Through a little girl’s eyes, my father’s hands were so big. They folded over mine, swallowing them up as they taught me to tie my shoes. They patiently screwed together bicycles and swing sets, they wiped off chocolate milk mustaches. They wrapped around the handle of a hammer, hanging up the same pictures over and over, each time we moved into new Army quarters somewhere.
At night, they would sometimes pleasantly smell like Brasso or shoe polish as they worked to make their owner’s uniform glisten. Other times, they would have a gentle scent of rain and earth, from digging holes for my mother’s daffodils, roses, boxwoods, and decorative lamp posts.
They showed me how to play a guitar. After much pleading and cajoling, they would unfold a screen and set up a slide projector that told the family stories that they had photographed and cataloged. They held puppies, turtles, and a rabbit named Lucky. They buried themselves in papier mache and goop, to help make my fifth grade science fair model of Antarctica, complete with tiny flags and pins pointing out all the research sites.
They swung the steering wheel of a green Chevy sedan and then a blue Rambler station wagon with its space-age push-button transmission and plastic seat covers that left waffle patterns on our sticky summer legs. Later there were more — the doomed Renault, the jaunty yellow Beetle. Those hands steered us up and down countless thousands of highway miles, criss-crossing the world to beaches, new towns, Army bases, grandparents, mountain lakes, and always, always home.
Those hands made home happen.
Those hands made the desk where I sit now, where I dream my dreams. They have held mine tight at weddings and funerals.
When I think of you, I think of so many things, but I most clearly see your strong hands, and I am thankful with all my heart for the many things they have given me.
Happy Father’s Day to “O.W.L.” – my dad!