My guest today is Carol. This weekend her family will gather for a memorial for her father who recently passed away. While her post is entitled “H is for Hands,” it is your heart that will grow a few sizes today.
H is for Hands
Years ago, I read that one of the sad parts about getting older is that no one touches you anymore. Your friends or spouse may not be around to hug you or hold your hand. A loving touch is what many miss during their final years.
When I think about my Dad, I think about his hands. He had large hands. His hands were unmarked by manual labor and in beautiful proportion. He kept his nails clean and filed at all times.
We held hands a lot. Especially near the end of his life. He had some hearing and comprehension issues and he just could not understand what I said a most of the time. There is nothing as frustrating as trying to tell someone something and have them not understand despite repeating yourself over and over again. So we would sit and hold hands.
My Dad was a big guy. He was 6’6” and while not particularly heavy, he was just big. As he got older, he was always cold. As his disease progressed, he would just turn up the heat higher and higher. Going to see him was like a trip to a sauna. But his hands were usually cold and in need a warm touch.
When I was going to see him for what I thought would be the last time, I did not get there very fast. I am not proud of this but I just did not want to go. I didn’t have any warm, loving feelings about being with him for his last moments. I don’t know if it was exactly a fear of the unknown but I just didn’t want to be there. (Don’t worry; even I felt I was a bad person)
But before I left to see him, I thought about his hands and about us holding hands. Holding hands is a basic parent/child activity. I had held his hand for many years and I knew that those times were about to end. I suddenly wanted a picture of our hands together. With that thought, I took my camera with me. I wanted a picture of our hands entwined.
When I got to his floor, a nurse met me and she started crying. She told me that he was not talking anymore. I walked to his room with a feeling of dread. His favorite nurse and aid were just finishing moving him and moisturizing his skin. There was a chair by the side of his bed. They told me to sit and they left the room. I reached under his covers and found his hand and held it. It was too late for any pictures. It was too private a moment to take a picture.
We held hands and I cried. Fortunately, one of Dad’s idiosyncrasies was that he was stole tissue boxes from the dining room. There were at least fifteen boxes of tissues in the room. I had no fear of running out of tissue. One could look at that and say that he provided for me up until the end. That is a nice thought but really, he just took the tissue because he had a hoarding mentality for certain items and tissue was one of them.
I had read that hearing is the last sense to leave. I did talk to him a bit. Here is where you will know that I am an idiot. I didn’t want to bring up that he was dying. Even though it was the elephant in the room, I didn’t want to say it. But I finally decided that we weren’t really fooling anyone and I told him that I loved him and that I would miss him. And then I cried some more.
For all the times I wanted not to be there…
For all the things I did to avoid being there…
For all the dread I felt about being there…
He died about two hours after I started holding his hand. It was so peaceful that if I hadn’t been looking at him, I would not have known that he was gone.
So, I don’t have the picture of our hands joined. But I can see his hands in my mind and I know that the last thing we did for each other was to hold hands.