I am a touchy-feely kind of guy. I like to hug and be hugged, I like to touch and be touched. It’s not necessarily a prurient kind of touching, though I’m not opposed to that at all, I mostly crave human contact, that tactile, warm, gentle touching and hugging that people bring to each other, that gentle grasping and physical recognition that makes us all human.
I think physical contact has always been important to me; after all I did play doctor from a very early age, if you know what I mean.
After Marty’s strokes confined her to the wheelchair helping her stand or move from chair to chair precipitated physical contact. To facilitate upward movement from the wheelchair she would take her right arm and wrap it around my neck and hold me tight as I would grab her under her arms and lift. Sometimes we would stand there for three or four minutes with both of my arms around her, with her holding tight around my shoulders, hugging, holding, warming each other through our tenuous hold on each other.
When she broke her right arm most of that hugging and holding stopped, she simply cannot raise her right arm high enough to hold on to me and my girth doesn’t offer the same purchase for her as my shoulders. We still stand as I hold her, as I grip her tight and hold her close to me, but it’s not the same.
Most nights we sit in the living room and watch scintillating television like Survivor, American Idol and The Big Bang Theory (absolutely hilarious). Marty sits in her lift chair, I sit in my own recliner and we trade coughs and pithy remarks about the entertainment fare.
The other night as I got up to turn the night over to the bathing process I stopped in front of Marty in her chair. She was sitting with her feet up, quite comfortable. I stepped over and straddled her legs that were propped up on the bottom of the recliner, no easy feat for a man with short legs. I leaned over pressing up against her and slipped my right arm around her back and kissed her on the neck. With my left arm I took her right arm and put it around me and whispered to her to hold me. She moved her arm around me and said, quietly, in a breathy whisper, “Don’t breathe on me, you stink.”
“Do what?” I said, pulling my head away and looking into her soft blue eyes.
“You stink,” she said. “You smell like egg salad.”
“No I don’t,” I protested. “I haven’t even been around egg salad.”
By now she was laughing so hard she started to choke and cough and my quiet romantic moment was pretty well DOA. Marty has always thought she was the funniest person she knew. Egg salad indeed, Marty’s version was the only egg salad I ever liked so it hasn’t pass my lips in five years.
At night, after Marty’s bath, our caregiver takes her to bed and starts doing all of the things she needs to do to prepare for the night’s rest. I always go in and check on her as part of the nightly ritual. I went in and listened to her chest and checked her vitals, still paying doctor as it were. As always I bent down, kissed her on the forehead and told her I would come back in before I went to bed.
“I love you,” I said as I was kissing her forehead and then her cheek.
“I love you too,” she whispered, “but brush your teeth before you come back in, please.” She giggled a little bit like a young girl and then smiled.
Marty was always at her best when she was in charge, when she was pulling my chain. I like our lives best when she still tugs hard; for me it really is just like a hug from her.