“And David shepherded them with integrity of heart; with skillful hands he led them.” Psalms 78:72
There is simply no part of creation as dear to my heart as Gary’s capable hands. They remind me of Michelangelo’s fresco of God’s hand reaching out to Adam’s, painted on the dome of the famous Sistine Chapel in Rome. Such fine hands: extra large, ruddy and strong!
Tender and inviting, the heart behind them caught this young girl’s attention. Yes, through forty years of marriage those hands have showed me honor. They’ve opened doors for me, steadied me on slick sidewalks and carried many a grocery bag in from the trunk. Only they have the privilege to hold my face and gingerly wipe my tears when words will not do. My Prince Charming guides me as we glide over the dance floor; he makes me look like a great dancer—and yes, I do feel a little like Cinderella!
However, they also pull a trigger to down a deer, bear or elk. Carefully and with years of experience those fingers guide the tools to prepare the meat to feed our family. They handle a fishing pole with tireless rhythmic casts, back and forth into deep pools for trout. Yes, they are patient hands, hopeful for a catch. Often Gary’s hikes through the woods bring forth his knack for whittling on walking sticks and driftwood.
Musically, they express themselves on a full drum set, bongos, his Lebanese Derbekkah drum…or anything able to be pounded! They fly repeatedly from shoulder to thigh performing hambone and coaxing us all to join in the beat. They tap the top of his truck’s steering wheel to radio or CD tunes on his commute, a therapeutic routine to gear up for work and unwind for home.
We affectionately call his digits “hot dog fingers,” large and creased at the knuckles. His solid gold wedding band, no longer removable from his left ring finger, cost nearly as much as my dainty diamond! But, oh how perfectly my small hand fits inside of his, caressed in warmth and valued under his protection.
At the birth of each son, I remember counting Gary’s fingers, positioned right in front of my face, while doing my little gasps of Lamaze breathing, “One…two…three…”. I really wanted to bite them off, pack my suitcase and go home! But his reassuring touch, gently pressed my shoulders back to the pillow, and helped me to finish our wondrous task. His hands clipped the umbilical cord and brought baby to my breast. Holding our newborn in his palms or like a football tucked under his arm came naturally for him. Soon those trusted hands jostled those giggly, flying babies—up in the air and down. Dads do that you know!
The boys especially loved to play with him on the floor when he’d flop down after a hard work day. They drove tiny cars up and down the mountains and valleys of his back and muscular arms. His cupped hands were perfect garages for parking unused cars. Soon, the “roofs” would collapse as his hands relaxed and his snores began! Our sons then exchanged a knowing smile.
In one of their many floor games, “Snake,” one hand hid a clutch of “snake eggs” and the other became a vicious snake. The boys had to steal the “eggs” while avoiding the giant, hissing cobra-shaped hand. The delight and apprehension in their reactions entertained their friends as they joined in the challenge with squeals and laughter!
Those daddy hands held and hugged each son showing them love, how to fix things and carve their way through life. Skills literally handed down to the next generation. Many times they were folded while quiet prayers of blessing were uttered at our sons’ bedsides as they slept. Orphans, here and abroad on mission trips have received encouragement and hope from Gary’s watermelon-sized heart of love, expressed through his calm, safe touch.
These days Gary’s hands wrestle with grandsons and clap for granddaughters. They color alongside them and make pancakes as requested into butterflies, doggies, cars and hearts. Giant kisses are blown through those loving hands. Babies are scooped up to high vistas, sometimes even to the ceiling! They enjoy the same helicopter rides as did their daddies: bottoms positioned in Gary’s secure palms, facing outward, hands gripping the controls (his thumbs). Squeals and giggles explode as they swoop and dive through the air all around the house!
Such amazing dexterity that can untie a knot in my necklace one moment and change our car tires the next! No proverb of idle hands proves true here. When not working, they play with things as he ponders his next project to do; they fiddle with a paperclip, a pen, or a piece of string while his elbows rest on the table. Sometimes they obsessively rub thumb over index finger. And always, they fly around the air expressing details as he speaks. We all wonder, could he speak if his hands were tied behind his back?
Those hands have grabbed the steering wheel for thousands of work miles. They’ve guided mowers, snow blowers and vacuums. Snowmobiles, motorcycles and four-wheelers raced across wide open spaces at the mercy of those hands! They have reined several horses on ranches and through pristine forests. Wood, rubber, plastic, concrete and metal have obeyed them, as have several knots in my neck and shoulders. Our whole family has experienced their hot kindness on a cold day when he vigorously rubs his large hands together and then envelopes our cold cheeks, hands or feet. At the end of most days, my ardent request is, “Honey, could you pleeeze rub my feet?”
These same hands belong to a wise chef. “You eat with your eyes first,” says Gary. Carved radish roses and carrot curls are his specialty and make the finishing touch on my cooking abilities when company comes. Nearly forty years of birthday breakfasts in bed have been prepared by those loving hands. My tray would sport a variety of foods, arranged beautifully on our family Birthday Plate and always with a flower in a vase and a piece of chocolate.
Oh, those faithful hands that have worked so hard for his family! They often ache and in harsh weather, they become rough and cracked. With their share of bruises and cuts, some evenings they are rubbed with salve and covered with socks. Yet, at night they lay gently on top of his chest, rising and falling with each breath, where for a short time they rest and heal.
And so, hands down, I applaud Gary’s helping hands: pledging their devotion, providing for his family, grasping life for others and blessing all who recognize their touch…and the heart behind them.