Ever got a splinter that didn’t hurt? I didn’t think so. How can a tiny, minuscule wooden needle stuck in the tips of our fingers hurt so bad? My dad’s internal splinters overwhelmed him.
My dad went through many jobs when he was younger. Truck driver, computer tech, to name a couple. When I was around 3 years old, he started working at a gas company as a service technician. Working with his hands seemed to fulfill him more than a desk job or driving a truck. He truly loved helping people, so by helping people fix something, it brought him joy. Some days were extra hard. He would work in higher crime areas where he would see things that would tear at his heart, and often put him in danger. During the summers, he worked in the desert heat, coming home drenched in sweat, tired and exhausted. He was a hard worker and took his job seriously. I don’t ever remember him having a sick day.
Some days he would come home with splinters in his fingers. During his days working, he sometimes had to climb over fences and other hurdles to get to the gas meter. The days that he came home with splinters, he got out the magnifying glass, took a seat at the kitchen table and called me over to remove the tiny splinters. I ran to his aid, wanting to relieve his pain. As I would dig into his finger with a safety pin and tweezers, doing my magic (I had become quite good at removing his splinters over the years), he would look away trying to hide the pain. I don’t know why, but touching that tiny splinter with a safety pin sends a zap throughout your fingers and hands! So there were times that my dad would let out a quick moan and twitch his finger. I can remember his face during those times. I hated it. I wanted to quickly help him and make it all better.
When my dad was hurting inside and out from his ailments towards the last year of his life, I wanted so badly to remove the internal splinters he felt. It was so hard not being able to fix it for him, like when I would remove the splinters and put bandaids on his finger. Bandaids couldn’t help him the last months of his life. He tried so hard, and those bandaids would eventually fall off, opening his wound. He would then try a different bandaid. None worked. The internal splinters were just too hard for him to cope with.
We all have internal splinters. Sometimes they are unbearable. And sometimes they aren’t noticeable. That’s how I feel about my grief journey. But I am proud of my internal splinters because I can use them to help others! I can teach others how to minimize the pain. I can help by showing that these splinters are what makes us who we are. We all have internal splinters of life, there’s no way to avoid them. We just need to accept them and learn to live with them.
I will forever be grateful for my dad’s example of hard work. I cherish the memories of him wearing his uniform and his beloved jackets. It brings a smile to my face when I drive by a company truck. I was proud of him and what he sacrificed for his family.
Tell your parents you are proud of them. Too often it’s our parents that tell us that, but what about them? Each person has their own internal splinters, trying to hide the pain. Our parents too.
I am so very proud of you, Dad. I just wish I could have told you that more. Maybe that would have put a bandaid on your splinters, and maybe that would have kept you here longer. Or maybe not. I just know that you are a brave, compassionate, and hard working soul. And I am proud to call you Dad.