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Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/434952-Remembering-Daddys-Hands
by Jill
Rated: E · Short Story · Family · #434952
This is a tribute to my father who always believed in me...even when others didn't.
Remembering Daddy's Hands


         All my life, I’ll remember my father’s hands. When I was a child, he drew me pictures of funny little gnome men and smoking pipes. My father was a pipe fitter-welder out of Monroe Local 671 and he worked his trade locally when there was work and in places unknown to me when there wasn’t. I remember his hands were always clean…and HUGE. A big man, he had these incredibly huge hands. They looked like massive bear paws to me. These hands beckoned me into his arms when proud…when sad…it didn’t matter. They were always there.

         After awhile, I got wrapped up in my life and my friends, as all teens do, and didn’t think much about Daddy’s hands. It was around this time when he got weaker: arthritis began to take over and his lungs went bad. Later, in my twenties, I moved into my father’s home to care for him and nurse my own wounds after a failed marriage. Those hands welcomed me and we sat up most nights--- playing cards, getting silly on liquor, and talking…oh, the talks we had! By now, arthritis had robbed Daddy’s hands of their strength; yet…they looked the same. Still, HUGE! One day, I taught him a hand gesture that meant, 'I love you' in sign language. The closed hand, with thumb, index and little fingers out motion was not easy for a man who often couldn’t make a fist. I told him this would be important when the day came that he would have to go by ambulance to the hospital. We could tell each other, “I love you” from across the parking lot. He didn’t understand why I wanted to do this, but he appeased me. He did that with us kids. So, in pain that I didn’t understand, he practiced and learned the universal sign for, 'I love you'.

         During the last years of his life, pneumonia would send my father into the hospital a couple of times each year. Each time he went, he would raise his hand shakily at me in the parking lot and give me ‘our sign’ as he was loaded into an ambulance. There was one fateful trip to the hospital I’ll probably never forget. The indicators were the same: pneumonia and routine. But all routine vanished when a respirator was placed in my father’s mouth in the Emergency Room! Breathing apparatus and feeding tube in place, he was then whisked up to Intensive Care where heart monitors, IVs, blood pressure monitors, and God knows what other medical paraphernalia was added. What an array of machinery! For the first time in my life, my father looked small surrounded by such medical magnitude. The next day, when I came to visit, I couldn’t help but think, 'Now that he is robbed of his speech, I’m so glad Daddy and I have our sign!' Tears swimming in my eyes, I signed first. Then, hesitantly and with obvious struggle, Daddy signed back! His huge hands were terribly weak and they shook badly, but he managed to sign back. He hated that respirator so much that once he commanded those weak paws of his to try to yank it out. Some say he did that because he was scared. I think he just wanted to talk to his kids…that was all he had left.

         Many, many years have gone by. My father died during his next hospital stay. The memories of my father have faded for the most part. Used to be, I could close my eyes and see his face…hear his voice. I can’t do that anymore. But, his hands! I can always picture those massive paws…doing something, resting on his chest, it doesn’t matter. They’re always with me…comforting me still.
© Copyright 2002 Jill (annekarle at Writing.Com). All rights reserved.
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