Tuesday, February 03, 2009

My Father's Hands

The memory of how thick his fingers were catches me off guard. They are oversized hands, swollen like sausage overblown from the frying, something overripe. His pointer floats along the open church missal instructing both my brother and me where we should be reading along with the priest while we secretly make fun of those fingers, by doubling up our own and pointing at things around us, then laugh rife with the ignorance of kids.

But I also remember how his hands hold a football, how plump and meaty are the heals of his hands from the years off working as an electrotyper – a position long since replaced with the advent of the personal computer. The long, repetitive motion, the tedium of the job all took its toll on his body as he adjusts metal plates with these fingers that remind me of thickly braided rope.

These are hands that can change a flat tire on our station wagon on a warm summer night traveling from the beach. At night, in the shower of transient parkway headlights, these hands seem like mitts to me; they twist the stubborn lug nuts with relentless effort; they press into the bar of the jack, lifting the car, while my mother basks in the warm island air and smiles with the firm assurance of one who is cared for. He holds the spare tire like a Eucharist between his hands like he is giving thanks and here he seems so omnipotent to me.

I still see those hands on that dark night that, hands that glowed with power. As boys everything in the world seemed so much more powerful than we were. My father’s hands represented a power to protect. In this way, these hands were shelter from the few things we knew or believed could harm us, but also the many things out there we were incapable of imagining that could harm us as well.

Today as a grown man, as a father myself, I know what those things are out there that can harm my children. I know of the shadowy truths that we don’t like to talk about or think of. I have come after all this time to finally see the rough worked hands of my father as the only home I have never really left.


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