“It’s funny to watch you do that,” said my wife.
Deep in thought, I pulled my attention away from the computer screen and looked over at her.
What could be funny about me sitting, staring at a blank screen, struggling for a word, a thought.
“Your hands,” she said gently, making a kneading motion with hers. “You do it every time you’re lost in thought — just like your Daddy used to do.”
She was right, of course. Without ever being aware, I sit and wring my hands over and over when I’m trying to squeeze a thought from way down deep in my brain.
How many times had I watched my father do the same thing over the years? I would sometimes wonder what it was he was thinking about out on our old front porch. Daddy would be in his rocking chair, hunched forward, elbows on his knees and his hands constantly in motion. They would knead each other in a slow, rhythmic grind. I was never sure if he was trying to rid a sticky problem or massage away the cares of the world.
I can recall him sitting there as I would bounce down the steps, on the way to my car and off again for another day or night of the carefree life of a 1960s teenager.
How many times was my father wringing his hands over the thought of where I was going and when I would be back? Was he wondering where tuition money was coming from for the next quarter at college?
Although I was no child of privilege, I was certainly sheltered and spoiled. Many times I’ve thought back to my growing-up days and fail to think of a single thing I’d change about any of them. My mother and father sacrificed much to give me those memories. Exactly how much, it took me years to fully appreciate.
“Daddy’s hands” is an old country music song you can still hear once in a while.
Were soft and kind when I was cryin’
Were hard as steel when I’d done wrong
Weren’t always gentle but I’d come to understand
There was always love in Daddy’s hands
My Daddy worked hard all his life, usually as a mechanic or a pulpwooder and I always marveled at his hands. They were rough and calloused from years of scuffing his knuckles, pulling wrenches, hoisting a saw or dragging chains.
Daddy’s hands were a point of pride in our family. They represented a life of hard, honest labor.
Shortly after I bought my first newspaper in my early 20s, Daddy looked over at my hands, all soft, pink and white.
“Smooth as a baby’s (bottom),” he’d say with a chuckle. “It doesn’t look like you’ve ever done a real day’s work.”
Sunday will mark my 14th Father’s Day without him.
If you can still hold your father’s hands this Sunday, don’t fail to do it.
I wish I could.
Robert M. Williams Jr. is an Effingham native and publishes weekly newspapers in Blackshear, Alma, Folkston, McRae and Forsyth. E-mail him at email@example.com.