My Father's Hands
The bathroom floor was cold against my skin. With my head in my hands and a freshly salted face, I dared to glance at his sleeping body through disappointed eyes. Dull light poured through the bitter, silent air from a window in the upper corner of the back wall with a purplish, blue glow. He lay in the grey precarious tub-water that had threatened to spill over so many times before. The water bled along the sides of the porcelain but his cranky-man eyes laid shut and the water lay still. I could hear the world spinning just beyond that back wall, and tried to remember him as he was before the mush had taken over and the cruelty of nature began to set into his delicate body.
I'll never forget the first time I made a skateboard. I watched my dad drill mounting holes into the bottom of the deck and struggle to make everything line-up, perfectly even. My fingers tried to spin the screws into place as my dad took over for me, having the steady, experienced hands of a worker. The excitement of doing something myself, or forging a new interest wasn’t what was memorable. It was the way my dad’s hands shook when he put in the final screws, “these damn things seem to get smaller and smaller every year,” he said.
“Dad, I can do it myself. Let me try,”
“You asked for my help, and I promised we would finish this thing. Just give me a minute.” It was that phrase: just give me a minute. He seemed to grow so comfortable with the saying that it became a surprise when he didn’t make sure to use it. A praise-worthy moment. It was a Tuesday afternoon, the air was rusting just the same as any other but something had changed with that one screw.
Age doesn’t knock on youth’s door at 55, but it sure doesn’t bother staying away either. I’ve always found it funny how kids never really see their parents as really old, but have no problem pointing someone else’s parents as “grandma or grandpa.” Maybe time moves slowly up close, but sometimes it all comes rushing in through that door at once.
“Dang, your mom and dad are…aging,” a neighbor once chuckled. How should someone respond to that? No they aren’t, you cow.
As a daughter, I always wondered how it would feel to see a parent’s transition from the dad-ish looking phase to the granddad phase. Watching the years pass over their faces is like asking Ernest Hemingway how he went bankrupt. One day, it all came crashing down.
On the very Tuesday afternoon that my dad helped me build a skateboard, I finally saw it: the wear and tear that had happened over the years and caused him to go out less. Caused him to wear a jacket inside the house, to take vitamins and pills everyday, to make his hand shake at a simple task that he could once complete in a cool second.
The marks of my father’s hands held faded stories of a different, much simpler time. They spoke of demons and war zones that have seen few survivors. His hands spoke of zeros in the bank account, of losing a job, a wife, a child, but they also showed better memories. The scar on his right thumb was from the time he taught me to cook bacon; the oil jumped from the pan, a little too soon and a little too hot. The stitch marks on the top of his right hand were from when he protected my two year old self from the dripping fangs of a pissed-off rotweiler. They reminded me of home. The bump on his left ring finger gave me clues to who he was: a lefty, and the tan line on his middle finger showed me where his wife went. Lately the hands were foreign; they shook with a glass of water, and they struggled to hold a pen and they told me to hold on - just one minute.
Now, his hands were limply poised and they only told one story. My father’s hands no longer held bravery, or strength, or girth. All they held, was defeat and sorrow and the secret to no turning back.
About the author:
Gracie Georgina made her prison break from New York's sixth borough to follow her passion for creative writing. When her fingers aren't glued to type-keys or pencils, she is walking her pet griffin in Central Park or found practicing her "pinky up" pose at the local coffee shop.