My Father Crushed my Hand – A Father’s Day Post
It happened when I was about seven. Thanksgiving Day. I remember clearly.
We were out in the garage mashing aluminum cans because as an enterprising young whipper-snapper I’d noticed that the junk man’s aluminum price had recently sky-rocketed. I was preparing the final batch in what would be my most epic aluminum can delivery. Sure to break world records. Guaranteed to bring me enough money for the Cornsilk Cabbage Patch Kid of my day dreams.
Cornsilk Cabbage Kids had *real* hair, not this yarn crap that you saw everywhere. I would not settle for yarn. I’d been collecting cans for months.
Here’s how can mashing went: I set down a couple dozen in a long row and Dad would follow with feet that we liked to call “clod-hoppers”. They were size 13 and, when stuffed into the appropriate boots, they turned Diet Coke cans into tiny slivers of aluminum, about the size of a large coin.
It was a thing to behold.
Papa and I established a nice rhythm and we were really flying. I could smell the turkey and stuffing in the kitchen and I knew that my sister was probably making some mean mashed potatoes. We were nearly done when I came to the V8 can. It was hard and compact and heavy. I wagered that it was not made of aluminum. I suspected tin. I did not know what to do.
I hesitated, not wanting my father to hurt his foot on an uncrushable V8 can. As I put my seven-year-old hand down to retract the can, my father’s annihilator descended. He saw me just in time to slow the acceleration a bit, but not in time to avoid mashing the soft flesh of my palm into the tiny circle of metal.
I grabbed him and he swooped me up. I had my hand behind him, hugging as hard as I could. I didn’t want to see it. I was sure my fingers would be dangling by little ligaments. I think my father feared the same.
We stayed frozen like that for a few seconds while I wailed and pressed my face into his chest to cover my eyes. My hand had been stamped by the clod-hopper!
“You have to show me.” he said. And though I didn’t want to face what was surely permanent disfigurement, I brought the hand into view.
Five fingers intact. A perfect circle of blood.
“Look! They’re all there!” he said.
About that time, Mom appeared in the doorway holding a spatula. “What’s going on?”
“Dad tried to cut off all my fingers!” I was sobbing through a smile, having realized that I would not have to learn how to play first base with a stump in my glove.
“Oh, Geez.” he said. I could see the guilt in his face. “I mashed her little hand. I’ll take her to urgent care.”
While we sat in the waiting room he showed me his big, calloused hand and told me the story of every crooked finger and permanently swollen knuckle. This one broken in a farm accident, this one mashed in a doorway, that one… that one he can’t remember exactly. Every digit had been broken at least once. He never bothered with doctors for such trivial injuries, so they’d grown back at jaggedy, gruesome angles. His palms were thick and rough.
Waiting there with pain shooting up my arm I felt an unexpected feeling creep in. A tinge of pride. A sense of belonging.
I belonged to this crazy man with gigantic, scarred hands and twisted fingers. This was my fate. These were my people.
This was my father.
And if, during my lifetime, my hands became only half as beautiful and maligned as his were, I should consider myself lucky.
I looked down at my bloody circle and smiled through stupid tears.
“I can do better than this.” I thought.
And I have.
Happy Father’s Day, Dad! May your feet always be big and your fingers misshapen! I love you more than cyclocross and fancy beer!