A while back, I had a surreal experience in church. Well, that's not unusual. Lots of people have those. That's kind of the point. That's why they build those big buildings, right?

This was a type of astral projection, or out-of- body experience. I was holding my daughter's hand. I was wearing a blue blazer similar to the one my father wore when we were growing up. When I looked down, I had switched places. I was now my daughter, and my small hand was grasped by my father's hand. I was looking up at our intertwined hands. It was my father's hand. He was wearing the blue blazer and I was looking up at it. It was very realistic. I did not see the rest of him. All I saw was his large hand completely engulfing mine.

Afterwards, I looked at my hands. I realized I have my father's hands -- they are large hands, tanned, with some hair and a few freckles. Our veins are very prominent and our hands bear many scars. Each one of the scars tells a story, mostly of stupidity or carelessness that left a mark on our hands.

Last week, my cousin emailed me a photograph of my dad, my Uncle Dan and my Aunt Mary Pat as young children. All three have passed on.

My wife commented, "You don't look like your dad as much as you look like your uncle Dan." Every relative says my brother Patrick looks more like my dad. But I got Dad's hands in the deal.

I don't have Dad's eyes. In the custody battle for his traits, Patrick got those, also. But a wise person once told me that while the eyes may be the window to your soul, it is the hands that show character. The eyes are almost passive. The hands cannot be. Their purpose is to do things. The hands show what you have done, what you have been through.

My dad's hands were rougher, more calloused, than mine. Over his lifetime he was a farmer, a soldier, a mechanic, a politician and a professor, but he always kept his farmer hands. Mine are a little softer. Sometimes in the winter, I put moisturizer on them when they get dry. Dad did not. When his hands got grimy he used this greasy hand cleaner that was supposed to get your hands cleaner, but I think just spread the grime around. I think it actually pushed the dirt deeper into your pores. I think I am taking better care of our jointly owned hands.

I don't have my dad's feet. I think my feet look like my Aunt Mary Pat's feet. That's probably not bad, having dainty women's feet? I probably look good in the summertime. No. Mary Pat had some gnarly feet. My sister pointed out last summer that I had Mary Pat's feet, only bigger. Mary Pat's feet caused her problems walking. She had to order special shoes. She and another aunt on my father's side had a lot of problems moving. But they kept moving. It slowed them down a little, but they kept moving. I have Mary Pat's feet, only they are size 14EE.

A friend of ours came over for dinner about a year ago, and I was barefoot. He stopped and stared down for a minute. "You have very ugly feet," he said. I'd had kids say that, but not an adult. I went upstairs and put some socks and shoes on. I do have ugly feet, but they have not caused me locomotion problems, like my aunt's. I will probably just not win any gigs as a foot model anytime soon.

As my daughters age, I certainly hope they don't grow Uncle Dan's face, my dad's hands or Aunt Mary Pat's feet. I do hope they get the determination to keep walking, even when it is painful. To keep their hands busy. Or to see the world differently with those beautiful hazel eyes.

Thomas Lawlor lives in Southport with his wife and two daughters. His "A Father's Journal" appears every other Wednesday. He can be reached at tlawlor@mcommunications.com.