My father was not much of a talker. Now that I think of it, he wasn’t into nurturing either, but he did teach me a great deal just the same. Though I could probably count the number of hugs on a single finger he gave me from the time I turned ten until he passed away, he still managed to help shape many aspects of my life. I miss him.
Folks can teach us in many ways. They can teach us with their words, be they written or recorded. They can teach us much like the folk stories of old, verbal histories shared from generation to generation, each one with a point, focus on a moment in history or a moral tale. Sometimes these are the best types of stories. The farm that I work on is named from a local folk tale. It was shared from person to person and never written down until the farm was named after the woodland creature in the tale. In fact, much debate was spent on how to spell this creature’s name. At least three renditions were explored before “Pillwillop” was decided upon…
Not being a writer, a talker or a hugger, my father was a bit more limited in his approach. He shared few words, even fewer the number of words that he liked to use that I could actually share in a professional writing. That’s not to say that he had little to teach as his actions taught me much about what I view how a man should behave. He set many an example, some good, some not, but every one helped me become who I am today.
One of my main memories of my father was when I was a toddler. My father was home from work, a real treat for me as I rarely saw him. He was in bed, tired but in a better mood than usual. I looked at his hands. They were cracked from solvents but also stained with machine oil, which gave a spider web type look to his giant (to me) fingers. His palms and several fingers were wrapped with bandages caused by a work mishap. Sometimes the old machines needed to take what they felt were theirs, especially if you were rebuilding them. I remember asking my dad why he was home and he said something about sometimes needing to take a break. He didn’t talk about the pain or injuries and instead just talked about taking a break, he’d be back to work the next day.
I sat their staring at his hands and looking down at mine. Mine were so delicate, his looked like stone. His were cracked and wrapped, mine never had been. Finally I asked him about his hands and why they were wrapped. Only then did he say that sometimes the machines win but he was fine. He’d get the machine back together tomorrow…
All those scars on his hands told the tale of a man whose hardscrabble upbringing helped mold him into what he became. They inspired his son and others though he had so little to say about them. Always inquisitive (many would say nosey), I asked everything I could while I had access to him. There is so much to be learned from those that came before us. So much that has been lived. So much to teach us but so many of our elders keep the stories to themselves. Too little is written down.
As I type these words I look now at my own hands. They are middle aged and at times cannot grip a hammer any longer. They are prematurely worn out due to the same hardscrabble upbringing of their own. We learned to be creative though. When I could not grip a hammer I taped it to my closed hand. When my wrists were full of pain I used that same tape. My father’s hands taught me this. There is much to be learned. So much to be offered if we simply take the time to ask.
To those that are reading this, consider taking a day off from work very soon so that you can spend it with those from older generations. Look not just at their hands, take the time to ask them about life when they were your age. Ask them about when they were younger than you are. Ask them how times and things have changed. Hang onto those words as best you can. Record them if possible so that they can continue to teach us long after we have passed.
There is so much knowledge just waiting to be uncovered. So much that may be on the verge of being lost. Now is the time.
Be safe, do good
”Doc Warren” Corson III is a counselor, educator, writer and the founder, developer, clinical & executive director of Community Counseling of Central CT Inc. (www.docwarren.org) and Pillwillop Therapeutic Farm (www.pillwillop.org). He is internationally certified as a Counsellor and Counsellor Supervisor in the USA and Canada (C.C.C., C.C.C.-S, NCC, ACS). He can be contacted at [email protected]
*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA