My father was a surgeon, which means, I learned to use my hands at a young age.
He’d say it all of the time: It’s important you learn to use your hands. I didn’t understand why, but I did as I was told.
We’d sit for hours and build model airplanes. I’d try to steady my hand, tickling the plastic fuselage with the fine-tip brush. My dad could draw a straight line with his eyes closed. I usually ended up with something that resembled Charlie Brown’s shirt.
Erector sets, model rockets, Legos, painting, sculpting, tinkering with the car. You name, we did it. And, I’d do most of it in silent annoyance. I was a dreamer. I could spend an entire day in the air of my thoughts and be happy with nothing to show for it. But, I wanted to spend time with him, so I’d oblige his activity roster, even though his artistic talents seemed to have skipped a generation.
On our sailboat, every summer, he’d make me a sailor’s bracelet made from extra rope and intricate knotting. He’d take one look at his knotting book and then he’d weave it together, and burn the ends into infinity. It always looked even better than the picture in the book.
Occasionally, he’d take me to the operating room and allow me to sit in on some of his surgeries. Some people hate hospitals. I actually feel at home in them. The smells, the sounds, they soothe me. There was something about the OR in particular: the monotonous beeping of the heart monitors. The silence he insisted on as he cut. The unconscious, vulnerable human being in his hands, who trusted him enough to risk his or her life, just to have a shot at a better one.
There was one little boy that made an impression on me. He’d been born without an ear. His parents traveled from Mexico so that my dad could build him one. I watched as he carved surrounding cartilage from his ribs, slicing it like he was julienning carrots for a dinner salad.
“Come here, let me see your ear, Rebecca.” He studied my ear and then he began weaving, just like he did with the rope in the summer, sewing the strings of cartilage together into shape. He made an ear, just like that.
I did not inherit my father’s genius or most of his talents, but I did learn from him. I learned that everything in life is open for our interpretation, our perspective and our re-creation.
When I was traveling a few years ago, I bought a brass ring. Every time I wear it, I get compliments and intrigue of its unique shape. I’ve thought about what will happen if I lost it, or it breaks. What then? I find myself in a brief panic of attachment, like I’m beholden to this ring, to the creator who I don’t know. I’d be less without it.
The other day, after yet another compliment, I heard my father’s voice: use your hands, Rebecca. Re-create it. I taught you how.
So, I went to the store and I bought some wire and I sat without knowing where to start or what to do. I took a look at the ring, and then I started bending and twisting and clipping.
I made a ring and then I made more of them. What was I so afraid of? I just had to use my hands.
Thank you, Dad. I love you. ~Rebecca