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  • Danielle Nadler

Dad's hands

Memories are slippery things. Like sand through hands. They disappear. Sneak off to someplace else. Only a few stick.


Which go, which stay. I don’t get a say.


With you, it’s your hands I remember most.


Your hands. Biggest I’ve seen.

With a scar left by a metal cleat, a brand from your grueling days pushing and passing over Boardman High School’s tired grass and chalked yard lines. Calloused finger tips from years of melodic collisions with guitar strings. A bruised thumbnail, a postmark of sorts from a hammer brought down too hard, too quickly.


Your hands. Like hefty tools made for work. Hard work.

In the early days, crafting cabinets and repairing roofs to make ends meet. Later, building a home for us, complete with a deck for summer barbecues. Then fixing that beat up ‘69 Jeep and helping a neighbor repair a fence.


Your hands. Always ready to reach out.

Palms up, they offered morning high fives to us kids. They gathered mom in for a dance in the kitchen. They tapped grandma on the shoulder as a wordless thanks for dinner.


Your hands. Plucking a guitar every chance they got.

A free lesson with a teen. A Mexican prison. A church service. A soup kitchen. A high school chemistry class, where you were the sub teacher everyone loved, except your red-faced daughter in the third row.


When you left, people crowded in a quiet room to get one last glimpse. Not me, I told my aunt. I wont look. I stayed in the entry way of the funeral home. Head down.


Until I realized where I sat. In the middle of one of those slippery moments. The kind that drops in with no warning and sneaks off to someplace else. Before you can think. Before you can react. Before you can feel. So I hurried to convince myself I'd better look. Because in the movies, that's what people do. I didn't have time to decide whether I was that type of person. The type that looks. I made myself stand and walk by the door, and directed my eyes to the white casket, just for a half-second.


You weren’t there, of course. You were with Jesus, I’m sure.


But I saw your hands there, resting on your chest. They stayed. And so did their memory. My memory of you.




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