“Hold my Hand”
I never intended to write about what’s going on with my mother or the way that her illness has affected our family. However, after sitting today with Mother in a room of strangers hooked to IV drips with cancer-fighting drugs, privacy is not valued over connecting with others.
Recently, I had a touching moment with Mother and it dredged up an old memory where as a child, I stood with her on a busy city corner as buses lumbered past, cars zoomed by, and sharp blasts from a whistle punctuated the air as a police officer directed traffic.
“Hold my hand,” Mother said to me.
I was too mesmerized by the world around me to pay much attention to her. You see, I grew up on military bases and going to town was like going to the circus. In my child’s mind, buses loomed as large as elephants and cars zipped by in all shapes and sizes like the colorful parade under a Big Top tent.
“Hold my hand,” Mother said again, then bent to grasp my hand firmly in hers. After a long and loud whistle blast, she said, “Let’s walk together.”
After we stepped off the curb, I tugged her hand, pulling on her to walk faster to the other side. Our joined hands almost slipped apart.
“Keep a hold of my hand,” Mother scolded.
When we were in the middle of the crosswalk, Mother jerked my hand and yanked me close. The hard tug startled me and grabbed my attention. She protected me from sudden danger as a car sped by. That was the moment I first understood that life came with real jeopardy.
The memory is indelibly etched in my mind. I am able to recall the events and even describe what I wore that day, the weather, and the smell and sounds of things around me. (My husband will tell you I have the memory of an elephant, which is a curse and a blessing, but that’s a story for another time.)
The childhood memory surfaced a few days ago when I went to the office supply store with my parents. Dad drove Mother and me there after we left from her radiation treatment. Mother said she wanted some exercise and walking might make her feel better, so Dad parked in the first open parking spot and let us “girls” walk to the store to shop.
In ninety-five degree Florida heat with seventy percent humidity – in other words, Mother Nature’s sauna – Mother and I walked past four parked cars to arrive at the street in front of the store. Given the heat and the liquid air, I was concerned with Mother’s breathing; emphysema has taken control of her life, along with lung cancer. We waited for a car to pass before continuing our trek.
“Hold my hand,” Mother said, though it was more of a question. She slid her trembling hand into mine. I squeezed gently and held firmly to hers. I wished that I could do for her what she had done for me – protect her from sudden danger – or at least protect her from the damaging side effects of chemo and radiation treatments.
It seems the best I can do, for now, is to hold her hand.
I hope you will reach out and hold someone’s hand.
~ Linda Joyce