"I'm a toucher," she said as she gently patted the vein in my arm, waiting for it to rise so she could draw some blood. First it was kind of annoying. It seemed to take a long time. But then, I started to find it kind of soothing. Pat. Pat. Pat. Pat.
He had just driven the thousand miles from Colorado an hour before. My brother-in-law whose strong arms could set a telephone pole or motor a Harley to Nova Scotia from Dallas. We embraced tenderly in the living room, as if he were afraid to hurt me. Later, when I started nodding off, he placed his big hand on mine to make sure I was OK. When he left, he brushed my crew cut three or four times, cooling me in the late evening heat.
There was a time when walking down a sidewalk, holding my mother's hand would have sent me screaming for the nearest therapist. Yesterday, among my worst yet, I clung to her like a child, even if she does have to reach up to touch my hand now. She felt so small in my fingers, but never weak, and never fragile. I outweigh her by twice, but I had no doubt she would catch me if I should stumble. In the afternoon, she sat quietly by my bed. The day was hard on her, too. Our hands met, silently, naturally closing the gulf between us. My mother's hands are the softest place in the world.
She bends over me, this woman who married me. With surgical precision she flushes clear water through the PEG tube that may one day be the only way I can eat. Carefully, she hands me my pills, hundreds of dollars worth in a single dose, placing them quietly in my palm. She slips the thermometer out from my lips, reads it, and smiles. Normal again. Bending to me, she kisses what is left of my mouth and I feel her breast press against my heart. I can do this. We can do this.
He sleeps in the spot next to my right leg where he has since he was a pup. Last night, I heard the wind as the storm approached. Thunder rolled and a flash of light filled the room. After the biggest boom, I felt it, impossibly, impossibly across my ankle. Pat. Pat. Pat. He tapped me with his paw and rested his chin over my shin. "It's OK, Pappa. It's only thunder. I'll look after you."
Jake's a toucher, too. Pat. Pat. Pat. Pat.
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