The Hands of the Father
I have long been intrigued by hands. They tell a story about the person they belong to: my grandmother’s hands with their enlarged knuckles, sifting through old photographs from her youth, the sun spots and wrinkles revealing the time she spent on the beach in her early years; the soft, sometimes sweaty feel of my son’s hand as it grips mine in preparation to cross the street; the tiny fist that my newborn’s hands form while she is learning to grasp onto objects or the little shape it makes while she is nursing and learning, in that amazingly inherent infant way, to help the milk express. Even my own hands reveal the latest chapter of my life. However, the hands that made the biggest impact on me were those of my father. They were not violent hands, nor were they very often dirty hands. They controlled the maneuvers of jets while he was in the Navy, taking off of and landing on moving aircraft carriers. They moved through water and sand when he surfed the Pacific both in California and Hawaii. They pounded the skin of a volleyball in college, the Navy and at his favorite place, the beach. They cradled the tiny head and body of the infant he never knew he really wanted and then couldn’t imagine not having in his life. When he entered the business workforce, they held pens and shuffled papers. They always loved grasping onto the steering wheel of a sports car, coercing it through a turn or commanding it down a fast highway. As time went on, his hands found hobbies; drawing designs of new cars, learning to perfectly grill a steak, working out different physics equations. His hands were big and callused yet somehow always provided a comforting squeeze, a soft pat on the back and they were always, always available to hold.
Unfortunately, the last living thing my father’s hands ever did was to pull the trigger of the gun that killed him. While he lay in the coffin at the funeral home, I summoned the courage to act as I never thought I would. One last time, I held the hand of my father. While the memory of his face or his laugh or the way he danced fades a little each year that passes, the feel of my hand in his remains fresh in my mind.