Sunday, June 20, 2010


His hands were a deep bronze hue from years of sun exposure, a shade of brown that no longer faded in the winter. If you flipped them over, palm up, you’d see the softer, tender pink shade that likely was the same color since his birth. They were strong hands, but not hard, not callused. He’d broken many fingers, many times, and his knuckles, which sometimes locked up on him, were large and appeared knobby with his slim, dark fingers. His fingernails were odd, unlike any I’d ever seen before. Instead of being curved over the tops, they were flat, then angled down sharply toward the cuticles, and if they grew out beyond his finger, they curved sharply inward, creating something like the lid of a box closing over the ends of his fingers. My nails have this tendency as well, but not nearly as pronounced as his. His skin was smooth, no coarse hairs anywhere on his hands or arms, and his veins were pipes making rolling hills on his flesh. He worked with his hands a lot, had scars, blackened nails sometimes, and he wasn’t afraid that they’d ever get ugly from use, though they never did.

His hands always mesmerized me. I’d sit near him and turn them over, study them, open his fingers, close them tightly, hold mine up against his, compare them, try to get mine to look like his, wonder if they would be identical when I got to be his age, and finally rest with my hand in his. Long ago he could fit my entire balled-up fist inside his own, and later we simply folded our fingers together, almost matched in size.

I miss his hands.

Those were the hands that tucked me in the best, mummifying me in my blankets, rendering me immobile in my own bed. They were also the hands that brushed my hair the gentlest, for he was terrified of discovering a snarl and yanking too hard. When I was really little, after a bath he’d wrap me up in a trove of towels, naming each towel a piece of my royal garb, declaring me a princess, and they were wrapped so securely that I could prance around the house in my terrycloth regalia until it was bedtime and I had to put on pedestrian pajamas. They were the hands, too, that would take my cares away when I’d lay in his lap and he’d stroke my back softly. To this very day the technique still works, if only I could find someone who could master the touch that he had. These hands pushed me so high on the swings that I always soared over everyone else at the park, until the day when my own hands betrayed me and I fell, head-first, from high in the air, and then his hands carried me home and never pushed me on a swing again.

I didn’t hold it against his hands when he spanked me, which I mostly deserved, though not always. Nor did I hate them after he smacked me in the face so hard it catapulted me across the room and I bounced off my bed and landed on the floor, bruises created during the landing and mortification alone brought on by the hit itself. It wasn’t the fault of his hands. How could they know my mother had lied and told him something I did wrong that never happened? When I innocently denied it, it came down to a decision over who was lying, and in this case those hands didn’t know his head had been fooled and I took the hit while the liar watched with satisfaction. His hands stood for justice, even when the delivery was wrong.

I watched his hands when he wrote his detailed notes on the yellow legal pads he used for everything; I watched them bending wire clothes hangers in just the right shape for us to dip hard-boiled eggs in dyes; I watched him fumble and gain confidence as he learned to use a keyboard and mouse with his hands, so adept at everything else and so clumsy with a computer; I watched him build things; I watched him dismantle things; I watched him rebuild things; and I watched those hands twitching subtly when he fell asleep in the recliner in the middle of a lazy afternoon.

Sometimes, when my hands darken up with a summer tan, I hold them up and they resemble his hands -- this makes me feel good. I don’t always wield them like he did. Mine are not hands that hit, or hands that do hard work. My hands may never sport popsicle sticks fastened with duct tape over a broken finger, or do intricate wiring to fix a broken electrical device, or build furniture, or be remotely as interesting to my adoring eyes as his hands were. However, the reminder is there, the vague resemblance, and it’s a part of the legacy he left me. They are closely related in that I use my hands to show love: a gentle touch, the sweeping of my fingers across sensitive skin, a tender embrace, a firm squeeze to show support, a soft pat to bring comfort, or just curling my fingers around someone else’s for closeness. They are things his hands did, things they taught me about people, about love, about myself, about what’s important, and though I miss his hands tremendously, I treasure the memories, good and bad, because so much of him was revealed in his hands. And so much of him remains in my own.

1 comment:

Leelu said...

That's beautiful, sweetie. :')