It’s been 1 year, 5 months and 21 days since my dad passed away, and my heart still aches for him. Tomorrow would be my dad’s 53rd birthday. The day also marks the last time I saw him, 3 years ago. The last time we hugged, the last time we laughed together, the last time he got to kiss me goodnight. I often thought getting through the first year after his death would be the toughest. You have those big “landmarks”, first Christmas without him, first Thanksgiving; first Father’s day… the list goes on but so does time. I’m not even sure why I’m writing this blog post. I suppose because I’ve been noticing that this year, this second year, has been harder than the first. It’s like my anesthetic wore off and now I’m really feeling things but having trouble remembering them. I feel like the time I spent with dad was almost an illusion. So I’m trying to write the memories in a way of solidifying the times we spent together.
I’ve always had an odd fascination with hands. They are beautiful to me. They do so much unnoticed. They work in fields, they make music, they greet people, they comfort babies. Hands hold such an awesome duality of toughness and tenderness. They have always been one of the first things I notice on a person. I was recently blessed to be able to visit with a dear Aunt of mine before she passed on. While I sat stroking her hand, I couldn’t believe the resemblance it bore to my grandfather – her brother’s hand. My grandpa also passed away about 4 years ago, but touching my Aunt’s hand and seeing her soft freckled skin and chubby fingers made me smile remembering my grandpa. It was like getting to touch a little part of him just one more time. It was a highlight of happiness in a day full of sadness. I started thinking about my dad’s hands. At first I panicked. I couldn’t remember them. I felt like I never had enough time with him to memorize things like that. I cried that night thinking about all the things I probably never noticed about him, that I would never get to know. But then my memories crept back in as if my brain were saying “I won’t let you forget Jacqueline, remember this:”
My dad’s hands were rough. He worked with them every day and they were calloused and cracked and dry. I remember my stepmom commenting that they were so rough they would sometimes snag on her clothes. They had a distinct feel when he laced his fingers through mine. The first memory that came to me was one of us walking through the mall; I couldn’t have been more than 5. I can’t remember why it was just the two of us, but I remember holding on to just dad’s pointer finger because my hand was too tiny to fit in his. I remember thinking how big it felt. Like holding onto a carrot! I remember thinking how funny it would be if people had carrot fingers, like dad’s.
When I was older maybe 16 or so, after my parents had been divorced for quite some time, Dad took us to Disneyland. It was the first time my brother and I had visited him in ages. I was walking around the park holding my dad’s hand which I hadn’t done in years and which now fit inside his, though mine was still much smaller. I subconsciously squeezed it three times – something my boyfriend and I would do to say “I love you” when we didn’t want to gross people out with our angsty teenage puppy love. My dad looked down and smiled at me and squeezed back four times – “I love you too”. I remember feeling giggly when I asked him if he knew what it meant. “I love you too, right?” like maybe he guessed wrong. I smiled, he knew the code too!
Fast forward years later, at my wedding, before my dad walked me down the aisle we had a brief moment of time alone. I was so nervous, thinking all the girly things you think before a wedding, “I hope I don’t trip, I hope my makeup looks good, I hope I remember what to say… I was holding onto my dad’s arm just about to walk when he paused. He looked down at me with tears in his eyes – the one and only time in my life I saw him cry and he said “it feels like just yesterday you were a little baby we could wash in the sink and now you’re my beautiful girl getting married. I love you, Goose” and he put his hand on one cheek and kissed my other. Tears spilled down my face and on to his hand. “Dad!”, I said through smiling/sappy tears “you’re not supposed to be the one crying!” He laughed his big Texas laugh, wiped my tear with his thumb, smiled at me and said “ready”?
His hands: because we lived so far away from each other most my life I didn’t get to hold them much or feel them comfort me when I was ill, but his hands still left indelible prints on my life and in my heart and sometimes I think I can actually feel them in mine squeezing “one-two-three”.