My Father's Hands

Published on 16 June 2024 at 15:57

Last night I dreamed my father gave me a beaded bag with trails of heart-shaped beads wandering across the pale cloth. Something in my soul wants to finger the trail of beads to discover what he meant by this gift. Does he mean follow this trail, my darling girl, the trail that is both made of the heart and leads to the heart? 

So many books about mothers and daughters, fathers and sons—but what of the daughter caught by a golden thread to her father’s soul? What of that child? 

I see a grown woman, a grandmother now, who looks down at her own stubby fingers one day and sees her father’s hands. They are not the hands of a piano player or a dancer but the sturdy hands of labor, of getting things done, of endurance and strength.  She remembers his hands in one scene and then another: tying her skates in winter, sketching the walls of his new house, or solving an intricate problem on paper as if each blunt fingertip had its very own brain and only when his hands moved could he think. 

She remembers the warmth and strength of his hands as he kneaded the calves of her legs late in the night when growing pains hurt badly enough to wake her up crying.  She sees his hands holding cards in a favorite game of whist or bridge or gently patting the shoulder of a friend he meets on the street. She sees his two hands resting on a steering wheel while driving to Grandma’s house or holding the very edges of the Sunday paper after church, a plate of powdered-sugar donuts hidden on the other side of the news. She remembers the way her father’s hands would pick up her needlepoint project and run the yarn through six rows tugging just a little too tightly so that she could always see in the tapestry of the finished work, his rows beside her own.

It is his hands she sees holding the Louis L’Amour book late in the evening letting go only to take a sip of the beer warming on the side table, his hands building two of their houses to shelter those he loved most, his hands fashioning the ugliest boat ever out  of wood and plank, his hands turning wood, twisting metal, picking berries and then building a special screen to roll the berries down to clean them.

She sees his hands playfully slapping her mother’s backside or holding her against the fridge to steal a kiss, and his hands wielding the razor that plowed a smooth path across his lathered chin while she, sitting on the closed lid of the toilet, waitied for the moment when he would turn and growl and try to kiss her cheek like a rabid dog until she screamed and ran out of the bathroom giggling. 

All of this she sees in an instant when she looks down and sees her  own square hands, so sturdy and strong. 

And then she sees his hands, swollen and bruised, a blueberry stain on the back where the IV had kept him alive for three more minutes, five more minutes, and then that last and final breath, of death. And then he was gone, living on in the short fingers of her own hands that crack in the winter just like his did. 


(Note:  My father married on June 18, had the first of eight children on June 18, and died on June 18.  It was Father’s Day on the day he passed on.)

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Rochelle Quick
a month ago

Absolutely a lovely piece Auntie!