Do you remember as a child holding your father’s hand?
My father had hands that were so big and strong, I remember thinking that he was the strongest man in the world. But yet when my tiny hand was enveloped in his, he somehow knew just the perfect touch to use; tight enough to allow me to feel safe but gentle enough to cause no pain.
My father worked tirelessly, using his hands until they were rough and calloused. He would go from working with a pencil to build successful businesses during the day, to working with a sledgehammer at night, remodeling our house, making it beautiful for us. He never stopped using his hands to create. He would be using those hands filled with strength and love long after I went to bed and would already be off on his way to work before I awoke.
He was an amazing fisherman, achieving unbelievable feats; at least to a six year old, using those huge hands to thread tiny worms on the little bitty hook and then remove the tiniest baby sunfish gently holding it, causing no harm so it could be returned to the lake, allowing it to grow bigger. Then in the blink of an eye he would change gears and grab a very strong Northern, thrashing about with huge teeth, grasping it firmly in his hands as we ran screaming into the cabin of the boat from fear. Shaking his head as he half smiled at his silly girls.
I remember being the one who was at all times his assistant. I loved handing him tools and watching those hands work on everything from changing out a light fixture to repairing the never-ending string of broken bikes. I asked endless questions and he patiently provided endless answers. I knew all the names of the tools and what they were used for and to this day can handle home repair projects like a pro. I learned from the best.
His dream of a wonderful life for his children was realized through his hands. The endless hours of effort and toil day after day, all while happily singing a never ending stream of limericks; which I am proud to say I can still sing word for word with him, years later. He also possessed the ability to whistle very loudly, I mean really loud, to gather us all to eat dinner. It was hilarious to see children run from every direction emerging from houses and baseball fields’ blocks away. You knew to come when you heard that whistle.
Those hands were used to comfort us when we were upset with life’s turns and twists and scold us when we got off course. We always knew what was coming; he would touch the bridge of his glasses with his hand before beginning the oracle of wisdom which was a punishment worse than a spanking. I wish I could recall some of the wisdom he imparted during his lectures, I am certain that some of it seeped into my hard head because I am very much like my father now.
I now realize with time and the wisdom that age brings the real strength his hands possessed. Those hands were a physical extension of his love for us. Men of his era were not as outwardly affectionate, however, you never doubted for a minute you were loved. Each action he performed with his hands, every time he broke down a wall or worked long hours using his hands to make our lives better, each time he scooped us up after we fell, he used his hands as an instrument of love.
I am blessed to still be able to hold my father’s hand today and he is still one of the strongest men I know. My admiration for him extends well beyond the mere strength of his hands. And of all the gifts I have received from him, and they were many, I know that there is one that will remain with me always.
Though still calloused and rough and still much bigger than mine, each time I hold his hand and he squeezes it just the right amount, tight enough to feel safe but not so tight to as to cause pain, I realize he is once again gracing me with not only his love, but providing a valuable example; that real strength lies in not using that stregnth to hurt or to pull your children in a direction they don’t want to go; it takes much more strength to hold your children’s hand gently. Strong enough to guide them and keep them safe but gentle enough so they can they can choose the direction they want to go.
Thank you dad for gracing me with the greatest gift there is, holding my hand with just the right touch. Gently guiding me while still letting me choose my own direction, allowing me to become the person I knew I was destined to become and most of all for believing in me always!
Happy Father’s Day!