The first time I met you, you sat there a little frustrated trying to get the doors open. They wouldn’t work. You asked my son if he would open the door for you. And then you gently asked me if I would push your wheelchair outside to the curb. I asked where you were going. To pick up your watch, you said. Then, you told me all about your watch. How the battery finally died after sixty-five years. They had to find a part for it in Europe. You bought it as a college graduation present from the bookstore at Georgetown University. I was impressed with both your ability to keep a watch for sixty-five years and the watch’s ability to keep working. My four-year old anxiously waited for me as I listened to you tell me a few more stories. You told me about watching Joe DiMaggio play baseball. How you and your wealthy friend chose to sit out in the outfield just to be near Joe. Then, your ride pulled up to the curb. You looked up at me and said, “thanks for talking with me.” And I could have cried because I felt the sincerity and appreciation in your voice. I also felt the loneliness. I could tell that you have a lot of pent-up stories. Really great stories. Waiting to be told. I couldn’t stop thinking about you. I wanted to buy you a Royals shirt. And visit with you again next time I came to see my grandma.
Yesterday, as I walked up with my three boys dressed in their Halloween costumes, I recognized you. You sat there in your wheelchair, again, waiting at the curb for your ride. I remembered and looked down at your wrist. You were wearing your Georgetown University watch. How could a sixty-five year old watch still look so good? I reached down. You touched my hand. And I felt the loneliness again. You took your watch off for me to hold. I admired it as my three boys bounced around in their costumes. I handed it back to you and touched your hands again. On purpose. You were going out for Italian food. You asked me if I knew you were Italian. Nope, I said. I told you that I liked Italian food too. You told me your favorite pasta to order. I needed to get my busy boys inside to go see their great Grandma. Your ride pulled up. Perfect timing. You told me I should come have a drink with you guys sometime. I said that sounded good. I should probably let my husband know.
I hope if I live long enough to need help getting out to the curb in my wheelchair or need someone to talk to that somebody will be there. And stop. And listen. And touch my hand. I began overthinking and feeling so spoiled by all of the touch I receive. On a daily basis. From my three little dependents. One four-year old boy constantly wanting to be held. Bear hugging me. Climbing on me. Grabbing my hair, my face, everything. And two nearly seven-year old boys who will ask regularly to sit next to me or will reach up and say, “Mommy, could you hold my hand?” I got to thinking that I have enough touch that I could probably share some of it. Or at the very least, try to cherish and appreciate this fleeting over-touching phase of motherhood. I have felt the enormous power in gentle, loving, and meaningful touch. I feel it every time I hug my grandma before I leave. I see it as my grandma and other residents reach out to touch my boys’ hair or hands. It’s hard to imagine a day where I won’t reach down a hundred times and touch my sons’ hair or hands or where they won’t climb on my lap or jump onto my back. Over and over again. The reality is that it’s a short stage in my life and theirs comparitively speaking. And as hard as it may be on some long and exhausting days, I’m going to try harder to appreciate and remember the feeling of a full lap, a held hand, and the abundance of touch in this phase of my life. I was reminded of the gift as I placed a sixty five year old watch on a new friend’s wrist.