Grandpa’s hands

“Ew  I don’t wanna hold your hand Grandpa they’re yucky”.  Those words hurt  but they were true, my hands are kinda yucky.  We were in Redmond Town Center, going to see Santa Claus, it was the cold of  winter and  while my hands are never “pretty”, in winter time they are  really kinda  gnarly.  Dry and split, stained with grease, dirt and nicotine. Constantly bleeding or scabbed from  something  somewhere, my hands  always hurt somewhere.  I  don’t treat my hands very well. Never have and probably never will.

My hands started off holding the hands of my mom and dad.  Then they were used to  hold, feed and change a younger sister and  foster babies.  They caught  crawdads in the creek, and played in lots mud. They were walnut  stained from  throwing many a walnut at the neighbor boys and maybe at a sister or two.  They  played  piano and  guitar, baritone horn and other musical instruments,  they played football and baseball and cut through  trillions of gallons of  chlorinated pool water, dark green and crystal clear lake waters and  the blue waters of  3 oceans and a couple seas.

As I  grew, not matured, just grew, they turned to more  inane things, they  crushed beer cans and held lighters over roach clips and  coke can pipes, they  punched many an inanimate object  and several animate ones. They stole and vandalized and painted curbs  and cleaned sewers for community service. They spent probably a year or two  all added up in  casts of various shapes, sizes and colors. They  held a boy scout knife wrong once and nearly lost  a finger at the jamboree.  All in all  most every finger broken  along with  most of the other bones too.

Adult life beckoned  and  the hands turned to other things, push ups and calisthenics,  rack making. They became  brooms and clothes irons and even weapons. They shot weapons of war, they tapped out Morse code and then  typed  100 words per minute on teletype machines sending messages to launch missiles into Iraq. They got shocked with 1000 miliamp circuits for fun to make them jump. They held cryptographic ticker tape as the coded messages were fed through machines. They pulled the straps tight on gas masks  and nervously held the atropine pen hoping it didn’t have to be used.  They put handcuffs on others  and wore them  on a few occasions.  They touched whales and  sharks, barracuda and a plethora of other flora and fauna.  They have gone through  chicken wire encased in glass  in the midst of a fight  severing the median and other nerves and tendons causing the loss of  all feeling in ¾ of the right hand along with mobility ,  the surgeon  sewed  the tendons of the  thumb and index finger together so they both move together.

These hands have harmed and healed people and animals.  They have  captured and cared  injured eagles, owls, herons, raccoons, coyotes, bobcat and many more. They have killed  and skinned rabbit, pheasant, ducks and geese, deer, elk and bear. They’ve held the hands of too many dying people as they exhaled their final breath. They have plugged a hole in a severed aorta in a stabbing victim  all the way until the surgeons  we ready to fix it in the operating room.  They have done CPR on friends and strangers, old and young, some  survived  most did not.  They  breathed life with a bag mask into a shocked and revived  13 year old boy  who  needed a heart transplant. They have pulled kittens out of burning buildings and  cut teenagers out of wrecked cars – dead and alive. These hands have been cut,stung, burned and  bitten, broken and healed only to break again.

My hands have helped on many a job – starting with  throwing newspapers,  mowing lawns, demolition of  old houses,  tying rebar and pouring  and finishing concrete, roofing houses and baling hay  in the  hot midwest summers, climbing  atop the masts of a ship at sea to repair or maintain antenna, running and punching down or twisting in  cable for communications, splicing fiber optic cables,  then moving into  typing on keyboards and mounting equipment  in racks or on walls.

They have  built barns and houses, dog runs, run in shed, raised  gardens, bird houses, decks  and aviaries. They directed bands,  orchestra and  choirs.  My hands have steered  stock cars in Nascar sanctioned races and guided horses up and down mountains, they have flailed  in the  freshly  broken up  Kenai river as  the rest of my body shut down.  They have paddled surf boards in the  Indian Ocean  alongside Great White sharks and giant Manta rays. They  have  built and launched rockets and cast miles and miles of  fishing line.  They  have pulled back the string of bows  for both target competitions and  hunting for food. They have held more  cards  than you can count , mostly  losing hands but some  big winners too. These hands have carried too many caskets and pushed dirt  and placed flowers on too many graves.

These old  gnarled hands have  rubbed many a back  and a few fronts too. They have held and hugged, wiped away tears from loved ones and  myself.  They have even  wiped noses and  a few baby bottoms. There’s  not a bodily fluid  that they haven’t either been soaked in or had on them. They have had a too large number of needles stuck in them – from IV needles to lancets for blood sugar testing and even sewing needles.

The best moments these hands have  done   cutting the cord on my new born son, sliding the ring on the  soft and perfectly beautiful hand of my wife or running my fingers through her hair , across her cheek or down her back.  Tickling  and playing  sock puppets or shadow figures, putting together puzzles and building models. Clapping  them together to cheer for loved ones doing great things. Prepping and cooking meals with the boys as sous chefs.  Petting  and caring for  dogs, cats, lizards, birds and horses. Digging in the dirt to plant  food and flowers, trees and shrubs and to pick those things to give to the ones  they hold dear. Just holding the hands of those that they love.

These old hands have seen peace and war, love and hate. They have trembled  with anger and fear, shaken in nervous  tension before a speech or a performance. They have waved hello and too many goodbyes.

Looking through your eyes grand child,  I can see  they are ugly, dirty calloused and  scarred. That’s until you  grow and learn  about what these hands have done and can do. For you dear grand child they want nothing more than to make your dreams come true.

Dear grand child these hands will never harm you. They will do everything they can to bring you  joy and calm your fears. They will protect you and tickle you, they will turn the pages of any book your heart desires.  They will hold you when the storms of life seem too harsh and will guide you to do and be anything you want to be.   So it’s ok not to hold my hand right now, just know that they are here for you  as long as they’re attached to  this old guy  that doesn’t treat them as well as he should.

Daddy’s Hands ~Holly Dunn

I remember daddy’s hands folded silently in prayer
And reachin’ out to hold me, when I had a nightmare
You could read quite a story in the callous’ and lines
Years of work and worry had left their mark behind

I remember daddy’s hands how they held my mama tight
And patted my back for something done right
There are things that I’d forgotten that I loved about the man
But I’ll always remember the love in daddy’s hands

Daddy’s hands were soft and kind when I was cryin’
Daddy’s hands were hard as steel when I’d done wrong
Daddy’s hands weren’t always gentle but I’ve come to understand
There was always love in daddy’s hands

I remember daddy’s hands workin’ ’til they bled
Sacrificed unselfishly just to keep us all fed
If I could do things over, I’d live my life again
And never take for granted the love in daddy’s hands

Daddy’s hands were soft and kind when I was cryin’
Daddy’s hands were hard as steel when I’d done wrong
Daddy’s hands weren’t always gentle but I’ve come to understand
There was always love in daddy’s hands

Daddy’s hands were soft and kind when I was cryin’
Daddy’s hands were hard as steel when I’d done wrong
Daddy’s hands weren’t always gentle but I’ve come to understand
There was always love in daddy’s hands

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6 thoughts on “Grandpa’s hands

  1. I pressed the wrong thing too soon. I wanted to share that my dad also had gnarled, dirty, big, ugly hands. My mom told me they were always referred to as “meathooks”. And they were beautiful to this girl as she grew up.

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