When we first met, face-to-face, there were wires and tubes and monitors measuring, keeping you safe, and keeping us from embracing the way we should. I look at you in your sterile bassinet and long to bury my face into yours. I am not able scoop you up in my arms, but our hands touch. Your warm fingers feel soft and strong. I have never felt such joy. The very moment our hands touch, there is a bond we claim in each other for a lifetime. It is electric, an energy flowing between us, a language all our own. I trace the lines of your tiny fingers, letting them lay softly across my palm. It feels like magic. This is our story together, my fighter. I know with your hand in mine we will be adventurous. I know with my hand in yours, I will be brave. I will never let you go my cherished child. This is our way, through your every challenge, I will be by your side holding your hand until you are stronger.
When we are home I hold your precious little hand in mine. Diminutive fingers brush against my lips. I breathe in the sweetness of your skin. I could stare at you all day my beautiful boy. Your fingers wrap around mine and I have never felt such calm from a touch. You chirp and gurgle, squeezing my thumbs. You hold my hand when you eat. Always. You are the noisiest eater I’ve ever known, relishing every bit of your nourishment and ensuring anyone around you knows how much you enjoy it. You make me giggle with your “nom nom nom.” You make me happy when your hand grips mine so vigorously. When I begin to feed you, your arms flail about wildly until I reach out and take your hand. You fingers relax around mine, your body calms, and you eat. Aggressively. This is our way. When you hunger, I will be by your side holding your hand until you are fed.
You are such a good sleeper – under your own conditions, you cheeky monkey. You want to be warm. Very warm with many big, fluffy blankets. Like most babies, you sleep best when you are being held. Oh, my little one…I can not hold you all night (oh, how I want to hold you all night). I place your cradle next to my bed and reach my hand in to comfort your restlessness. Your fingers find my hand and your body quiets. You sigh. And coo. And sleep. As you grow too big for the cradle by my side, our routine only changes location. I lay you in your crib and you look so small in this new, vast space. It’s so hard to take my eyes off you, the living embodiment of my dreams. Sleep, my little one, you are growing fast. Sometimes growing is hard and sleep is harder. I am determined to raise an independent child, though I’m not sure I actually had much say in that matter. To this end, I vow to not pick you up every time you cry. I am also determined to never allow you to doubt my love for you. To this end, I stay by your side when sleep eludes you. So many nights I spent sitting on the floor by your crib, my hand slipped through the rungs, serenely resting on the firm mattress beneath you, with your hand grasping my finger. This is our way. When the darkness feels too much, I will be by your side holding your hand to proclaim you are safe.
Your beginning years are marked by a mind and body and emotions that are not always in sync. My heart is strong today because for years it swelled with pride with your very momentum and shrunk in agony at your daily conflict. Your hand was firmly in mine so often those years. In celebration as we danced with joy; in frustration as we practiced the rules often; in freedom when wild play was the goal; in asylum when the world felt too big; in repose at those rare, quiet moments; in defense when grown ups wouldn’t take the time to know you. My hand took yours to find our balance. Sometimes you needed to be reminded where it was, sometimes I did. I would take your hand quickly, or tentatively, or slowly as you needed. You reached for my hand achingly, or comfortably, or absently. This is our way. When the world does not make sense, I will be by your side holding your hand until the shaking and the spinning stops. And you do the same for me.
The years spin past, out of control. I want it to stop. I want to enjoy you in this moment. And in that one. And – oh, how you amaze me every day! It is precarious to want time to pause as we are in this moment so I can admire you more, and to yearn to see your progression as you move and grow and become. Your hand fits differently in mine now as you match my gaze, my stride, my determination. I still marvel at the feel of your hand in mine – as we read books at night, as we face scary doctors, as we transition to a big bed, as we greet new helpers, as we try new medicines and old games and different schedules and measured foods and life on our own. This is our way. Through all the changes life throws at us, I will be by your side holding your hand to take that next step with you.
Now I watch you find your way in the world without me. I am relegated to the sidelines. I am proud to watch you march into your life on your own, making decisions and friends and a difference. This was my job, to make you capable and strong and considerate and respectful and….independent. And it breaks my heart.
If we go out to dinner, I no longer have to limit my order to things that don’t need to be cut or picked up with two hands. The boy who once leaned on me and held my hand through an entire meal now sits fully in his own space, as if I weren’t there. If we go to a movie, it is only because I offered to treat your friends and I am lucky if you sit in the same row with me. The outing is about you and them and I am merely the transportation and bank. What happened to the boy who held my hand all through the Ice Age? When we are at home, you no longer play games with me. If I watch TV or a movie and ask you to choose, you no longer sit by me. I have to make two bowls of popcorn and two milkshakes. Separate.
You don’t need my hand anymore. I find I miss it more and more as time goes on. It’s hard to watch your own decline into obsolescence. But, I don’t reach for you. I let you grow into the man you are becoming. Someday, I may have to watch as you reach for someone else’s hand. I know this. I hope you find a hand that brings you joy and peace and support and love. But I also hope you know my hand will always be here for you. This is our way, my dearest son. For all of life I will be by your side, my hand ready to take yours when you need me or want me.
Someday, if I need you, will you hold my hand again?
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