in my memory bank, i can remember my sweet momma and poppo holding hands. they would grasp each other firmly. they would hold pinkies. they would hold hands often. and, for me, it was one of those telltale signs that they loved each other, despite the day, despite the challenges, despite everything. my dad would not let my momma cross a parking lot without holding her hand. my dad would not let my momma walk on a sidewalk without holding her hand. for that matter, my dad would not let my momma walk on the road side of the sidewalk – ever. he placed himself between momma and the cars zipping past. he opened doors wherever they went and waited to close the car door after she got in. a gentleman always, his stock of niceties was plentiful and momma never had to remind him.
i am a hand-holder. and i, obviously, come by it honestly. but i haven’t always been around hand-holding types. some folks just prefer not to hold hands. for me, it is an intimate sharing of moments, a warm reassurance, a statement of adoration. to adjust one’s stride to match another’s, to hold their hand, is gentle reinforcement – of pooh-piglet “making sure of you” right-here variety.
i don’t know if david’s mom and dad held hands through the years; i haven’t known them that long. but columbus is a sweet man who tears up when it’s time for anyone to leave, who loves to hug, who has a glint in his eye that says, “i like you! you’re in!” and so, i would imagine that he has been a handholding proponent, an advocate of a firm and tender grasp. and david’s mom stands with this man who, if he still understood and remembered all that had gone before these sadly-ever-increasing dementia-ed days, would still grab her hand, declaring his undying love and devotion.
i cannot think of a time that we do not hold hands. we hike holding hands. walk the ‘hood holding hands. watch movies holding hands. sit together to talk holding hands. it is a gift i relish – a many-many-years-yearning during which i spent years watching others. and pining.
in this painting columbus stands in the cornfields of iowa, the place he grew up, the place he packs to go regularly in his memory care apartment. jeanne finds him with bundles of clothing secured by belts or wrapped up between the sleeves tied in button-down shirts. he’s excited to see her when she comes to visit, a new limit that must be incredibly difficult for her to fathom after decades of marriage. most of the time he still knows that she is ‘the one’ – the one he would choose most in the world to hold hands with. but he is confused and sometimes he does not readily recognize her for who she is. he is still settling into his facility. it’s not likely he will go to iowa again now.
it matters not. together they stroll the halls and step into the colorado sunshine. jeanne, steadfast and brave, chats about the family and reminisces and columbus tells tales of the things he believes he has seen that day, visions of beloveds who have gone before, of places he cherishes and stories of the way-past. they walk slower than they used to; columbus breathes with a little bit of oxygen helping him along. jeanne checks in to see how far he wishes to walk, how tired he has become.
i imagine jeanne takes his hand and squeezes it. and i imagine columbus smiles. he knows she likes him. and, just like piglet, he knows she’s right there.