We were at a reunion gathering of our extended family when a distant cousin excitedly called his wife over to see my dad’s hands. He was amazed that Daddy’s hands looked like his deceased father’s hands. I looked at my hands and they looked like Dad’s. Two of my brother’s hands are also similar.
Daddy’s hands had one distinction, one of his fingers on his right hand was crooked. On the last joint, it took a forty-five-degree turn. He had injured the finger requiring stitches and a splint; arriving home from the doctor his nosiness caused him to remove all the stuff to gawk at the injury. He wasn’t too careful on the re-wrap thus leaving a crooked finger until he arrived in Heaven.
Once when he was cutting up some tenderloin of a home-butchered hog, he stopped and held up his ole greasy right hand with the odd finger, and told my mother, “Frances, I finally found out a good use for this crooked finger. It’s just right for wrapping around this hog meat!” Then he went back to his butchering with the crooked-finger-wrap-around technique cutting with the butcher knife in his left hand.
Yes, my Daddy was left-handed. He hammered, threw a ball, and everything with the left hand except write, shoot a gun, and conduct church music. I speculate that his early schoolteacher made him write right-handed even though he would have been a natural lefty. His left-hand hammering made you backup and get out of the way.
Dad went to many southern singing schools back in the day where he learned shaped-note hymn music. He would sit for hours in a rocking chair with a songbook in his left hand, working his right arm to the beat of the music, and humming out the tune.
It was not unusual for him to stop a song in mid-flight to correct the congregation telling them to sing a certain part as a quarter note not a half note. Bless his heart—only him and the piano player knew what he was talking about, we would give it another go and do our best to mimic his timing.
He was known in our parts as a great singer. I have his hands, but I also wished I had his voice and hair.
Daddy would “try his hand” at almost anything. The Whitts have a major character flaw, if we see it once and do it once, we become experts. He rarely used a veterinarian on our dogs and farm animals. My first lesson in animal care was learning how to give a dog a worming pill. He would ram it as far it would go, hold the dog’s mouth closed with the head up, and rub his throat forcing him to swallow it. More than once he sewed up a wound on one of our hunting dogs with mother’s needle and thread.
If he had a cow that was doing poorly then a good drenching was in order. Inside an old long-neck-half-gallon bottle, he would mix a concoction of raw eggs, salt, water, and who-knows-what-else. We would catch the cow put a set of nose-tongs in her nose and raise it to the sky; then Daddy would ram the bottle in her throat and “glug, glug, glug” to the point you thought she would surely drown.
My Daddy’s hands were filled with love, but they were rough. When my first tooth became loose, I told him, but never again. After that first ordeal, I told no one. I wiggled it with my tongue until it limply fell out. This was one of my first lessons of “live and learn”.
Daddy was one of the Great Generation, he served with his hands and heart. He came home to a free nation he helped preserve in World War II. With his hands he made a living for our family. He loved God and his neighbors. In his retirement his hands stayed busy with his family, church, cows, garden, and a rumpled discount shoe store for which he became locally famous.
In 2004, we folded his hands and committed his body to the dust from which it came but his soul and spirit to God. I can still hear his voice, see the look in his eyes, the gait of his walk, the way he ate his food, and the form of his hands.
When I look at my hands, I see my Daddy’s hands. I catch my hands untying my shoes just like Daddy at the end of a hard day. Each year that passes, my hands look more like Daddy’s—a few more wrinkles, an added scar, a grubby looking fingernail, but still no crooked joint.
When they finally fold my hands at the end of my day, I may say, “Now which way?” There may be a finger that I recognize, that says, “Yonder!” It will be the straight one not the crooked one.
Isaiah 30:21 NKJV
(21) Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” Whenever you turn to the right hand Or whenever you turn to the left.
Matthew 7:13-14 NKJV
(13) “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it.
(14) Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.
HAPPY FATHER’S DAY! Lead the way, point the way, and live the way of Christ so others will find the way and walk in the way of life that leads to life eternal.
Yours on the Journey,
Harry L. Whitt