MY DADDY'S HANDS

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Poetry  |  House: Booksie Classic
Written 20 years after the passing of my father, this simplified chronicle of his life is lovingly dedicated to his memory.

Submitted: July 07, 2008

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Submitted: July 07, 2008

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My Daddy’s Hands
by Wanda Harrell Stalnaker
September 23, 1997
In memory of my father, Billie Harrell (1926-1977)
 
 
Visions of my daddy’s hands linger in my mind;
Hands wrought from hard work and daily struggles,
But diverse in their ability and use.
They are sorely missed by many, but especially, his first born, me.
 
As a child, his hands…
Caressed his mother’s for a loving touch;
Crawled on the wooden floors of home;
Played in the dirt of the North Carolina mountains;
Closely held things that pleased him;
Pushed away things he didn’t like;
Attempted to touch things that could hurt;
Wiped away tears that came from fear or pain;
Proudly carried a tin lunch pail to school;
Firmly held a pencil to practice the ABC’s and arithmetic;
Wrote with chalk on a well-worn blackboard of slate;
Turned the pages of a textbook;
Combed his red and curly hair;
Washed his fair and freckled face;
Buttoned up his shirt;
Snapped up his overalls;
Drew up his socks;
Laced, with pride, his newly half-soled shoes;
Pulled a warm quilt up to his chin in Winter;
Hid green bean shells under his plate;
Peeled and pared an apple with his pocket knife;
Delighted in playing in the cold water of a mountain stream;
Eagerly held biscuits laden with butter and honey;
Peeled the skin off his Christmas orange;
Happened to be the eldest male hands of his parents’ children;
Were required, after 4th grade, to leave childhood behind;
Assumed the tasks of a grown man.
 
As a man, his hands...
Used many a hammer and many more nails;
Learned, from his father, to measure a tree’s board feet;
Tossed feed to the farm animals;
Gingerly removed eggs from the chickens’ nests;
Cleaned the stalls of horses and cattle;
Opened and closed many a gate;
Controlled a plow behind a cantankerous mule;
Knew well a hoe, a shovel, a saw, and an ax;
Helped his parents move from North Carolina to Pennsylvania;
Signed up to join the US Navy during WW II;
Held the hands of the one he would marry;
Placed, at age 21, a ring on the finger of his new bride;
Labored long and hard at whatever task was set before him;
Adeptly steered many makes and models of cars and trucks;
Bled, when working in the frigid Winter air;
Played silly tricks on friends and family, alike;
Found no job too menial or too difficult;
Made gestures when telling a tall tale;
Placed fence posts in smelly creosote;
Held a pitchfork to chase away an angry bull;
Changed tires on cars and trucks;
Placed many a cashew in his mouth;
Smelled of sawdust and tobacco;
Loosened his “bothersome” necktie;
Turned potatoes, frying in an iron skillet, over an open campfire;
Repaired many things that were broken;
Applied paint or paper to a needy wall;
Figured constantly, on any kind of paper, ways to get ahead;
Paid for many homes and many more tracts of land;
Knew, by touch, whether a steak was medium or medium-well done;
Placed lots of money in the bank for rainy days;
Emanated confidence to those who shook his hand.
 
As a father, his hands...
Proudly held his first-born child, me;
Lifted me up to touch the ceiling in the kitchen;
Securely held me while bouncing me on his knee;
Held me gently, as I slept in his lap, as he plowed,
Controlling the Ford tractor all the while;
Spanked really hard when discipline was necessary;
Thoughtfully spoiled me with candy, 5-cent Cokes and ice cream;
Carried Christmas trees laden with snow into the basement to thaw;
Lovingly made a swing on the crossbar of the clothesline;
Pinched my nose to wake me up;
Carried groceries over a mile, in deep snow;
“Attempted” to play the fiddle when we were snowed in;
Pitched a baseball in the back yard;
Bought a bicycle, a sled, and my first car;
Slipped money in my pocket while whispering not to tell;
Paid for tires when I was too proud to ask for help;
Eagerly became the hands of a loving grandfather;
Tenderly held his granddaughter, then his first grandson;
Flipped open his wallet with pictures of his grandchildren;
Never knew the touch of his second grandson.
 
At the end of his days, Daddy’s hands were...
Held in my hands, in a loving caress;
Frail and weak, mere phantoms of the strength they once exuded;
Conveying love for me, his first-born child;
Needing my touch as much as I needed his;
Lingering, with what would be the last precious touch in life;
Waving good-bye for the very last time;
Praying to be reunited again in Heaven above.
 
If you can hear me, “I love you, Daddy. This is just for you from your first-born, me."


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