Looking back, it is my father’s hands that I most remember. Either they had a needle mending our tablecloth, a tiny watchmaker’s screwdriver fixing glasses, a smoking cigarette or a strong glass of rum. What he created sometimes adorned our walls and at other times the inside of a trunk. Bits of wire magically converted into horse heads, cats and four-leaf clovers. His poet’s hands were ironically conjuring up soft, crust off egg sandwiches, finely chopping cabbage, thinly slicing onions, holding a book aloft, or polishing his black dress shoes. I still recall the hour he spent meticulously untangling my wet, forsaken by mom, hair.
I believe that most of his sermons were second hand. He hardly spoke. The books I write today, the cuisine I create, the education I impart and thus receive, are all his hand me downs.
Of course when he cut down the rope to bring his friend Tony down from the ceiling, his hands were shaking just a bit, betraying how he felt at that time. I wasn’t there but they must have. There was also the time that our jeep was slipping down hill and his knuckles were on the hand brake, while my brother and I held our breath and trust in him.
No father can be revered really, but if any slots for alcoholic sainthood are available, I would strongly nominate him. I believe that my father’s hands, donated to science today, and floating in a tank of formaldehyde, are reassuring me that it’s not too bad on the other side. And in fact he has found frayed tablecloths to mend.
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