Hands

November 23, 1980. I am in labor. A midwife attends me at my home. The pain is greater than anything I could have imagined.
“Is it close?” I ask.
The midwife nods. She’s a Mormon hippie, and she’s smiling.
“Hurry,” I moan.
“Oh no,” says the midwife. “There’s nothing to hurry.”
“Please.”
“I think it’s a girl,” she says. “I can’t say for sure, but I can feel her spirit. It’s a sweet, tinkly spirit. Yes, I think you’re having a girl.”
“I can’t do this.”
“Margaret, your baby is almost here. Give me your hand.”
I do, and she guides it to my baby’s tiny fingers, almost born.
“Say hello to your baby.”
“Hello, Baby,” I whisper.
“Can you feel her hand?”
“She’s holding my finger.”
“You can do this,” the midwife says. “It’s your daughter.”
And I do. A few more pushes—each harder than the last, the final one excruciating—and my daughter is born. My pain is instantly over. My daughter is taking in her first air and wailing.
We’ve tape recorded the birth for my parents, who are in China. My dad tells me later that he burst into tears when he heard his first grandchild cry.

There is another recording of a little girl. Me. I’ve heard it only once. I am four years old, and my dad—so young—is asking what I want Santa to bring me. “Dolly,” I say. I’m sure I got a doll that Christmas. I can smell the new plastic as I try to remember. It would have been one of many dolls I got for Christmas. When I announced to Dad at age nine that I was over dolls, he said, “Well, you’re growing up! I’m proud of you.”

He believed in me. That was his greatest gift. When I was in my early twenties and convinced that I needed to leave home, he gave me a father’s blessing hours before I got on the train. He set his hands on my head—the same hands that had held me before my memories began. He wept as he spoke. I had never seen him weep until that day. It was an amazing thing, that my father would weep because I was leaving, that he loved me so much.

When he saw me as a bride, he said my name as though he had never said it before, as though he were seeing me for the first time. “Margaret!” He made it sound like something God could say to create light.

When he saw my daughter as a bride—this same daughter whose fingers I touched before her birth—he had a similar look. She was revealed in glory, and he was astounded.

There are permanent bruises on his left hand and forearm now. The veins in his arm have been conjoined to accommodate dialysis. For five years, a machine has been cleaning his blood three times a week. At first, the hardest part for him was that he couldn’t travel. His last visit to China was six years ago. He loved China. He loved learning languages and crossing through walls on sound waves—words. Even during dialysis, he worked on Chinese materials with my brother.

The hardest part now doesn’t involve travel. It’s that he is so tired.

Yet there is a blessing: Time. When I sit with him at dialysis, I have him all to myself for hours, if I want. I tell him my secrets—my disappointments and yearnings. I hold his hand.

Sometimes he tells me his secrets, too. “I wish I had been better to my mother,” he said a month ago. “I was so selfish. I wish I could tell her how much I love her.”

“You’ll be able to. But she already knows,” I answered. “And she’s so proud of you.”

I help Dad move with his walker when dialysis is over. He broke his femur last month, so walking is slow. One foot, the walker scooted forward, then the other foot, dragged. We stop frequently to let him rest, and I hold on tight. One of my arms is crooked around his elbow; the other holds him firmly around his waist. I say, “Aren’t you glad you put me on swim teams? I’m a swimmer, Dad. Major muscles. I’ll catch you if you fall.”

“I’m going to walk again,” he said to me last week. “I’m going to get well.”

I said, “Of course you are, Dad.”

Who will come for him? His mother? Arms outstretched, pronouncing his childhood name as though it could make light: “Bobby!”

Margaret Young with her father, Robert Blair, in the hospital

Comments

  1. KerbearRN says:

    Lovely. Thank you so much. Enjoy those moments with your dad. I miss mine so much! God bless your dad in these struggles.

  2. You broke my heart with this. It brought back memories of my parents. Thank you for sharing.

  3. If I could just say… beautiful? Your timing is excellent.

  4. Today I will mourn with you. For Mourning with you is like rejoicing.

  5. Glenn Smith says:

    My greatest wish as my father was in his last earth days was to receive a fathers blessing. Through the dimentia, as we walked down the hall in the nursing home, he struggled to utter the words, “Keep your responsibilities…sacred.” Good enough for me. If your father is able, please consider a father’s blessing.

  6. Left Field says:

    I remember your father from 25-30 years ago. I took one of his classes. And I dated his daughter for awhile.

  7. Who are you, Left Field? Which daughter? I have three sisters.
    I took one of Dad’s classes, too. He gave me an A, but it was well-earned. He loved hearing me speak foreign languages because he realized that I had inherited the love for them and the ability to speak them from him. All of us Blair kids speak other languages except one of my brothers. Dad had written a whole book on language learning just for him as we awaited his mission call. He was called to Montana.

  8. Glenn, I have thought about that a lot. He did give a blessing to my nephew’s girlfriend when she went on her mission last year. It was quite something to behold. He was very weak. We brought her into his room, and he roused himself, steadied himself on the chair where she sat, and then gave a truly wonderful blessing.

  9. Kevin Barney says:

    Beautiful.

  10. So excellent Margaret. I will mourn with you when his time his done.

  11. Steve Evans says:

    Wow. Bless you for being a good daughter, Margaret.

  12. Left Field says:

    Lisa

  13. Beautiful. Thank you for sharing these experiences with us.

  14. Thank you Margaret.

  15. Thank you, Margaret.

    This reminds me so much of the post you wrote back in 2007, I think: “To the Pastor”. It probably is my favorite Bloggernacle post of all time.

  16. I looked up “To the Pastor”. Most of you probably haven’t read it, since it was written in May 2007, so I am providing the link:

    http://bycommonconsent.com/2007/05/03/to-the-pastor/

  17. Simply lovely.

  18. What a blessing to have read this today. Thanks, Margaret.

  19. And Ray, thanks for sharing the link to “To My Pastor.”

  20. thebookofarmaments says:

    This was absolutely beautiful, and well-timed for me (my dad is in the hospital). Thank you.

  21. nat kelly says:

    This is just beautiful, Margaret. Thanks for sharing.

  22. This is a bit off topic, but thanks for sharing about your birth. I have often felt alone as a Mormon woman in having had a midwife birth at a birthing suite. (I would have loved to have had a homebirth, but live with my in-laws.) I just don’t know many other Mormon women who have had a similar experience. So thank you.

  23. I took a couple of classes at BYU from your father in the mid 80’s he was a great teacher and one of my favorite professors.

  24. Your father was one of my professors as well. I would have asked to have him on my thesis committee if he had not retired at that time.
    Best and warmest wishes to him and you.

  25. Rechabite says:

    Thank you, Margaret. Beautiful. My grandfather just died two weeks ago; I wonder who came for him.

  26. I often wish we didn’t use so many pseudonyms. (Note that I use my real name and even provide a photo in this post.) When Dad’s former students talk about him, I want to know who they are! So many have come up to me and said, “Your father changed my life.”

  27. His gift for language teaching is blessing my children right now as they use Power Speak on the computer to prepare them to live in Germany. Your father did such a good job on it that my 8 year old girl had a short conversation with her grandfather in German! Many thanks to him.

  28. “He made it sound like something God could say to create light.” How is it you bring such wonderful images into the world? Thanks for this.

  29. Shirlene Sill says:

    Maggie, My daughter who just had her second child with a mid wife sent this to me with the comment……she’s good. I lost my father last year. I am so grateful to have been with him. I am sure he was met by my brother.
    I am anxious to tell my daughter that I was your roommate in college, went to your wedding reception and knew your parents well as landlords. I have often enjoyed your musings and writings.

  30. I’m glad I stumbled back here in time to see this before it scrolled away. I am touched as you describe those experiences that bring my own versions of them to mind.

    My mother was a bit psychic or something (she didn’t really know, nor claim to know, if any of the things she saw were so). When my cousin was preparing to die, his sister asked Mom if she could see where he was, and she said he was between the worlds, with family people she knew lined up to meet him. When it was Mom’s time, that same cousin reminded her of that, and asked if people were there to meet her. She had had a ministroke, and could no longer speak, but she gestured with her hands to indicate that there were rows and rows of them. I don’t doubt that. Nor do I doubt that it will be any different for your father when it’s his time.

  31. Beautiful, Blain. Thank you.

  32. You’re welcome. As it turns out, yesterday was also the anniversary of my father’s death, fourteen years ago.

  33. Beautiful post.

    I didn’t know your father, but I have two French PowerGlides: one for Mormons and one two-volume regular course. My oldest daughter also has the two volume French course. I love the way he teaches languages. The only drawback is that the way others teach is now more difficult to endure than it was before.

  34. Toni, i’m on my way to pick him up from dialysis now. I’ll tell him what you said. My own daughter (yes, the one mentioned in the first part of the essay) is using Power Glide to teach HER daughter French.
    I cannot learn languages in the standard way. But I was blessed with Dad’s ear for sound. I pick up the grammar eventually, but I make a lot of friends as they correct my grammar.
    I did a lot of the recordings for the Spanish tapes. Sweet memories.

  35. thank you, margaret. i’m going to go call my father.

  36. Margaret, time goes by and you continue to sow blessings on so many. On me. This post on your father brought healing; I haven’t stopped thinking about it. My relationship with my own father suffered no major traumas at all; he was basically a good guy. But it takes all the imagination I can muster to conceive of an ongoing, rich, love-saturated connection such as your with your father. Reading your words was Balm in Gilead. Blessings on you, dear Margaret.

  37. My name is Steve Beckstead

  38. Elouise, I love you. Interestingly, my dad and I talked about his day last night at dialysis. They didn’t have a great bond, and my grandfather died when Dad was only eighteen.
    Steve, thank you.
    Things have taken a serious turn for the worse since yesterday. But last night, I did ask for a father’s blessing. It will always be one of the sacred points of my life. I will probably do a part two of “Hands” later. My siblings and I are in constant communication. Dad’s speech is slurred today. It was not slurred last night when he blessed me.

  39. Oops. That should say that we talked about his DAD last night, not his day.

  40. Love you, Margaret. God bless you.

  41. This is beautiful. Thank you.

  42. Margaret, how is your dad doing?

  43. Beautiful – truly beautiful.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 9,484 other followers