My Father's Hands

The Weekly Writers Workshop does a freewriting exercise to start off each meeting. One of the exercises that was picked said to write about your father’s hands, but a workshop member said the exercise had been done before. I couldn’t let go of the desire to write that …

My father’s hands are pockmarked, fingers swollen with thick, cracked nails. Skin is pulled taut like a white sheet, straining simple movement. Knuckles are towers of folded skin covering what used to be piano fingers …

Just like mine are now …

My father was at work a decade ago, using a voltmeter to measure electrical current. The instrument exploded, causing first- and second-degree burns on his face and second- and third-degree burns on his hands.

To me, my father’s hands looked like foreign objects, first in gloves to help healing. And then, when no more could be done, they turned into a display of an undecipherable riddle of scars. It was as if the cliché that wrinkles tell stories of a person’s life fell apart. My father’s scars began telling me the story of an accident, hiding the wrinkles that speak of a man’s love for his daughter and son:

He lifted us onto his shoulders,

Carried each of us together, a hand on our backs.

Played stick-around, letting us run out of his lap,

Pulled us in again

To twirl in circles,

Holding our bodies out,

Our anchor in his clasp. 

Family photos lend memories:

I am on his lap as he shows me his work,

Or lean into him in our Mickey Mouse ears,

Looking up, or being around or laughing,

I am Daddy’s little girl,

Not thinking of my father’s hands,

Just him,

The beauty of –

I could not fathom

The accident,

That could break a man’s heart,

For awhile,

Until these stories despite the fire that burns –


All that my father’s hands could do turned more difficult, a slow letting go of a young man’s dreams burned up in an instance. But then he retired and returned to fixing up his old house, a sparkle coming back into his eye about what he could do despite the scars.

One Response to “My Father's Hands”

  1. Samantha says:

    Beautifully expressed.

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