Wednesday, August 7, 2013

The Softer Side of Sandpaper

Can you imagine what life would have been like in 1911? That's the year that my dad, Joe Billheimer, was born. He worked hard from the time he was a kid growing up on the family farm until he suffered a stroke when he was 90...nearly 91. The cancer that was running rampant inside his body hadn't become evident to anyone yet until he was hospitalized for that stroke in the spring of 2002. About six weeks later, he would pass from this life, into the next. We hear all the time about how the Lord works in mysterious ways. The Lord was surely at work here. You see, the stroke my dad suffered had robbed him of his speech. Anyone who knew him would also know that just wouldn't work for him. Not only was he not able to do what he loved to do almost more than anything ...and whistle...(he did both all the time), he knew that the weakness that had taken over the one side of his body would also keep him from taking care of Mom, his princess. His queen. His precious bride of nearly 70 years. Now, if there was ever anyone who wouldn't consider herself anything even remotely close to royalty, that would be Mom. It didn't matter though. She was everything to him. We didn't know it but the cancer had already progressed to the stage where his time left would be only be a matter of weeks. I actually feel like the cancer was a blessing in disguise. Really? How could I possibly think that? How could we imagine Dad without a voice? How could we imagine how totally helpless he would feel not to be able to do his day to day tasks, and most importantly, take care of his beloved life-long mate?

One thing I always remember about him were his hands and how big and strong they were. Remember the popular song, "Daddy's Hands"? I think about him everytime I hear it. One of the lines in the song says "you could read quite a story in the callouses and lines, years of work and worry had left their mark behind". That would describe them perfectly. If you ever shook his hand you would know what I'm talking about. My dad was a strong man and he had big ol' hands and fingers! They were as rough as sandpaper due to the fact that he was always doing something with them....they were rarely idle. They were either working at his regular job, where he was tool and dye maker and machinist, repairing something broken, tending to the garden or they might be helping a friend's ox out the ditch, so to speak. I remember that tough skin came in quite handy when it came to lawn mower blades. One of the few times my dad ever stepped foot into a doctor's office or hospital was when he nearly cut off three of his fingers at one time when he was working on a lawn mower ...getting in the way of the blade...OUCH! Many times he would just come in the house, put bandaids on them and go back out and continue what he was doing. He probably would have lost those fingers had they not been so strong and tough.

I remember as a small child, his hands making mine look so very small in comparison. But even though the outer surfaces of his hands were sandpaper-like, there was a softer side to these hands of his. The way he "handled" his wife is a great example of what I am referring to. It was like she was made of glass, the way he would gently touch and embrace her. She might be standing at the kitchen sink, preparing food or something and he would walk by, giving her a soft kiss on the cheek, a little squeeze or maybe pat her ever so lightly on the behind. It was a scene that we witnessed almost on a daily basis. His gentleness towards her was constant and I never heard him raise his voice to her. Now, that was a slightly different story when it came to his children. I would describe him this way - his bark was worse than is bite. I don't know how much or how severely he disciplined the older kids...I will admit I've heard a few stories :) I am guessing he mellowed quite a bit through the years since I don't remember him putting a hand on me (in that way) or anyone else after I came along.

These other lyrics from that song tell the rest of the story:

I remember Daddy's hands, working 'til they bled
Sacrificed unselfishly, just to keep us all fed
If I could do things over, I'd live my life again
And never take for granted the love in Daddy's hands

I remember Daddy's hands, how they held my mama tight
And patted my back, for something done right.
There are things that I've forgotten, that I loved about the man
But I'll always remember the love in Daddy's hands.

Daddy's hands were soft and kind when I was cryin'
Daddy's hands were hard as steel when I'd done wrong.
Daddy's hands weren't always gentle but I've come to understand
There was always love in Daddy's hands.

I really kind of doubt they celebrate Father's Day in heaven but just in case they do, Happy Father's Day, Dad! I love you and miss you! 

You know, sometimes...I swear I can still hear him whistling :)


  1. What a sweet and loving post. You have such a way with words, so real and poignant. Thanks for stopping by my blog and leaving sweet words of encouragement. I enjoy your stories. God has truly given you a gift.

    1. Patti,
      Thank you so much for your sweet comments and visiting my other blog. This one gets read mostly by my family and friends who knew me growing up. I share my link on facebook when I have written new story but you are the first to actually comment on the blog itself! How kind of you to show interest in my stories!

      Blessings for the week ahead :)

  2. Oh what a sweet remembrance and tribute to your dad. I sure miss mine too. I like to think they still watch over us. Hugs, Marty

    1. Marty,

      Thank you for your sweet comment and visiting my other blog! I write these as ways of remembering and sharing mostly with family and people who knew me way back then. It's so nice to know that someone else is enjoying my memories too!

  3. I'm so glad you enjoyed it, Debra! Thank you for visiting :)


  4. Amazing post. Heartfelt and moving.


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  5. I enjoyed learning more about your dad and seeing his photo. His personality sounds very much like my dad, who was born in 1922 and died 1998. May God bless you with sweet memories and peace on father's day.

  6. Oh, Debby, this is beautiful...such a wonderful story. You were so blessed to have a dad like that.

  7. From what my mother told me, your father and my father got into quite a bit of mischief when they were teenagers. I will ask my brother Joe and see if he remembers any of the stories.

  8. Yes, it is interesting how God works in our lives, isn't it? And He always knows best. From how you described your Dad, it was a blessing in the way he left you. I agree with the person above, you are a very good writer!