Friday, November 15, 2013

His Hands

Going Postal

Going to town isn't always so momentous, but today I'm going postal. Three first-drafts of my first novel, "Miracle of Ducks," is priority-mail packaged for Arizona where a select group of beta-readers will offer feedback. Writing isn't complete without reading. I'm excited. I'm scared. I will write through it. It's all a part of the revision process.

When Todd offers that we stop at Laughing Dog Brewery after the drop, I'm ready for a beer. The micro-brewery's tasting room juts out from the small warehouse with 20-foot ceilings and picture windows that wrap around for a panoramic view of Schweitzer Mountain and the Selkirks beyond. I order a tart "Honde" in the wild-craft style of Belgium brewers. Todd orders a rye-style called "Rocket Dog."

Chomping on an airy mix of cheese-puffs, pretzles and popcorn, Todd waves to someone behind me. "Where did you serve in the Navy," my husband asks. The lean man in a gray brushed poplar shirt, jeans and a Retired Navy ball-cap cups his ears in our direction. He walks over and asks Todd to repeat the question, folding down the tops of his ears to reveal hearing aids behind each.

Todd tells him that he noticed his P-3 pin. I'm assuming he means the pewter airplane pinned to the man's cap because Todd loves planes. The man breaks into a broad smile and tells us that he retired in 1972 after 26 years in the Navy, working on submarine tracking systems on land and planes. "Never on a ship," he tells us. Todd called him over because he noticed the man's hat. I sit riveted to his stories, because I can't help but notice his hands.

His hands. Skin like sheep vellum, strong and translucent over thick cords of green veins. Knuckles gnarly, yet fingers spry. Animated. A lifetime of experiences stored in those hands like flash-drives made flesh.

You've all seen it--or maybe do it--talk with your hands. I know I do, making gestures and motions as if talking still were impossible. The difference is that these 85 year-old hands were reenacting movements. When he would describe a story to us--crash landing on Kodiak Island--his hands would repeat the movements that helped to save the pilot and crew from a fatal landing. Or when he and Todd discussed some P-3 propeller issue, his hands offered sizes and shapes of equipment involved.

It makes me think how much life is stored up in hands. Think of that next time you shake or hold the hand of another.

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