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My Father's Hands

by Linda Rivenbark 6 months ago in parents · updated 5 months ago
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One Thing I Loved Most About My Dad

Photo by Author - My Dad Holding my Firstborn Son in His Hands

This story about my Dad was written shortly after he passed away in late 2012 (some amendments have been made). There were so many things about him that I loved, but I always thought he had such amazing hands, so strong yet gentle.

While thinking about how to write a tribute to my Dad for the "Dads are no Joke" Challenge, I remembered this piece I wrote in the immediate aftermath of his passing. MY FATHER'S HANDS...

had been toned and toughened by holding the wooden handles of plows, breaking the soil, planting seeds, hoeing weeds, and harvesting crops to help feed his family of eleven (his parents and nine children).

My Grandparents, two uncles and some cousins - My Dad was in the Army at the time


In the third decade of his life, my father's hands peeled potatoes in army "mess halls", shined shoes for officers and enlisted men (sending the money back home), carried a rifle, fought the enemy and defended his buddies and our freedoms.

After roughly three years of using his hands in the Philippines, Guam, and New Guinea, he returned home and touched his mother's hair and face with those hands.

He brought flowers to my mother, placed a ring on the third finger of her left hand, and together they started a new life and a family of their own.

My Parents in the Late 1940s from Family Photo Collection

My father's hands held his newborns and guided our first faltering steps.

Once they were young - my father's hands.


They reached out to pick me up when I fell down, held me close and gave me a shoulder to cry on when I was tired, sleepy, or sick.

Those hands wielded a pair of tweezers, when needed, to extract a splinter from a little foot.

They wiggled loose teeth and told me it would not be long before that tooth would come out - then a little squeeze, a little tug, and his hand held my baby tooth.

His hand put the tooth under my pillow and told me the tooth fairy would take it when I went to sleep and would leave me some money for it.

He taught me how to "skin-a-cat", a game we played where I would grab ahold of his hands and bounce up, flipping over in front of him and landing with both feet on one of his shoes.

Those hands brushed my hair and tied my shoes.

And those hands - those strong hands - worked.


Pushing plows, milking cows, cutting wood, planting gardens of vegetables or flowers, working on commercial-sized machines at Lance Packing Company making cookies, crackers and other snacks, building a house, grooming a lawn, helping a neighbor - those hands worked!

Those hands struggled to provide for a growing family. They reached out in compassion to a neighbor or friend in need.

Building, mending, repairing, his hands were so skillful!


By Nareeta Martin on Unsplash

He used his hands to fight waste, "rendering" bruised fruit or vegetables to "get all the good". Having lived through the Great Depression of the 1930s, he could not bear to see anything wasted.

Recycling kept his hands busy in later years - NO bottle, can, paper, or plastic could be trashed when he was around.

Those hands did their share to save the environment and preserve Mother Earth for future generations.


Then one day, I noticed that those hands, those big, strong hands, were aging before my eyes; still strong, but unable to do some things he had once done with ease.

In spite of two strokes, he gave his best effort to rehabilitation to keep his hands active to some degree until the end of his life.

He could stand up and walk short distances until almost the end, and got around fairly well in his motorized chair. A couple of times, he tried to race it across the back yard and I had to chase him down to get him to slow it down a bit.

When I think of My Dad, so many memories of his 90+ years bring tears to my eyes and joy to my heart.

Me and my Dad, John W. Wilson, in the early 1950s

Dad, you were the best father a girl could ever have. Your life was definitely 'no joke'...just a beautiful story of love and kindness. Your little girl still loves you!

A song by Holly Dunn just about tells it all.


About the author

Linda Rivenbark

“Stories are light. Light is precious in a world so dark. Begin at the beginning. Make some light.” –  Kate DiCamillo, The Tale of Despereaux

Writing and loving it since I was a third grader.

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Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

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Comments (5)

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  • CJ Miller5 months ago

    Linda, this was such a lovely and sincere tribute. I'm sure your dad would be very proud. Beautiful job!

  • L.C. Schäfer5 months ago

    This was so relatable and beautiful. Thank you for sharing x

  • I'm so sorry for your loss. And this was a beautiful tribute

  • Luna Lee Bear5 months ago

    Such a lovely read! And thank you for taking the time to share those photos as well, they’re really precious!

  • Denise E Lindquist5 months ago

    Thank you 💕

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