by Wolf Pascoe on January 29, 2011


Ya gots to work with what you gots to work with.

Stevie Wonder


It’s said that in the old days, a father would pass his craft down to his son. And it’s said that in passing down that craft, something invisible passed down also, something having to do with being a man. I believe this.

Consider my hands. They know two crafts. They can type. They can perform the myriad tasks of anesthesia–inserting an intravenous line, say–that are necessary to my day job.


Nick loves to watch my fingers zipping over the keyboard. I type without looking at my hands. Both he and Nora regard it as a kind of sorcery that what appears on the screen is plain English and not jibberish.

Nick types very fast also, randomly. We sometimes make a game of finding words among the strings of letters that emerge.

“Do you know,” I said to him once, “That if a monkey sits down at a typewriter and types for a google number of years without stopping, he’ll type all the Harry Potter books?”

He considers, then nods.

“Yeah, they could,” he says. “It’s possible. In real life they could do that.”

Nick is also interested in my anesthesia hands.

“Tell me about your cases,” he’ll say, when I get home from work.

This is problematic for me, because I don’t want to encourage him to be a doctor. But I tell him, because I want him to know that his father does things with his hands.

Even if I wanted to, I couldn’t teach Nick my trade. An operating room is no place to bring your child. If Nick is ever to enter one other than as a patient, he must find his own way.

I have a tackle box filled with anesthesia gear. Manual blood pressure cuff, various airway devices, and so on. Occasionally, Nick asks me to take something out so he can examine it.

“How does this work?” he’ll say, cocking a laryngoscope blade.

“Just like that. It’s for looking in the mouth.”

“You put a tube in the mouth?”

“That’s right.”

“Dada, can you bring me home a tube?”

“All right.”

So I do. And out of the mysterious artifacts of my trade, he manufactures games. Endotracheal tubes make excellent bath toys. Syringes (without needles) make devastating squirt guns.

My work is a world both rich and strange to Nick. It’s plain that from it, Nick needs to receive something from me. And I need to give.

We do what we can.

. . .



How much do you know about the world, dada?

How not to have an operation



You might also enjoy:

Working With Your Hands — A man muses on his work, his hands, and his dad. From Urban Workbench, a lovely blog about urban design.

. . .

A Guest post on Daily Plate of Crazy:

About two weeks ago, Big Little Wolf, a writer I admire, asked me if I’d like to contribute a guest post for her blog, Daily Plate of Crazy. I picked a topic that I hadn’t written about before: my mother. You can see the result here:

Standing Up

Big Little Wolf is a single mom raising her two teen age boys. If you look around her blog, you’ll discover, as I did, keen intelligence and shrewd observation of women and men. I’d call your attention to one post in particular:

Something Like Marriage

This piece contains some of the strongest writing I’ve come across of late, in print or on the web. It’s vintage Big Little Wolf. I hope you enjoy reading her as much as I do.


Any thoughts on work, hands, and kids? Express yourself!  I’d love you to add your comment below. I always respond here.

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Daisy January 30, 2011 at 3:39 am

That’s a beautiful photograph. I treasure those times that I just hang out with my child, talking and sharing. Thanks for this post.


Wolf Pascoe January 30, 2011 at 3:42 am

Thanks, Daisy. Just two guys, who are doctors.


BigLittleWolf January 30, 2011 at 1:25 pm

I love hands, the study of hands, the work of hands. I fall in love with a man’s hands – if I cannot love his hands, however unfair that may seem, I cannot love the man.

We are our hands in so many respects; we owe them our closest caresses, our means to make a living, our reaching out and our self-protection. We owe our earliest lessons of love – as children and to our children – to those hands that cradle or strike, to the hands that soothe or scar.

I still love the work of the hand – the feel of a pencil against acid free paper as a sketch forms, the surface of worn wood that you know was fashioned into furnishings by hand, the small object created by your child – a bit of painted ceramic, a styrofoam sculpture, a bundle of small sticks wrapped and presented as a gift, by tiny fingers.

Lovely trigger for so many images, Wolf. Lovely.


Wolf Pascoe January 30, 2011 at 1:41 pm

I remember in Great Expectations how Pip’s cruel, older sister “brought him up by hand.” How far we’ve come. Thank you for gracing this page with these images.


nelson January 31, 2011 at 10:02 pm

Lovely picture! I always treasure pictures taken with my son, that’s why I love this shot.
I wish that the invisible something that I passed on to my child will be the best part of me:)
Thanks for posting this.


Wolf Pascoe January 31, 2011 at 10:17 pm

Thanks, Nelson. Nick’s hands are gigantic–I can hardly tell which are his and which are mine.

Amen to your wish to pass on the best part of you.


Charles Bernstein February 1, 2011 at 10:09 pm

This brought back memories of my mom’s hands gliding magically over the piano keys when I was a little boy. I often enjoyed hanging out in that strange playhouse known as “under the piano.”


Wolf Pascoe February 1, 2011 at 11:34 pm

Lying under the piano and so listening must have made a composer of you, Charles.


Vicki February 1, 2011 at 11:15 pm

I Felt quite moved by your sharing of this particular intimacy with your son. The mystery or the grown up world and the idolization of the father are so lovingly and eloquently portrayed. You seem to allow your son to know you with such openness. His love and interest in you will provide a marvelous bridge to the world


Wolf Pascoe February 1, 2011 at 11:34 pm

As I sometimes am moved by comments here to say, from your lips to God’s ears, Vicki.


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