Me and My Sinister Hand

Kym Kettler-PaddockDutch lifeLeave a Comment

X-ray of a broken wrist

The Fall

I broke my wrist on Valentine’s Day. My friends told me it was an act of love because I was so ‘head over heels for my husband’, but in reality, I fell when I was trying to get a pan out to make a cheesecake.

A photo of the author's right hand and wrist in a green cast.

My cast–nicknamed ‘Stinky Slap’ by my charming children.

I landed on my right wrist, there was a loud crack, and I sat on the floor thinking  a) something is very wrong with my wrist,  b) how will I get off of this floor, and c) what am I going to do with six tubs of Philadelphia cream cheese.

Although I reassured myself all the way to the hospital that the giant flesh bubble on my wrist indicated a sprain rather than a break, the young doctor with holes in his ears for his off-duty piercings confirmed my worst fears:  I had broken my wrist.

Not only was it my wrist, it was the wrist of my dominant hand. (I write ‘dominant’ with a little trepidation as the use of this word led to some very disturbing conversations about whether the other hand was a ‘submissive’. We’ll leave it there.)

While the medical team injected my arm, put it in traction and straightened the whole mess out, I wondered how I would get around for four—or more—weeks without a car. They thought I’d passed out.

But while I pondered my public-transportation-filled future, my left hand, the sinister one according to the Latin, plotted a takeover.

My meek, unassuming left hand, the one that held the paper while the other hand cut, the one that held the dishes while the other scrubbed, the one that risked partial amputation while holding vegetables to be sliced, the minor league player in all things hand, had just been promoted to the major leagues.  And the sinister hand was gleeful.

The Fallout

Which leads me to my title. Because my left hand didn’t turn out to be a star performer right away. Oh no. If I’d titled the blog “My sinister hand and I,” I would be giving an almost Bela Lugosi, elegant feel to the sinister hand.   “Me and my sinister hand” gives the feeling of a child dressed up in a vampire costume with wonky fangs and a badly drawn Eddie Munster hairline. The latter is how me and my sinister hand got on.

Take handwriting, for example. While my right hand behaved like a fainting diva in its cast and refused to bend its fingers enough to hold a pen, the left hand dived into drafting the shopping list.  My daughter, learning how to write at school, asked me what I was doing. She couldn’t identify any of the letters. Actually, neither could I. It was a free-for-all at the shop.

A pull-along shopping trolley with the left wheel shredded and hanging off of the metal base.

My poor, poor trolley with its lame left wheel.

I often walk to the shops near my house and take my granny trolley with me to carry my purchases. Although my trolley had a few problems (all of them manageable by the right hand on previous trips), here is what it looked like after its virgin voyage under the command of the sinister hand.

I could no longer shop independently. My husband started taking me to the grocery store on Sundays.

After accepting that I couldn’t drive the kids to school or activities, couldn’t write the grocery list, and couldn’t get the groceries without involving the entire family, I was determined to do something.  Surely I could cook?

I decided to start with making the kids’ sandwiches.  Getting out the bread was simple, but then came  resealable packages of cheese slices. Those corner tabs were impossible to lift without the clever use of teeth and elbows.  Same for the meat slices.  I had to admit defeat and ask my husband to make the sandwiches.

My sinister hand was weak, uncoordinated and accident prone.

Which may explain why the right hand flatly refused to hold anything that had to be sliced. The sinister hand nearly lost part of its middle finger in a chopping accident a few years ago, and it was out for revenge. Faced with rebellion from the right hand, I positioned carrots, cucumbers and potatoes in the folds of a clean dish towel on top of my chopping board and let my left hand have at them with the knife.

The kids had to stay out of the kitchen.

Before long, I adjusted. I accepted my limitations and the need to do things differently.  I peeled cucumbers badly, planned meals that did not involve jars or cellophane packaging, and learned a lot about the tram routes in The Hague. My friends, husband and children gave me tons of support.

Return to Right-Handed Nirvana

Then, the cast came off. The right hand was free to rule again!

Just… not right away. Putting the car into reverse took a week of joint manoeuvres to achieve. The sinister hand slowly relinquished tasks to the right hand, but even without the cast, the right hand couldn’t do everything that it used to do.

And I’m not sure that I want it to. Using my left hand hasn’t been sinister at all. It’s been enlightening.

In the course of just a few weeks, I unlearned patterns accumulated over years.  I dropped my “I can do it all by myself” attitude and sought out help from my husband and friends. I let my children become more independent.  I re-experienced the struggles that my children are living through right now:  how to write the letters of the alphabet, how to brush teeth, how to tie shoelaces. You know what?  Those things are hard.  I learned to be more patient with my children’s imperfect attempts at seemingly simple tasks.

It turns out that my friends were right: breaking my wrist on Valentine’s Day was an act of love—an act of (albeit slightly twisted) love from the universe to me.  I’m grateful.

Photo by Miranda

Kym Kettler-PaddockMe and My Sinister Hand

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