“Hug me. I’m scared.”
“Put your arms around me and breathe with me.”
“Grab my hand and don’t let go.”
Daddy was a hand holder and a hugger. His health was fragile, so I often snuggled with him while he fell asleep. Our affection was innocent and sweet. The last time I held his hand, I was 14 and scared. No one had prepared me for death.
“Lie next to me,” he whispered from his hospital bed. I crawled between the tubes and wires and hugged his warm body lying beneath white sheets. We held hands a few minutes before I ran away to hide my tears. I didn’t know it would be the last time.
I married a hugger and spooner. Sex was thrilling, but my relationship with Vic was more about touch. Our physical connection formed a foundation of trust that helped me stay calm and close until his last breath.
“Dad doesn’t like holding hands,” my niece said.
“It’s OK,” I told her. “His hand is lying in my open palm.” I longed to feel his relaxed warm hand in mine so neither of us felt alone as he crossed to the other side.
Now, during another stay-at-home winter, I see human friends and family less, and rarely at night. That’s when my dogs and I gather close to the warm woodstove, the Goddess Hestia’s hearth. After I give old Willow a full body rubdown, I caress her white paws. When Willow was young and had dark brown paws, she saved me from drowning in grief after Vic’s death.
“Good girl, Willow,” I croon as I rub her arthritic back legs. Her tail taps against the rug. “Thank you for being the sweetest dog ever,” I say with a scratch behind her ears in places she can’t reach. Her tail bangs hard and long.
At night, young Disco watches my every move. Before 10 pm, her expectant face says, “Isn’t it bedtime?” She wants to snuggle while I read. I get my book and crawl under the covers while she lies beside me with her head on my belly.
I’ve had dogs all my life, but this is the first time I’ve allowed a dog on my bed. As my hand caresses her soft black ears and holds her paw, she lies on top of the covers and presses her body into mine. We’re both rescued by touch.
How are you managing this time of social isolation, especially if you live alone? Do you see friends or do you have pets? How does it feel to spend more time alone?Covid is harder during this frigid winter when I rarely walk with friends. I see family and friends occasionally, but more often talk to them on the phone, Zoom, or text so no touch is involved. I’m grateful for the warm bodies and quiet snores of my dogs.
For other posts about the importance of dogs in my life, see He’s Only A Dog. For a post about adopting Disco as an SPCA pup, see Artemis Adopts a Pup: A Fanciful Ancient Greek Diary.