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The Hands of a Man

by Amy Kenneley

To all those fathers, grandfathers, step-fathers, husbands, uncles, brothers-- or anyone who has stood in the place of a father for someone, a very Happy Father's Day to all of you. Give yourself a big hand!

It was 7:30 on a Saturday morning as three sons and three trucks pulled up. Power tools and hand tools and boxes of flooring were spread through the house. This was The Day our kitchen floor would be laid.

As it happened, the youngest son was home on 10-day leave. No sleeping in for him, though-his brothers rousted him out of bed and recruited him as well.

The Job Begins

Soon, everything inside was covered in dust while the huge miter saw on the back porch whirled and whined through the planks. Gradually the new flooring spread from one side of the kitchen to the other, flowing like a tan tide into the pantry and across to the landing's edge. Between the shared jokes and grumbling about whose job was better or worse, I could sense the wonderful bonding going on between them.

As parents, we looked at one another and smiled, thinking the same thoughts: These are the same boys who argued over who got the last pancake, who was "cheating" at the horse-race game, whose turn it was to sit up front in the station wagon?

The day lengthened but they continued until they had finished. Quick goodbyes were said as they went to their own homes for dinner. Beneath my feet was a beautiful new floor, and I felt good that I had placed the project into their capable hands.

Small Hands

Into their hands. I thought about that phrase a lot, remembering each of their hands as they went about their work. They had big, strong hands, roughened with jobs and with more than a few scars between them.

But once those hands had been wee little ones, with curled fingers grabbing reflexively at big grownup fingers. I had watched those hands learn to hold, then pull as they puzzled out the usefulness of these things at the end of their wrists.

Long before they had stopped sucking their thumbs, those hands were getting into mischief, poking and prodding at life and everything coming within reaching distance.

Those were the hands I had insisted be given to me. "Take my hand, we're crossing the street" or "Hold on to my hand or you'll get lost."

All too soon those hands stopped reaching out to me for comfort or approval. All too soon those hands were reaching out for the car keys. Adolescent hands have a way of fumbling with dishes and buttons and anything tinier than a basketball.

Hands of growing boys haven't caught up yet with their quick minds and their big plans. Hands of growing boys need to be rewired to their brains.

Big Hands

Then overnight the hands fit the body. Grownup hands to match their grownup selves. Hands that could execute some intricate job, hands that could react with great speed, hands that held certainty in their grasp.

I miss those little-boy hands, the ones I used to kiss and press bandages on and sometimes slap. I miss those adolescent-boy hands, too, the ones that fumbled a corsage onto a girl's prom dress, cranked up the music on the car radio, and practiced karate chops in the back yard.

But I love the grownup hands of our sons, the "boys" who will forever be called that, even though they are most satisfyingly men. For them to tackle such a big job is a testament to what they learned when their hands were much smaller and much less experienced. It all started with Dad asking them " Okay, who wants to help me?"

Hands of Worth

If you really want to know the worth of a man, watch what it is he does with his hands. It doesn't matter if it is delicate surgery or brute strength riveting, playing a cello or training a dog, drawing up a document or driving an eighteen-wheeler.

If their handshake is their bond, if they lift up someone in need, if they can affirm love with a gentle touch, or raise their hand to do good instead of evil, they will have used their hands the way God intended them to be used. They will be men we can all be proud of-- men worthy to have their sons emulate them.

As we waved to "the boys" that evening, I slipped my hand into my husband's as we stood in the darkening twilight. I felt the strength of his fingers and the squeeze he gives when words just aren't needed.

As always, his hand was warm and all-encompassing, covering mine up in the calloused paw I would know by feel alone.

I had watched our sons' hands today, and was pleased with what I saw. They all had inherited the shape of their father's hands, but he had given them more than that-he had taught them how to use them as men.




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