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Wanda L. Harrell

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My Daddy's Hands
by Wanda L. Harrell

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In memory of my father, Billie Harrell (1926-1977)

Visions of my daddy’s hands linger in my mind.
His hands were wrought from hard work and daily struggles,
But were diverse in their ability and use.
They are sorely missed by many, but especially, his first born, me.

As a child, his hands ...
Caressed his mother’s for a loving touch;
Crawled on the wooden floors of home;
Played in the dirt of the North Carolina mountains;
Closely held things that pleased him;
Pushed away things he didn’t like;
Attempted to touch things that could hurt;
Wiped away tears that came from fear or pain;
Proudly carried a tin lunch pail to school;
Firmly held a pencil to practice the ABC’s and arithmetic;
Wrote with chalk on a well-worn blackboard of slate;
Turned the pages of a textbook;
Combed his red and curly hair;
Washed his fair and freckled face;
Buttoned up his shirt;
Snapped up his overalls;
Drew up his socks;
Laced, with pride, his newly half-soled shoes;
Pulled a warm quilt up to his chin in Winter;
Hid green bean shells under his plate;
Peeled and pared an apple with his pocket knife;
Delighted in playing in the cold water of a mountain stream;
Eagerly held biscuits laden with butter and honey;
Peeled the skin off his Christmas orange;
Happened to be the eldest male hands of his parents’ children;
Were required, after 4th grade, to leave childhood behind;
Assumed the tasks of a grown man.

As a man, his hands ...
Used many a hammer and many more nails;
Learned, from his father, to measure a tree’s board feet;
Tossed feed to the farm animals;
Gingerly removed eggs from the chickens’ nests;
Cleaned the stalls of horses and cattle;
Opened and closed many a gate;
Controlled a plow behind a cantankerous mule;
Knew well a hoe, a shovel, a saw, and an ax;
Helped his parents move from North Carolina to Pennsylvania;
Signed up to join the US Navy during WW II;
Held the hands of the one he would marry;
Placed, at age 21, a ring on the finger of his new bride;
Labored long and hard at whatever task was set before him;
Adeptly steered many makes and models of cars and trucks;
Bled, when working in the frigid Winter air;
Played silly tricks on friends and family, alike;
Found no job too menial or too difficult;
Made gestures when telling a tall tale;
Placed fence posts in smelly liquid tar;
Held a pitchfork to chase away an angry bull;
Changed tires on cars and trucks;
Placed many a cashew in his mouth;
Smelled of sawdust and tobacco;
Loosened his “bothersome” necktie;
Turned potatoes, frying in an iron skillet, over an open campfire;
Repaired many things that were broken;
Applied paint or paper to a needy wall;
Figured constantly, on any kind of paper, ways to get ahead;
Paid for many homes and many more tracts of land;
Knew, by touch, whether a steak was medium or medium-well done;
Placed lots of money in the bank for rainy days;
Emanated confidence to those who shook his hand.

As a father, his hands ...
Proudly held his first-born child, me;
Lifted me up to touch the ceiling in the kitchen;
Securely held me while bouncing me on his knee;
Held me gently, as I slept in his lap, as he plowed,
Controlling the Ford tractor all the while;
Spanked really hard when discipline was necessary;
Thoughtfully spoiled me with candy, 5-cent Cokes and ice cream;
Carried Christmas trees laden with snow into the basement to thaw;
Lovingly made a swing on the crossbar of the clothesline;
Pinched my nose to wake me up;
Carried groceries over a mile, in deep snow;
“Attempted” to play the fiddle when we were snowed in;
Pitched a baseball in the back yard;
Bought a bicycle, a sled, and my first car;
Slipped money in my pocket while whispering not to tell;
Paid for tires when I was too proud to ask for help;
Eagerly became the hands of a loving grandfather;
Tenderly held his granddaughter, then his first grandson;
Flipped open his wallet with pictures of his grandchildren;
Never knew the touch of his second grandson.

At the end of his days, Daddy’s hands were...
Held in my hands, in a loving caress;
Frail and weak, mere phantoms of the strength they once exuded;
Conveying love for me, his first-born child;
Needing my touch as much as I needed his;
Lingering, with what would be the last precious touch in life;
Waving good-bye for the very last time;
Praying to be reunited again in Heaven above.

If you can hear me, “I love you, Daddy.”
This is just for you from your first-born, me.

© 1998, Wanda L. Harrell

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Reviewed by na na (Reader)
A wonderful and lasting tribute to your father.
Reviewed by Jack Roberts
A wonderful tribute to your Father, beautiful job.
Reviewed by Valerie Roeske
Wanda, you were so blessed, to have such wonderful deep memories of a great man, may peace be with you, fantastic write,
Reviewed by Lisa Hilbers
Wanda, With tears rolling down my cheeks, I say Thank You, I think I needed to read this poem. Oh how I relate to this. Only I was the baby, not the eldest. Maybe all Father's hands do about the same things huh? Wonderful Tribute to a Father that is clearly seen that you adored a great deal. Lisa
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