Finn and I walked through the park holding hands, like manly men often do, and spoke of the world. “Ambling” is probably a better description of how we proceeded but I’m in no mood to be poetic. I’ll leave that to the lonely, crying men.
Having barely walked the long expanse of a trail leading away from the playground and toward the sandy pit where the gymnastics equipment lay, Finnegan stopped and tugged my hand. We weren’t in search of anything in particular and no destination in mind, but yanked on my arm again with some force.
“Dada, what happened?”
“What do you mean, my boy?” I asked my question as plainly as you just read the line yourself.
“Wha happened to yore hand?”
He pulled on and flipped my palm in his small, stout hand.
He was referring to the rough patches at the base of each finger on my palm, those circular pads of raised skin. I’d earned callouses there from years of lifting, climbing and carrying things. All he’d known about, to this point, were bruises, scrapes, cuts and scabs on his own tiny body. And the occasional rash, of course. These “owwies” were a new species.
“They aren’t owwies, buddy. Dada got them from working.”
He didn’t understand why something that looked like an injury would come from working and didn’t continually ache or sear. He kept asking if they hurt, and I told him no, but he proceeded, “Did they hurt when you get them?”
“Some of them, but sometimes when we get hurt we get stronger, right? We learn.”
I muzzled the notion that they’d helped me when I used them with clenched fists. I withheld that some women like them and some don’t, as well as the fact that they peel away when you subject the rough skin to vigorous hand-washing. I also didn’t fill him in that typing on the computer all day doesn’t give you callouses.
In all, we counted 12 hardened patches of skin on my hands. Four of them from music. Eight of them from gripping things tightly. All of them originating from a life where I’ve labored to be more of a participant than a spectator.
“I have dohs too?”
“Finn, your hands will grow and get stronger every day. You’ve got good hands. You make ’em whatever you want them to be, okay?”
I want my boy to know the value of working with his hands and mind, to know that he can earn his scars, both inside and out, and wear those that suit him. Or scrub away those that don’t.
I want him to know that carrying things and people can mean building callouses, but they should never harden so much he can’t open his hands.
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