Every time I open my hands and look at the grooves and line in my own hands, I see my father. I have big hands: the hands of German English heritage. Just like my father’s hands, the digits are not well suited to playing the piano or sometimes even typing. There are few images in my mind of my father which are stronger than the sight of his hands. My father’s hands were huge, but the most remarkable characteristic was the rough callousness of them. My dad was a mechanic in the days before computers and smog control devices. Being a mechanic meant you were tough, greasy, tolerant, and patient.
Those great big hands that would reach out to me to come and give him a hug seemed so coarse. Years of working with hot engines, sharp tools, and caustic chemicals made them that way. I remember dad when mom was in the hospital for a three day visit and trying to fix the kids something to eat, reaching out for a hot black iron frying pan from the electric stove top. He had picked it up to take it to the table and he had gone five steps before he realized it was burning hot. His hands were so desensitized to heat it took that long to set off the warning bells in his head. With one giant throw the pan and our dinner went into the sink splattering oil and our food all over the wall.
I guess the reason I remember my father’s hands so well is because as he suffered from the ravages of Alzheimer’s and the rest of his world shrank his hands were still the most remarkable thing to see. They bore the unmistakable signs of hard work. Those thick, strong and rough hands had not shrunk with the rest of his body. Those hands that had gripped steel, plunged thousands of times into gasoline and oil, and pulled chains. Those hands hung from his arms from still thick wrists that stretched any watch band he had ever known. They were not the hands that should be idle in his last days. They shook and were increasingly awkward when he tried to wipe the drool off his own proud chin.
TWO GREAT HANDS My Father was a man with two great hands, The skin was rough as it could be.
Work was his life with its pulls and commands,
But he always made time for me.
Sleep and rest were not part of his clock, There was always someone else in need.
Never did he stop, even when he could drop,
For there were many mouths at home to feed.
His bones were often tired and painfully uncured, His hands often bandaged and red.
But a promise was a promise, and his bond was his word,
And everyone believed what he said.
He was my dad, and constant each day. It amazed me how he could be ever so strong,
In his life, in his convictions and in his way.
In my eyes he would never do wrong.
Consistent in actions and strong were his words,
All were made better for walking with this man.
My hands are not as rough, or nearly as tough,
But my inheritance was his gentleness of his hand.
My Dad was a man with two working hands, Until his life did stop with a beat.
Oh how I miss him, his hands and loving gentle soul,
But these hands I have will ever remind and keep.