The last time I saw my father, I noticed that a piece of his finger was missing. Although my dad and I didn’t see each other that often, I was surprised that I never noticed it before.
“What happened to your finger?” I asked.
He looked at his hand and then back at me. “I lost it in an accident at work,” he said. I was waiting for him to comment further, but he was silent. I didn’t press the issue, but I studied his hands. They were rough, discolored and calloused. His hands have known pain and discomfort.
I looked at my hands and saw a different story. I’ve received a few cuts and scrapes, but I’ve managed to keep my hands safe from any real harm. Whereas my father spent years on a construction crew, I spent the majority of my career behind a desk. Although our hands tell different stories, we share one thing in common – the power of a father’s touch.
A few years ago, when my son was around five years old, we took a trip to the mall. He was excited by all of the sights and sounds and started running ahead of me. When he got too away, I told him to stop. He froze in his tracks until I caught up, but started to race off again. This time I grabbed his hand and engulfed it in my powerful grip. As we continued to walk through the mall, my son tried to go astray, but my hand kept pulling him back to safety.
Now when my son misbehaves, I often place my hand on his shoulder and give it a slight squeeze. Without saying a word, I can express my displeasure and correct his behavior.
Sometimes our kids need a strong hand to guide them down the right path. Other times they require our hands to gently caress their faces, pat them on the back, or wipe the tears from their eyes. I enjoy nothing more than connecting with my children through the power of touch.
One of my most satisfying experiences happened one summer on a trip to San Diego. We were doing some site-seeing when I heard a Mariachi band playing in the plaza. I tentatively grabbed my daughter’s hand to dance with her (she was around 11 years old at the time). To my surprise, she didn’t pull away as tweens are prone to do. Instead, she reached for my other hand and we danced in the middle of the plaza.
These are the experiences I want my kids to think about when they look at my hands. I want them to remember my strength and kindness. I want them to have different memories of me than I had of my father.
It took nearly 40 years before I knew the gentle side of my father’s hands. As he left, he shook my hand and then pulled me close for a hug. He stroked my back, placed his hand on my cheek and told me that he loved me. At that moment, I learned one more thing about a father’s hands – they can heal old wounds.