We lost my father when he was only 52 and I was only 24 years old. I had just learned to enjoy my father and celebrating Father’s Day with him was special. I had always had a healthy respect and fear of him, but after I was married we were finally having fun together.
The first and foremost memory of my dad has always been his hands. From the strength to the gentleness and the shape of them, they are in the front of my memories of this man I called Dad.
When he was a child my Dad’s hands were always busy and most often they were in trouble with his mother or his teacher. Dad’s hands put a girl’s pigtails in the inkwell on his desk at school; thankfully his future wife and my mom’s hair was dark and it didn’t show.
Dad’s hands put a frog in the teacher’s desk drawer and a skunk in the pot belly stove so they would get out of school for a few days. His hands always got him in trouble and his backside paid the price with a spanking.
As a teenager his hands held a cane pole and lifted him to record heights in pole vaulting at Medicine Lodge High School. His record stood for years until the fiberglass poles came along.
Dad never went into battle in WWII, but in the Army Air Corp his hands kept the planes that he called the “Flying Coffins” in good repair and in the air. So his contribution to the war was a large one. He was a very good mechanic.
When he married my Mother, his high school sweetheart, his hands were a comfort when she had 4 miscarriages before she was able to carry their first child. The strength of his loving hands eased her through those trying times.
When the first daughter (me) arrived his strong hands became soft and gentle. His hands held me after my tonsillectomy even though he became sick from the ether I was breathing out. He would hold me long enough for Mom to take a walk and get a breath of fresh air. Then when she took over he would go outside and get sick and almost pass out from the ether.
When my Mom worked the night shift as a telephone operator, going in at midnight, he was the one to care for me. Mom put me to bed every night but Dad would get me up in the morning allowing Mom to sleep.
His gentle hands would put me in a dress that Grandmother had made and then my socks and shoes and take me to Grandmother’s for breakfast and to spend the day. Then he would go to work at the T.M. Deal lumber yard.
I didn’t know that he always had my dress on backwards or that my bow in the back was always upside down. It really irritated Grandmother that he couldn’t figure out how the dress was supposed to go. Maybe he couldn’t figure it out; or maybe it was just a way of getting my Grandmother’s Irish temper stirred up.
One of the first memories I have of my Dad was my first and only temper tantrum at the age of 2. I can’t remember what it was about and it didn’t matter to Dad why I was laying on the floor kicking and screaming. He was determined to show me it was not going to work, and that he was the boss.
When I fell to the floor and started the tantrum, Dad picked up the fly swatter. When he could get a clear shot at one of the tiny flailing legs he would swat it with just enough force to make it sting.
After twenty minutes I stopped kicking and screaming, took a deep breath, looked at him and knew that I had lost. I got to my feet, gave a huge sigh walked away and knew it was not worth the time or pain to do that again, he had won.
Through the years as I grew and tried my Dad’s patience he would remind me with those strong and powerful hands that he was the boss. There were lots of times that I wore the imprint of his Masonic ring on my backside and couldn’t sit down for quite awhile after just such a lesson.
Then one day, they were the proud hands that put the blue garter on my leg before my wedding and walked me down the aisle and gave my hand to my groom. But before he came to take me to the chapel his hands were giving my groom a warning, by shaking his finger in his face, but with a smile and a chuckle.
I remember his hands stirring his coffee; holding the spoon loosely in his right hand like you hold a pen and stirring in a circle, tinkling against the sides with each circle. After adding 2 heaping teaspoons of sugar and a tablespoon of thick cream he would start to stir.
Every few circles in the cup he would pick up the spoon and dribble the coffee back into the cup to speed up the cooling process. After 5 minutes of stirring and dribbling his coffee was ready to drink.
He loved to play tricks with those hands and if a visitor wasn’t careful at the dinner table their thumb would be shoved into the stick of soft oleo as it was passed to them. Other times if a visitor asked to have the salt passed, it would sail down the table with unfailing accuracy toward their face.
My Dad loved to play cards and we would play pitch when my husband and I stopped to visit. I know those hands cheated (but I could never catch him) because he always had the cards that my husband needed to win a hand. He could shoot the moon with only a couple of point cards in his hand and make it. Now how do you do that without cheating? Right!
Today as I think about Father’s Day, that I can’t celebrate anymore, I am remembering my father’s hands and what they meant to me over the years. His hands, not his voice, are what I remember. To contact Sandy: [email protected]