I’ve been working on a new story; it’s not yet complete – or at least, I’m not 100% happy with it yet – but I really wanted some feedback on the idea and how it seemed to be progressing so far.
It started out as a descriptive exercise for one of my classes – something to the effect of “describe a character and their life using only a body part.” I came up with the paragraph that uses a million semi-colons (you’ll see it) as the original bit, but then something about it stuck with me and practically begged me to expand.
This is what I’ve come up with.
P.S. Photo of hands courtesy of Battousai.
I stood aloof from the crowd, reading and re-reading his eulogy. I had to get it right, had to make sure that, in death, his true story was told. His story, his truth, but my voice, my words. I promised myself long ago that in this, if nothing else, I wouldn’t fail him. The pastor read a passage from the good book, and all around platitudes were made:
Oh, we’re so sorry for your loss.
He was a good man, he’ll be greatly missed.
He did his country proud, he’ll be remembered.
It was time. I walked slowly up to the podium, and stood there, just to the left of the sturdy oak casket.
“My father was a good man. He did his country proud. He’ll be remembered. He’ll be missed,” I paused, wondering if even one of the faces staring back at me had caught on.
Not a one. My dad would’ve, he was smart that way.
I continued, “It was hard being his daughter, I wasn’t ever really sure what he was thinking. I don’t have a lot of good memories, or really any memories of my father. But I have notions of him, ideas about him that just stuck with me.”
A few puzzled expressions and nervous laughter floated my way.
I went on. “I always noticed his hands. When I was a little girl, they seemed like the biggest things in the world. Daddy’s hands. They could fix anything, or make anything, or do anything! His hands were invincible, therefore he was invincible. It may seem odd to you, but for me, my father’s hands told me everything I would ever need to know about him. They taught me about the man he had been, the man he was. The last time I saw my father, the first thing I did was look at his hands – they were so different than I remembered.”
Now, I got a few nods. The puzzled expressions faded, replaced by somber curiosity.
I kept at it. “Sitting at home last week, it struck me that I no longer have a dad. All I have left is the notion of his hands as I last saw them. So, I’m going to share that with you, because when my dad first discovered that I was a writer, he made me promise to tell his story. And I put it off, because what young girl wants to write about veterans and war and pain, when you can write about love and hope and beauty. So I may be a little bit late, but this is one promise I refuse to break.”
The church was silent. Still, I went on. “His hands were big – ‘real mans’ hands,’ his mother, my grandmother, would always say. Long, calloused fingers. Tanned, wrinkled skin. His hands showed wear; they had lived as he had – hard and fast, with passion, with pain. They were old hands; hands that had gotten him through the hard years of the Depression; hands that had pulled triggers in the trenches of North Africa during that second, bitter World War; hands that twiddled and flexed, in anxiety, when the war was over; hands that took my mother’s hands in marriage on a beautiful summer day in 1949; hands that held me close just a few moments after birth. His hands told his story – they were strong and proud. And then, towards the end, like the last time I saw him, my father’s hands were defeated. Wrinkled hands. Curved, deformed, arthritic hands with black fingernails, wrapped around a bottle of rum.”
More silence, but my point was not yet made. “Isn’t it sad, you might say, that this is my final notion of the man who raised me. But I would say, that defeated in the end or not, my father’s hands lived. My father lived. His story may not have been a happy story, or the kind of story I would normally write. But as I wrote this, his eulogy, it occurred to me, that my father’s story wasn’t just about hardship and war and pain, it was about beauty, and hope, and most importantly, love.”