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My father.

Look at his hands.  I'm four inches taller and weigh a good sixty pounds more, can easily move his weight and mine in any number of ways, but even in his 80's, the sight of his powerful paws still humbles me.

I was six when it first occurred to me that he had monstrous hands with thickened callouses, seemingly impervious to heat, sharp pointy things -- anything, yet able to hold us without breaking our bones.  I remember watching his hands as he would pick me up, wondering when it would happen, when they'd clamp shut and I would simply be squished into, I don't know, oblivion?  But his touch was gentle, and that was miraculous.

When he taught us how to pitch - something for which he is still known, a skill many old timers get misty over - it was damn near impossible to emulate his knuckle- and screwball grips.  He could throw a fast knuckleball that hung oddly and dropped from the sky at the oddest times, all because his hand engulfed the ball even when knuckling.  And the screwball, sweet jeebus...how easy it was for him to pitch balls that broke opposite, confounding left-handed batters just as easily as anyone else throws to righties. 

Once, when I was sixteen, watching him solder intricate transistors inside the cramped space of an old radio's carcass he'd salvaged, the dexterity and finesse with which he controlled those catcher's mitt-sized grabbers dropped my jaw to my chest.  It was like watching an elephant perform bypass surgery on a mouse.

"Hand me that flux, there, will ya' Nat."  He didn't look up so much as gesture with his eyebrows -- great Breshnev-ian tufts capable of direction and much more.

"Well..."  He was waiting.  I gawked and fumbled with the small, greasy container, dropping it over the edge of his workbench.  He anticipated what was about to happen, had already started switching the hot soldering iron to his left hand, and deftly caught the falling tin a few inches before it hit the sawdust and pistachio shell-covered floor of his shop.

He grinned.  I grinned, and when I looked to his hands, the soldering iron was already back in his right, the flux was open, and he was dabbing his lead and tin solder coil into it with his left the way a cat takes its first tentative sips of a fresh bowl of water.

Minutes later we listened to a Phillies' game, acrid smoke from his work still in the air.



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post #105
bio: nate
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2/12/2010
13:22

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