During a short time in my childhood I lived with my father in his mother’s house. He and my mother were going through a divorce at this time and my mother was taking care of my new-born brother. He painted with my grandfather during the day while I went to first grade and after school I ran around my grandmother’s house, playing make-believe, drawing trees, riding my tricycle and playing with my little sister before my father came home. I was about six years old at this time and I was madly in love with my father, eager to see him when he came home in the evenings and even more so to spend every moment with him on the weekends. He was my best friend, my comfort, and my hero. While he was not able to spend a lot of time with us in our later childhood years after my mother remarried, the times we shared before that, still resonate such vivid imagery, it is hard to grasp that it was 25 years ago.
His hands. His warm, large hands, callused from his weeks worth of work, over mine as he leaned over me from behind, teaching me how to balance on my first bicycle.
His hand’s gentle pull on my hair as he held the warm blow dryer and brush after my bath. He brushed and dried my hair into a wild mane around my small, six-year old face and he would call me his little lioness.
His strong hands closed tightly into two fists as he asked me to guess which hand had the quarter. If I guessed right, I could stay on the bottom step of the staircase leading to the bedrooms upstairs; if I guessed wrong, I had to scoot my bottom up one step–one step closer to my bed where sleep awaited—sometimes this game would take a whole, joyous half an hour before I made it to the top.
His quiet hands, turning the pages of my favorite bedtime story “Cinderella”—a story I made him read so often, I had memorized each word and so read it to my sister when my father wasn’t around.
His safe hands holding mine, as he carried me on his strong shoulders, and then diving into the swimming pool or throwing me up in the air so high, I swear I could look down at the rooftops before cannon-balling a large splash, and he would tell me how much I had grown.
I remember one cold winter night, I heard the loud hum of his car when he pulled in. I had just taken my bath and felt so excited to see my daddy, I could not wait for him to come in. I opened up the large front door, hearing grandma yell for me to put my socks on. My wet hair hung in ringlets around my neck and pink cotton nighty, hung so long, I almost tripped over it as I ran out to greet him. He wore his black leather jacket and his hair blow dried back into a John Travolta style. He squatted down to await my hug and I took his hands and held them to my face…. smelling the familiar blend of cigarettes and spearmint gum–my father’s signature and my peace.
The same hands that would one day hold the arms of his future wife Linda years after the pain of divorce from my mother healed and the same hands that would clasp the photograph of his own father in his bedroom and then lay limply on his bed as he mourned his father’s death. And the stern hands that put out that last cigarette when he decided he wanted to live a long, healthy life for his own family.
The same hands that would pull me away from loneliness and depression when I was 17 years old and would do the same for my sister and brother too. That would carry my moving boxes into his home and pull the cash out of his pocket to pay for my books in college.
The hands that waved good-bye when I thought I was mature enough to start my life. That would one day cradle my son Kanan when he came home from the hospital, and the hands that welcomed me back into his home and wiped the tears from my eyes when my life didn’t turn out as planned.
The same hands that would give me away on my wedding day at the last-minute in Las Vegas and embrace my husband like he was a son, even when he barely knew him. Those hands that then clasped my own hands on the dance floor for our father daughter dance and guided my steps when I nervously told him I didn’t know how.
The hands that exercised my grandmother’s legs after her knee surgery. Those same hands that held her fragile ones in the hospital when she came down with pneumonia and the same hands that designed plans to renovate his guest bathroom so his mother could move in after she recovered and could shower easily in her old age.
The hands that held a coffee mug in one and the digital pen to his computer in his other so purposefully when he created his beautiful art illustrations in his later years. The hands that hung the portraits on the walls he made of himself with his beautiful wife and dog Riley . The hands that clicked send on his phone as he forwarded political jokes, photographs, and links to our family.
The hands that paid for the bill when my husband I were the ones to invite him and Linda to lunch at a local Mexican restaurant just weeks ago. Those same hands that would lovingly rub my belly that cradled my second son just weeks before my father’s surprise death in the waters of Hawaii.
So much of the future were held in those hands that my little 6 –year-old mind couldn’t even imagine on that cold winter night. And so I kissed those hands over and over again–so much, one would think I thought at that moment, that I’d never see those hands again.
Papa, I can’t wait to kiss your hands again.