"A man of knowledge uses words with restraint." Proverbs 17:27
I remember his wrinkled hands,
fingertips calloused from glucose testing,
nails yellowed with age,
hint of dirt beneath them from working in the garden.
Forty-three years old the day I was born
an old man, and yet a new father
ninth time around for him, an expert father by now.
I suppose he expected me to be like all the rest,
wild and naughty;
and I was-
I made sure to cause him to lose his hair,
lose his sleep, possibly lose some sanity, too.
Like all my siblings before me
he raised me the same-
quietly, with few words.
A pat on the head each morning
while eating my lumpy oatmeal
was the love he gave me
on his way to work;
"bye now" and he was gone-
-until he was too sick to work in the factory,
too sick to drive a cab,
too sick to spend much time outside of the hospital.
Months passed in diabetic comas
my quiet father, now silent;
wild daughter, now invisible;
shaken by the threat that dad won't live long.
Returning home with a brain damaged by his illness
his tolerance wore thin,
wild daughter was now "damn kid!"
and those hands came at me with swats
instead of pats.
The threat of near-death that hung over my head
never arrived and he lived to be eighty-three.
In his old age, I silently sat with him;
watched those weathered hands
finger the rosary, often losing track of his place
as he would doze off to sleep.
Finally the day came when those hands could do no more-
no more finger pokes for glucose tests,
no more gardening,
no more cooking oatmeal,
no more love pats,
no more swats,
no more fingering the rosary.
I held his worn and wrinkled hand,
feeling the bones beneath the dry skin
noticed him squeeze my hand as I whispered
"I love you, Dad."
I watched as the silent man
whose hands were now silent, too,
held a rosary without praying,
as the lid was the closed
and the silent man, was no more.
(Missing my dad, and noticing how sometimes, my Heavenly Father can be as silent as my earthly father had been.)