Daddy's Hands

Daddy’s hands were soft and kind when I was cryin´.
Daddy´s hands, were hard as steel when I´d done wrong.
Daddy´s hands, weren´t always gentle
But I´ve come to understand.
There was always love in Daddy´s hands.

This is the song I danced  to with my father over 26 years ago at my wedding. Dad was quite the dancer and we two stepped our little hearts out. Or rather he two stepped while I tried to keep up. I’m pretty sure I bruised a couple of his toes when I stomped as he stepped.

My dad has always had nice hands. It doesn’t take much for me to go back in time and see his clean, neat nails as his fingers wrapped around a pen. Or maybe he’s sitting in his chair next to the stereo, listening to Mozart with his eyes closed while his hand conducts an invisible orchestra, a serene look of pleasure on his face. Sometimes I can picture his finger pointing at me when I was in trouble or when I “got him good”. I remember watching him scrub the grease off his hands with Lava pumas soap after he’d changed the oil or some other dirty work. What used to be strong hands that performed all kinds of tasks are now frail and worn. At 87 years old, they just don’t operate the way they used to. Kind of like his mind.

I hate dementia. It’s a horrible, insidious disease that slowly kidnaps a person without any warning. What at first seems like normal, age related forgetfulness morphs into the heart wrenching realization that the brain is broken. And it’s not something that will ever be better. It’s not a disease with a cure, nor is it a quick death. Instead it’s a gradual and tedious decline into a mental oblivion while the rest of us helplessly watch.

People think it’s a good day when a dementia patient knows their family, but I’ve decided lucid days aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. When my father knows what’s going on he is sad. He gets frustrated because we can’t understand what he’s trying to tell us. He’s sad because he can’t come home with us. He’s sad because he’s 100% dependent on everyone else to feed him, to put him to bed, to do everything. He’s sad because in those lucid moments, he knows he’s broken beyond repair.

And that makes me so very, very sad. What I wouldn’t give to have my daddy be whole and himself again. But that won’t happen so I pray every day that God would just take him home. Home where he will be whole and perfect and even smarter than he was back in the day. Then he can conduct the angels’ choir to his heart’s content for all eternity. Then there will be no sadness or frustration. Then there will be nothing but joy.

My dad is in a nursing home in New Mexico so I don’t have the opportunity to see him very often. Last night I returned from my yearly trip where I had the chance to spend some time with him and hold his hand. I like to think that small gesture meant a little to him and gave some comfort. It was just my way of returning the favor for all those times Daddy’s hands gave me comfort.

Daddy’s hands were soft and kind when I was cryin´.
Daddy´s hands, were hard as steel when I´d done wrong.
Daddy´s hands, weren´t always gentle
But I´ve come to understand.
There was always love in Daddy´s hands.

8 Comments

  1. Sue Ann "Mobley" Kucher on November 11, 2014 at 5:07 pm

    So hard to read these words, and yet it makes me smile as one of the things I remember most about my dad is his hands (and the smell of Lava soap!). When I recognize his gestures and mannerisms in my own movements, or in Beckett’s, it never fails to make me smile in remembrance, followed by the sadness of wishing he were here.

    This is a really lovely tribute to your dad, to the love he has surrounding him, to the amazing man he was, and to the unfairness and pain that dementia brings. Your words take me back to the days of being torn between living my life as my dad wanted and being there with him. I pray for peace and solace for all of you.

    All my love,
    Sue

    • Jenster on November 11, 2014 at 5:17 pm

      I’m guessing our dads had the same hands. 🙂

      Thank you for your kind words and encouragement, Sue. Love to you back!

  2. Rhonda Dove on November 11, 2014 at 6:40 pm

    Jen, this is beautifully written. Going down this same road, I can appreciate all you are saying. It is great that you were able to go spend some time with him.

    • Jenster on November 11, 2014 at 6:57 pm

      I’m so sorry that you understand all too well.Give your daddy a hug for me.

  3. Jewels on November 11, 2014 at 6:55 pm

    I love you. I cannot fathom this, but thank you for putting words on your pain and love for your dad, so I can pray for you all and love you as well as I can from this distance. I’m so sorry, Jen. Right now, praying for mercy. Just…mercy. xxxooo

    • Jenster on November 11, 2014 at 6:57 pm

      Love you back. 🙂

  4. Bethany McLaren on November 11, 2014 at 8:03 pm

    My eyes are leaking what my heart can’t contain; ache for your loss even though your Daddy is still here, at least in the physical sense. Your voice resonates the suffering caused by dementia. There is no earthly cure, but I know your understanding and sharing brings solace to others suffering the same. You bring honor every day to your Dad by being who you are. I love you, MTYEK.

    • Jenster on November 11, 2014 at 8:41 pm

      Love you back, MTYEK!

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