was cutting his hair. He always seemed to be rubbing his hands. Somehow it makes it feel like there's one small thing we can do to relieve the pain, when honestly, there is absolutely nothing they can do for it other than mask the pain somewhat with a pill. It doesn't take the crippling part away, however.
I subconsciously have been doing this for a few years now, and tonight I realized another connection I have with my dad. The arthritic rub.
I miss my arthritis buddy.