Skip to main content

MY FATHER'S HANDS: MR. PAUL CLEMENTS




My first memories of my father were of how huge his hands were. So big, I could sit in his palm, diaper and all, like a little bird. I could sit there and feel safe and secure. As I grew older, and bigger, I could no longer fit so securely in his palm, but his hands still seemed big and strong. He could lift heavy things with ease. I often looked at those hands while he performed manly tasks. He could fix a bicycle, unclog a drain, or sharpen a kitchen knife for my mother. He was adept at building things, repairing windows, and laying tile. His hands could work wood or fix pipes with ease.

As any boy might, I occasionally transgressed. Then those hands of his would be aimed at my backside. I came to fear them. Not that I didn't deserve the swats, or that they were inflicted with unusual cruelty. He was an old fashioned father, who believed in instant correction for wrongdoing. So, in that fashion, I learned moral and ethical lessons from those hands.

In my teen years, I noticed changes in my own hands. They were becoming larger and bonier, and I often wondered if they would ever become as strong and capable as his. He still had a lot of strength in them, and Mom was always calling on him to open stuck jar lids. Sometimes, though, I noticed there were tasks he could not perform barehanded. His need to resort to a wrench, or to a vise, or to a hammer, to accomplish some task caused me to stop thinking of him as a superman. His hands were beginning to demonstrate his mortality, and I sensed my own, as well.

When I finished Naval service, my fathers' hands changed again. My father hugged me at first sight, then, embarrassed a bit, he stepped back and extended his hand. We shook, and I realized that, at last, my hands were the same size as his. Not quite as strong yet, but close. In later years, we worked together fixing cars, doing yard work, building a house, undertaking renovations. His hands were still strong and capable, but now I saw them as normal mans' hands. He worked outdoors in cold weather, his hands turning red, and never complained. I learned stoicism from those hands in those cold New England winters.

When I married, and had a child of my own, the circle of life began to close in on itself. I held my daughter in my own palm one day, and realized that that was my first impression of my father. I wondered if my daughter would remember me by my hands. I realized how much like my fathers' hands they had become. As I stroked her hair, I wondered how many times my father had used his hands on me in the same fashion, while I slept, unaware. A grandfather by now, age showed in my fathers' hands. More wrinkles, less muscularity, an occasional brown spot. Sometimes, he had to ask me to open a jar, or pick up a heavy object. His hands were becoming weak and bony. An old mans' hands, crossed back and forth with blue veins, standing clearly under loose, thin skin.

Finally, his body began to malfunction. He had to be hospitalized, and it was painful to see his hands pierced by needles and swathed in tape and gauze. Lifting a glass to his lips, his hands would shake. He lacked the old confidence in their power and utility, and moved objects carefully, lest they be spilled. Sometimes they did. At the very end, in a hospital emergency ward, he seemed to have difficulty just lifting those hands to wave "Hi". Thin and bony, they remained motionless most of the time. Early one morning, I was summoned to the hospital to say my final farewell. As I took his lifeless hands in mine, and felt the warmth fading away, I realized how important those hands had been in my own life. The comfort, the safety, the help, and the lessons they had offered. When I saw those hands, folded together across his chest, clutching his prayer beads, I couldn't resist laying my own on top of them, mentally saying, "Thanks, Dad, for lending me a helping hand while I was growing up.”

Comments

Anonymous said…
Paul, A very touching poem. Don, the 14%er

Popular posts from this blog

DRAWING A STRAIGHT LINE TO RECIDIVISM, SUSTAINABILITY, AND RENEWED PROSPERITY IN PHILADELPHIA

Heralded by many as the “Next Great American City”, the fifth largest metropolitan area in the United States, the City of Philadelphia is on the move.  Real estate developers are transforming an area between Market and Chestnut Streets spanning from 11th to 12th Streets once considered the epicenter of Philadelphia into East Market, a towering and expansive structure which will be home to residential units, restaurants, retail outlets, and office space. Looking westward, a cluster of gleaming glass and steel skyscrapers which rise above the end of the Walnut Street Bridge and which appear to obfuscate the line of demarcation between the City of Philadelphia’s downtown business district, University City, and the neighborhoods surrounding Drexel University and the University of Pennsylvania come into view .. These developments are helping to create excitement about Philadelphia. Despite the perceived “renewed prosperity” of Philadelphia’s downtown business district an…

MEN'S HEALTH ADVOCATE, MUSIC PRODUCER, ARRANGER, SONGWRITER AND SINGER MR. GREG BEST TO SPEAK AT THIRD ANNUAL INTERNATIONAL DAY OF PRAYER FOR MEN AND BOYS TELECONFERENCE 6 NOVEMBER 2016

The USA International Men’s Day Team has disclosed that Men’s Mental Health Advocate, arranger, music producer, songwriter and singer Mr. Greg Best will be featured as a speaker at the Third Annual International Day of Prayer for Men and Boys’ Teleconference on Sunday, 6 November 2016 beginning at 10:00 A.M. (E.D.T.). “Voices Of Our Fathers” is the theme for the Third Annual International Day of Prayer for Men and Boys’ Teleconference which leads up to the United States’ observance of 2016 International Men’s Day (www.imd-global.org) on Saturday, 19 November 2016. The general public is encouraged to join Mr. Best in the teleconference by dialing the following conference call number: 712-775-7031 and access code: 803 828. To register for the Third Annual International Day of Prayer for Men and Boys Teleconference and to learn more about the event, please visit the following website: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/third-annual-international-day-of-prayer-for-men-and-boys-nat…

SEEING INVISIBLE MEN AND BOYS: JEROME TEELUCKSINGH, Ph.D.

On 19 November 2015, a panel discussion was held at the Student Activity Center at The University of the West Indies, in Trinidad and Tobago (in the Caribbean). It was spearheaded by an undergraduate female student, Ms. Michelle Roopnarine, and featured Dr. John Gedeon of the University's Office of Planning and Development; Ramia Coleman, the Chairman of the all-male Hall of Residence on campus; and Jonathan St. Louis-Nahous, the Guild of Students' Representative for Part-time and Evening Students. The panel successfully generated some interest and lively discussion among a cross-section of students on campus and across faculties. During the past five years, similar small scale observances have been held on campus. Despite this recognition many students and members of the public are still unaware of the existence of International Men’s Day.
From 1999, International Men’s Day was tailored and revamped to continue building the global Men’s Movement and promote an ideology that…