I have a favorite Far Side cartoon:

Three old men are sitting on a porch, one with a swollen knee, one with a swollen hand, and one with a giant head. The first one says, ” Uh-oh, rain squalls a-comin’…my knee is acting up.”  The second man says,” I’d say more like a blizzard, judgin’ by my hand here”, the third man says,”Well, SOMETHIN’S happenin’…there goes my head.” Even if I could find the image, I couldn’t share it because of that little detail called copyright.

But I AM this cartoon.

Right now, I can tell that the weather – nay, the season – is changing, because of my hands.  Never mind the calendar – just listen to my hands.

I suppose I could say arthritis has run a curious maze course in my family.  My grandmother had arthritis, which only manifested in the knuckles of her hands: they became huge, knotty and twisted.  She never complained of them hurting, that I recall, but they must have.  She was a tough Appalachian woman, so she would have ignored it anyway.  She only commented that she couldn’t get her rings off.  I remember when I was small, she would take them off so I could try them on.  But there came a point where her knuckles were so swollen she could no longer remove them.

Image courtesy of http://www.wellsphere.com

And then there was my Mother.  She had arthritis – maybe.  She was unique (in so many ways) in that while she manifested all the pain of rheumatoid arthritis, none of the clinical indicators showed up in any bloodwork, there were  no outward visual signs, and no medications seemed to impact her condition. That started around the time I was in high school, and interestingly enough, first showed up in her hands.  This is suddenly sounding spookily familiar.

I first noticed my hand pain about 4 years ago.  I remember always noticing it in the morning, usually during fall or winter, when I was trying to brush and braid Kelsea’s hair. Sometimes it was so bad, it would have me in tears.  Not good. As a child, I used to manifest my stress in my stomach (and I still do to some extent, but then, I’m still a child to some extent too.) I just figured I was manifesting my stress in my hands.  Because there was enough stress in my life to fill six million Italian cream horns. It was just worsened by the onset of cold, wet, depressing, SAD weather.  So in my obtuse little brain, it all fit together.

The hand pain did improve after I moved out, and the weather got better.  My ex-flame did some smouldering acupuncture (a.k.a. moxibustion) on my hands from time to time, and that seemed to help. Th pain was always less when I was on some island – but isn’t everything better on some island?

Until this year.

I hadn’t had too much trouble with my hands this year until we went to Topsail.  I have yet to intuit what the link is.  I was in the warmth, in the water – the only thing I can think of is that we had so many storms that perhaps the changes in the atmosphere – and constantly migrating from the sweltering outside to the icy cold inside – somehow stimulated whatever the issue is that my hands have.  Back in Denver now, my hands hurt when the weather is about to change – like today, when it is grey, and warm, but I can tell that a shift to cooler air is coming. 

My hands might as well be talking for all to hear.

Today, I’ve tried Aleve, hand exercises, and really hot water. My Mother said that a paraffin bath she had on one hand early in her pain years made a difference forever – that the paraffined hand was never as sore as the non-paraffined hand. Though why they only did one, I don’t know.  And the whole thing is not exactly scientific.  For me, the hot water felt really good, but the literature says to do an ice bath.  I won’t be doing THAT at work, and if I try it at home, well, let’s just say it’s a darn good thing I live alone.  Otherwise, I’d be constantly whining for my partner to warm my hands afterwards, and sticking them on whatever of his body parts felt warmest to me – like his stomach.  Such fun for everyone.  Okay, such fun for me.

Hands aside, I have other built-in weather predictors.  The big metal pin that holds my right medial malleolus to my tibia aches like crazy when it’s going to get bitterly cold – and when it IS bitterly cold, although that’s obvious everyone.  Still it give a whole new meaning to the term “chilled to the bone”.  My fifth metatarsal and formerly broken second toes all hurt when it is going to get cool and wet.  It would be so convenient if my former concussion could determine when there’s going to be a tornado.  But maybe it does, since I don’t live in a particularly tornado-prone area. I just can’t be sure.

Image courtesy of http://www.scienceprep.org

I know I’m not alone.  Maybe someday, I’ll meet another human weathervane or bio-barometer.  And when we’re not off doing our crazy things and being passionate about the world, we can sit on our porch at laugh at each other’s swollen predictors.

I kind of like that idea.

Porch Rockers, a painting by Molly Doe Wensberg.