It was his pinkie finger that took my breath away. I literally gasped when I saw it. The man himself was fairly nondescript, on TV talking about something—I have no idea what—wearing a billed cap and casual outdoorsy clothes. He was a middle-aged man that I noticed out of the corner of my eye while tidying up my living room. For some reason, the peripheral scene suddenly captured my full focus for a second or two—and then I gasped as his hand came into view.
There was his littlest finger, different from the rest; not just smaller, but crooked, bent at the knuckle joint midway, frozen in its misshapen stance. He couldn’t straighten it if he tried—I know that, because I tried to straighten my father’s pinkie countless times throughout my childhood, convinced that if I just pushed down on it gently enough or maybe this time, firm enough, I could make that finger straight again. It fascinated me.
When I finally realized that no matter what I did, it wasn’t going to budge, I did my best to replicate that finger’s look with my own small pinkie. I would ply it this way and that—perfecting the twist and bend, marveling at how close to my father’s it was—until I let go and it quickly sprung back to a straight line once again. I would sigh and start all over again.
And when this rogue finger found its way to my television screen recently, but on the hand of an ordinary stranger, I couldn’t help but be shocked. One, because it belonged only to my father, and two, because I realized in that split second that of the many times each day that I think of my father, who died in 2001, not once in recent memory—or not so recent memory—had I thought about his crooked pinkie finger.
Had I forgotten it—and if so, how many other things am I forgetting that were such indelible parts of who he was? Was I more shocked to see that finger or that I had almost forgotten about it? And it pains me to say that I don’t remember why it was crooked to begin with. I know there’s a story associated with it that I once knew—and now I don’t.
And while I may not have given it much thought lately, the one thing I know I haven’t forgotten is what it felt like holding my father’s hand, what it felt like to be a little girl, struggling so valiantly to make that finger straighten—and the patience my father had (and he wasn’t known to be a patient man) in allowing me to keep trying again and again. He didn’t tell me it wasn’t ever going to happen. He let me keep trying until I figured it out for myself.
2 thoughts on “That Crooked Little Finger”
I had just been thinking about my father yesterday…for some reason the beautiful weather with the trees all leafed out…an evening like that, after supper, he would take me and my two older sisters to “The Flats” (an area out on the road we lived on – maybe the length of a football field, but flat enough so riding your bike was easy), and he would play “Policeman.” Us, speeding around (I was probably on a tricycle), dad directing traffic and handing out tickets. Must have been 60 years ago, but I remember so clearly.
Those are the best kind of memories–and we are so lucky to have those memories, aren’t we? The things that were almost mundane as they happened are so magical in the recollection, and I think it’s because we remember how we felt in those moments.