de(tales): holding hands
Carmen and I met through a story she told me on Twitter. (Isn't it amazing how stories connect us?) Since then, she has been a faithful friend, even with the time difference between us. I'm happy to have the opportunity to share her de(tale) with you today. ...
I was a rather aloof child, growing up. I enjoyed my own company and that of my books more than that of others, even the members of my family, much to their dismay. I did not enjoy hugs, and I didn’t like having my hand held. I can’t tell you why; the thought of it made me cringe.
This began to change when one of my uncles passed away from health complications due to diabetes and an open heart surgery. He was negligent with his health the last few weeks, I was told. I was 17, and the next day was my first day of my senior year of high school. One of my good friends met me at the door in the morning and gave me a hug. Her family graciously invited me to spend the night at their house that day.
A few months later, I went to visit my grandmother in a home. She had suffered a stroke and lost her ability to speak coherently. Her being in a home created tension and led to fights in the family. Before we left, she gestured for my sister to open the closet and give her the box of tissues. She took out four and carefully folded each and every one, gave one to me, my sisters, and my mother. It was all she had, and it was all she could give us. As she held my hand and pressed the tissue into my palm, tears streaming down her cheeks, I wished that I’d held her hand more often.
That was the last time that I saw her.
And then again, a few days before I started my first year of college, I found myself reaching for my little sister’s neck as she picked me from my fetal position on the bathroom floor, after having gone all day without shedding one tear when we found out that another uncle had lost the battle with leukemia.
Loss after loss tore at my heart, and I began to discover that pressing my palm into someone else’s helped me breathe a little better. When I was seventeen, I went camping with the youth group of the church across the street, and by the bonfire, with the leaders singing songs about Jesus, I rested my hand on the log I was sitting in, and the hand of the nineteen year old boy I liked found mine. His pinky finger covered mine at first, and then our fingers intertwined. I don’t know that anyone noticed or cared. In that moment, that was all I needed. That, and the bonfire, and the stars.
When I was nineteen, on a visit to my father in Kurdistan, I found myself in the car of the man I shared my first kiss with. He drove me home after we went out to dinner with my sister and his friend. We’d gone go-kart racing next door. I realized I was miserable at it, and so I joined him on the steps out in the sticky heat while my sister and his friend raced each other at irresponsible speeds. I don’t remember the conversation we had, but I remember it left me feeling like he was someone whose hand I could hold.
And so when we reached the car, I sped up my pace and climbed into the front passenger seat. This felt bold and brazen to me. He knew what I was doing and what I wanted, something I appreciated. He asked me out loud if I was trying to get him to hold my hand, something I didn’t appreciate as much. Mortified, I looked down at my hands in my lap, and he reached over and intertwined his fingers with mine, while we drove across the dry land of Northern Iraq in his pick-up truck, windows down, Kings of Leon playing from his car stereo.
I spent the next several months nursing a wounded heart and a bruised ego by going out with boys who had no interest in holding my hand, and while I enjoyed all the kissing, I longed to have someone whose hand I could hold again. There is something about your palm pressed into another’s that is reassuring, that tells you that life could be lived with this person by your side.
I have since learned that holding someone’s hand could be done in friendship. I have held hands with girlfriends over cups of tea and tears. I have held the hands of male friends in prayer and for reassurance through struggles (whether for them or for me). Today, as I walked away from hurtful words of a friend that made me feel shame over things I’d told him in confidence, another friend followed me and when she’d kept pace with me, slid her hand in mine, no questions asked.
I am thankful for these friends who walk through life with me, to the extent they can. Life gets in the way, and people move away. I move away and then come back. They come back to visit, and it’s bittersweet. Some of them you’ll still hold hands with. But it’s not the same. You change and so do they. You grow up and sometimes that means you grow apart.
I do not think I am yet ready, but having someone to hold hands with and walk through life with, without the fear that one day that will go away or change, is definitely a longing of mine.