My Father’s Hands

by Linda Schwartz, Reflections

    once rough and calloused from years of physical labor
    his hands are now soft and pliant
    mottled with bruises on tissue-thin skin

    sitting by his bedside knowing his time is near
    I whisper the Shema to him over and over
    cover his hands with mine
    unleashing a floodgate of memories

    these are the hands
    that held me as a newborn
    but not again until three years later
    a soldier returning home after proudly serving his country

    these are the hands
    that held the back of a wobbly two-wheeler
    after training wheels came off
    hands that built a tetherball set and a jungle gym
    for our backyard

    these are the steadfast hands
    that linked mine as he walked me down the aisle
    at my wedding
    but trembled when he held
    each of his newborn grandchildren

    in the prime of his life
    these hands packed a wallop of a serve in tennis
    held fat Cuban cigars
    cards for pinochle   gin rummy
    and family penny poker

    these are the hands
    that lifted the Torah at his grandsons’ Bar Mitzvahs
    and passed it with pride
    from generation to generation

    for sixty-six years
    these hands reached out to Mom lending support
    as together they built a life    raised a family
    these are the hands that embraced and held me
    when I needed a father’s comfort and love

    his labored breathing is the only sound in the room
    he can’t hear me    he can’t see me
    I squeeze his hands firmly
    letting him know I am by his side
    hoping he can feel the depth
    of love welling up inside me

    in that dimly lit    silent room
    I etch into memory every detail
    every facet of his hands
    take comfort in knowing
    I will forever find solace and peace
    in the sheltered memories
    held in the harbor
    of my father’s hands


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