My hands are rough, my nails are short and the skin is often dry. My hands were not always like that. Many years ago my hands were soft and supple and didn’t hurt from scrubbing floors.
My husband Brian’s hands too are often sore and tired but I recall when we first met how I loved to hold his hands. They were long and lean and they wrapped nicely around my little fingers. When he touched my hands I felt an electric shock go through my body. Now we can’t hold hands for too long as both of us feel the pain of hands that are overworked. So we hold pinky’s together as we walk. Age is a mystifying and horrible thing. It’s nice to have the memories of just how your body worked thirty years ago.
My mother has no memories; Alzheimer’s has pretty much taken away any kind of fond memory of hand holding for my mom. Because she is in a wheelchair it is very difficult to hug my mom and so I sit with her and hold her hand. It’s a hand that fits nicely into mine, and it’s often cool to the touch. My mom’s hands are very well kept by a woman who helps to look after her. Her nails are always painted in a lovely pink nail polish and they are filed and neat looking. I think back to when I was a child and can’t really recall if my mother ever held my hand. Probably not, I probably would have thought it was babyish to hold my mother’s hand.
Unlike my daughter who still at seventeen grabs my hand when we are out together and holds on to it. She’s not shy; it’s natural. Holding her hand in the mall makes me proud that she isn’t embarrassed or thinks it’s babyish to show some connection, or affection toward her mom.
Years ago when I was shopping with my older sister who is eleven years older than I am she grabbed my hand and I pulled away quickly not wanting anyone to see. I was so embarrassed. I may have been twelve or thirteen at the time. I was so sure people would think we were lesbians. Where I got such a notion I have no idea. But when I think back on it I laugh.
When I was a youngster I would go to a camp in the Laurentions and there we celebrated mass in a small chapel on the lake. It was here that I learned about a thing called fellowship. We would join hands and say the Our Father, and I felt happy that I was a part of the community in that chapel in the woods where God and nature really did seem to co exist. And later when I fell away from the church it was only a matter of time before I was back again.
My husband’s recovery from alcoholism brought me back to the fellowship of man. At AA meetings again I found myself holding hands and reciting the Our Father. Again I felt happy that I was with people who cared and understood. I felt part of a community!
I often hold the hands of children at the school where I work. I don’t hold their hand unless they initiate the hand holding. When a child does grab my hand unexpectedly it stuns me to realize how tiny those little hands are. I also think about where those tiny little hands have been during a long day at school. Even though we try to make sure the children wash their hands we can be pretty sure that accuracy is not going to be high on their priority list. So I wash my hands as often as possible to keep those nasty germs at bay.
Holding those little hands at school takes me back to when my children were small and tiny. When my son, Ryan, our first born came into the world I recall spending many an hour counting his fingers and toes, just looking at them, the perfect little toes and fingers, the perfectly shaped fingernails. How small and delicate they were.
When my daughter was born five years later I did the same thing, counted the fingers and toes holding them tightly in my hand, never wanting to let go.
Holding my children close to me feeling their breath on my lips, holding their hands from infancy into toddlerhood, making sure they were safe on streets, in shops or in parks. Holding their hands as children, walking them to school till we arrive at the gate where it wasn’t cool to hold their hand anymore. I held on to their hands to feel again one last time their breath on my lips. Is it over so soon, their baby hood, their toddlerhood … now they are in their adulthood. And yet I still hold their hands and feel their breath on my lips. They are my children, my greatest love, and my cherished gifts from God, from earth and moon and sky. Their hands will always be stretched out to me, invisible to the human eye, but always that link will be there, they are my children and their breath is on my lips and their hands are always holding mine.