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Poetry and Medicine
January 10, 2001

Finding My Father's Hands in Mid-life

Author Affiliations

Poetry and Medicine Section Editor: Charlene Breedlove, Associate Editor.

JAMA. 2001;285(2):142. doi:10.1001/jama.285.2.142

My wife keeps hearth and kitchen clean,
bills tallied and guests invited back.
What's a father for?—fists scarred
and knuckles stiff, like my father's,
steers in our Texas pastures fat
and horses saddled, but no sons home.
We raised four boys who married
and moved away, and now as a daddy I'm broke,
no easy advice like cash to wave around.
I taught them to ride and rope,
toss loops and take sick cattle down,
to brand and release wild calves.
The ranch made money in spite of drought
and hours without us, ball games
and camping trips, teenage rage
and car wrecks, the highs and lows
of seasons gone before I learned to let go.
Now, toddlers crawl from cars and waddle
to my arms, our boys and daughters-in-law
with babies they bring back. I spend all I own
giving horsey rides and candy, learning
by crawling how to grandfather—any games
they want to play, down on my knees
and knuckles under eight grandchildren
tugging and hugging, showing me how to go.

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