GARY’S HELPING HANDS: A TRIBUTE TO A GREAT DAD & HUSBAND|
“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
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
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.