When he died his hands were gnarled and twisted with arthritis.
He would often get a confused expression of shock and surprise when the pain would settle in his fingers. He would look at his twisted, calloused hands and wonder where the pain was coming from.
I would sit in the patio of the convalescent home, with his hands intertwined in mine. As I massaged the aching joints I would try to recreate the lost memories for him. I would tell him of the wonderful things that I had seen him do with what I once thought of as his ’magical hands’.
He had been one of those rare men that could do everything. If he had been born in a different time he may have become a great healer, a builder of gigantic monuments, an inventor of extraordinary things, but the Depression had interfered with his education. Then there was the responsibility of a baby daughter that had contracted polio and a World War that had demanded his participation. He had had to use his astounding hands to provide and defend.
As I recounted these stories of his past he would smile and look at me as if I was talking about a stranger; someone he would have wanted to have known. But when I told him stories about the ‘kites’ his eyes would light up and the smile would become a beautiful warm glow that radiated through his eyes and I knew that he remembered.
My father had a lifetime love affair with kites. He built his own. He worked with small pieces of paper, plastic, and cloth. He bent thin strips of wood, and wound and tied string. He would bend over his work bench and quietly put magic into the bits and pieces that he had gathered. He created some of the most innovative and beautiful kites that I have ever seen.
When the kite was finished he would take it to the local park. The park was set on the top of a hill about a mile from the beach. There was always an ocean breeze gently blowing across the grass. It was a perfect kite flying park and he would spend hours there watching his creations flowing with the wind currents. I have vivid memories of sitting on the grass watching the peace on my wonderful father’s face as he launched a new kite on it’s maiden voyage.
One afternoon John and I wandered around a seaside town and discovered a tiny kite shop. The colors, the sizes, the shapes, and the fantasies permeated every inch of the little place. I was instantly filled with the magic that I imagined my father would feel if he could walk through such a place. I searched for the perfect kite, one that would bring back some of my fathers light. Then I found it. A perfectly shaped little airplane. It was beautiful.
On the last Father’s Day that my father was alive I gave him the magical kite. He was absolutely thrilled. He smiled and gently stroked it. And there it was ... the wonder and beauty of his imagination. He could see that kite as it soared and swooped in the heavenly winds. I’ll never forget the joy that radiated across his face.
He took that kite and put it beside his bed. Every morning he would wake up and make certain that it was still there waiting for him to take it to the park.
He never got to fly his beautiful airplane shaped kite. He came down with pneumonia and that, coupled with his dementia, began a swift decline that took him from me. But I have put the kite in a special place and every time I see it I imagine my father standing tall on the grass, in the park, with a kite string in his 'magical' hands.