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'My Son's Hands'

I watch as my six-month-old son holds his hands in front of him
It seems as if they are the irreplaceable toy,
one that never needs batteries to entertain
He holds them one way, then switches their position, smiles,
and gazes at them some more
I do not know who is more entertained or fascinated with this show:
he or I.

As I reach out to him, his little fingers clench around my pinky,
and I begin to wonder.
My mind drifts backward and accelerates forward all at the same time,
and I think,
"Will my son have the hands of his father and his fathers before him?"

Will he ever experience the unsurpassed and indescribable joy of holding a new child in his arms?
Will his hands ever know what it is like to feel the sting of a baseball connecting to a bat and hitting his first double (on an error, of course) after a season of continually striking out time and time again?

Will he unashamedly walk across a playground as he holds a little girl's hand (despite the jeers and guffaws of his playmates), or will my son feel the pleasures of a young woman and the sensation of first love?

When he is 16, will he feel the satisfaction of cleaning the grease off his body after changing the oil in his first car?
Will he ever grip the wheel of a beat-up Ford as he careens down a country road with the windows open and the sounds of cornstalks whizzing by while he laughs into the night?

One day, will he take his lover's hand into his own in front of friends and family and slide the unbroken circle around her own finger as he whispers, with all seriousness, those solemn words, "I do"?
Will he ever touch the gravestones of his people who went before him while contemplating his own station in life?

I hope that he will spend some of his life developing calluses on his hand by baling hay and working manual labor (like his daddy did for a time). I don't want him to live in a bubble where he only studies life protected by the aegis of academia — I want him to live it. I want him to feel the power of the earth as he turns it with a shovel and appreciate the power and humility of the working man.

Perhaps he will use his little fingers to manipulate the strings of a guitar or the buttons of a keyboard and, in turn, bring forth volumes of music or prose that affects people deeply. Hopefully, he won't find himself producing antiseptic memorandums for a faceless and uncaring corporation.

I wonder if his fingers will ever grip a drink so hard that it seems as if life itself depends on holding onto that bottle and the "good times" that go along with it. I hope not, but our family has a history of seeking solutions in a brown bag.
Will he ever wake up torn and ashamed after a night of clenching his fingers until they form a tight knotty fist that, when swung drunkenly and wildly over and over again, will eventually connect with another person's face? I hope not, but it's been known to happen.

If I know anything, and it's not much, I pray that he never has to wrap his hands around the receiver of a gun as he hoists it up and buries the stock against his shoulder while placing his finger on the trigger during a fleeting moment, a moment where time is squeezed like a coil, and finds himself unsure about what to do next. Hesitate and he might never see tomorrow; squeeze and the doubts will stay with him for eternity.

One day, I hope my son is there to squeeze my hand again, but this time I will be the feeble one, and he will be the man.

I watch as my son inspects his hands, and I wonder.

By Zoltan Krompecher
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