Friday, June 10, 2016

Missing My Dad as Father's Day Approaches

FLOYD'S HANDS (written soon after my dad's funeral a few years ago)

Today I touched the cold, hard hands of my dad.
In his light blue casket, he wasn't really there.
That shell, just an empty house—
for a man who loved God until the end.

Those were the hands of a southern farm boy
Who grew up poor, an eighth grade education.
Dad’s hands never learned how to spell correctly.
But they knew how to enlist in the army.
There, his hands learned to clean a gun and clean potatoes.

Those hands worked in a Detroit auto factory
Sealing windshields into place.
The glue, ripping skin from those bare fingers.
Day after day he returned, muscling through the pain,
With those hard-working hands.

His hands folded in prayer one day, making Jesus his Redeemer. 
Before long his hands held those of a Christian woman.
Those grateful hands placed a wedding band on Mabel’s finger.
In time, those hands held four sons—me the youngest.

As a child I remember those hands.
They were younger.
Strong—no age spots, no wrinkles.
Up, way up, they lifted me,
Onto his broad shoulders,
Allowing me to touch the leaves of that old maple in our yard.

Those hands taught me to swim,
Supporting me in the murky waters of Lake Erie.
A hand on my chest, one on my thighs,
Teaching me to kick and stroke. 

On visits to his Tennessee hometown,
I was scared of the dark in that cold, dank house.
Myself in a cot, next to my parents,
His hand would reach down and hold mine.
I fell asleep, feeling that calloused palm. 

Those hands of Dad, catered food, taught Sunday School,
Drove a school bus, swabbed toilets.
They embraced my mother in the kitchen,
As he tenderly kissed her. Making me giggle.

Those hands wrestled with me on the floor,
Lifted me to his lap for cartoons on Saturday,
Drove me to church three times a week,
Scribbled notes in his bible,
And lifted skyward in worship—those hands. 

In my bedroom, his hands held mine,
As I prayed to receive Christ.
I was six.  

Those hands patted my head, spanked my bottom.
Taught me to build campfires,
And plant vegetable gardens.

Those hands repaired cars and built homes.
I watched and learned—sometimes, what not to do.

Those patient hands taught me to drive,
And co-signed my first car.
They buried my mother,
And waved goodbye when I left for college.

He was a strong man,
He had strong hands, but I no longer cared.
I had dreams for my own hands—I didn’t need his.

So on my own, I found love and married.
Dad’s hands touched each of my four kids,
But not nearly enough.
They grew up never really knowing
how lovely those hands could be. 

Eventually, my father’s hands held me again
As I wept on his shoulder, a divorced man.

His hands dialed my number,
Wrote notes of encouragement,
And folded in intercession, for me.
I’d never seen that side of Dad’s hands. 

Those hands got wrinkled.
But they held a microphone at my second wedding,
And they reached out to me with a blessing.

Those hands remained active.
Building church pews in South America,
On his one and only mission trip.

His hands rebuilt his life, when a flood took everything.
His hands cared for his second wife, as she grew weak.
His hands tried to catch himself when he fell,
But failed, until finally…

I held his hands in ICU,
The weak heart, the strokes, the slow fade.
Those strong hands disappeared,
Along with his voice.
Each visit, a possible last.

The years passed and I watched those hands turn pale.
Sometimes the nails were blue.
His hands grabbed a cane, then a walker.
And finally a wheelchair.

Where had those hands gone,
Those hands once so strong?

In time I watched those sweet hands
Lying humbly in his lap.
For it was my hand now,
Wiping his chin, lifting his legs.
Still other’s hands—strangers,
Caring for him.

Finally, Dad’s hands reached up through the clouds
To grasp his Savior’s.
Released from his shriveled shell,
His useless hands, liberated.

I’ll grasp them too, one day,
Those hands of Heavenly Father.
But today I touched the cold, hard hands of my dad.

In his light blue casket, he wasn't really there.