Harold Wilke was a stately older man, and I was having a lively and personal conversation with him and others over cocktails before a meeting at the National Center for Rehabilitation Research in Washington DC years ago. I continued the conversation as I sat next to him at dinner. We had been eating for a while and chatting, and then I suddenly noticed that his fork and knife were being held by his white-gloved feet. He had no hands or arms.
The relaxed graciousness of his presence impressed me. If I did not have arms and hands I would miss so many things. Shaking hands with people on meeting them. Hugging those in distress. Touching with my fingers those I love. Playing the piano. And all of those things don’t even address having to find other solutions to opening doors, taking notes, cooking, using a computer or texting. When I think of blessings that I am thankful for, I do not usually think of my hands. If I did not have arms and hands, I would hope that I would have the quiet gracious presence of Dr. Wilke. It was as if he was more fully human.