Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Touch

I moved out and rented a one-room, furnished apartment in an old hotel. It was late fall and I was a little worried. What would I do with myself? No yard to maintain, no house needing routine cleaning and maintenance, no sunlight after work so I could get outside, cut off from friends who didn’t know how to react. I hadn’t lived in town in years and felt the unpleasant transition from peace, quiet and nature to an alien urban life. I planned trips to the library and other activities and survived until just before Christmas when I rented a house nestled in the trees on top of a hill about five miles from town.

I wasn’t worried about being lonely or not having anyone with whom to talk. I enjoyed the end to the stress of a tragic marriage. Life was filled with hope and optimism.

Then it hit. Not loneliness nor a need for another voice nor a need to have another person in the room. I felt an overwhelming need to touch and be touched – just to sit shoulder and shoulder and read or take an item from someone and feel the brush of their hand for a fraction of a second. Why hadn’t I felt this need during the last years of my marriage when physical contact was purely accidental? What this need fulfilled by the cats and the dog? The depth of the need surprised me. Heck, I had the attitude I could handle anything and prepared for many struggles but this definitely wasn’t anticipated and I didn’t have a clue as to how to cope with it other than endure it.

My father had been deceased for about ten years and my mother lived alone. I phoned my sister and told her about my experience and encouraged her to touch Mom whenever she visited -- sit close to her, loop your arm through hers as you walk, hold her hand.

About this time I heard of an elderly, widowed woman in town who went in to pay a bill at the local electric cooperative. As she was slowly fumbling to get her checkbook out of her purse, a young insensitive man behind her grew impatient and told her to hurry up. The lady was shaken by the man’s words so the employee waiting for the check reached across the counter, patted her hand and told her to take her time and ignore the man. The woman began to cry! She said “I live alone and you are the first person to touch me in months.”

When I moved to Texas I lived in an apartment across the hall from a young woman who lived alone, had no family close and wasn’t dating anyone at the time. After I got to know her well enough I asked her about the need for touch. She replied that when she felt the need she volunteered to babysit for friends.

If something happens to Julie and I’m alone again, the first things I’m going to do are get a cat, volunteer to work with some women and couples in a nursery, volunteer to work in a nursing home and schedule a massage. I’ve learned some new coping skills.

12 Comments:

Blogger Still Searching... said...

Yes, touch can be a powerful thing. Especially to those who don't have it. Unfortunately, it's just not something people think about, unless it's taken away from them.

12/13/2005 08:36:00 AM  
Blogger Smarts said...

You are so very brave in your posts, you possess a raw humanity that awakens me in ways I never expect.

I was always quite anti-touch, just naturally so as a child, even though I had never been touched inappropriately. In my early twenties I became close friends with a 'toucher'. To this day her and I share a level of bondedness that I have never experienced outside of marriage. Being with her is very comforting to me. I have learned the beauty of being more hands-on.

12/13/2005 08:44:00 AM  
Blogger Dale said...

We're lovers of words, we bloggers. But I can tell you quite honestly that sometimes, touch renders words unnecessary.
Also, when a man procures the services of a prostitute, is it really sex he's after? Or is it more to satisfy his deep longing for touch?

12/13/2005 08:57:00 AM  
Blogger Buffalo said...

I hear you talking. Indeed I do.

12/13/2005 08:58:00 AM  
Blogger Bonita said...

In my job as a caregiver in assisted living, I knew people who needed this type of touch. It was my job to bathe them, and I would quietly wash them as they closed their eyes, head down, and took their thoughts far away into other times. I've bathed hundreds of old people. They were all so dear.

12/13/2005 09:41:00 AM  
Blogger Gaye said...

You read my mind today. Can't seem to walk out of the door and get going; just longing for a simple touch--voices are appreciated; emails are nice; comments are enjoyable too--but NOTHING can replace a touch--the warmth of another human being. Don't know what I would do without your wisdom--you've been there done that--it's all new to me and I need someone like you to let me know that what I feel is normal and not a forever feeling. Thank you so much!

12/13/2005 11:08:00 AM  
Blogger Cindy said...

A few days ago you asked why we read your blog.

I read your blog because you are the kind of person who can feel a deep need and then call to see that someone meets that need for another person who may be feeling it. You care enough to transform your own difficulties and struggles into comfort for other people.

(Much more helpful than political and religious ranting. :) )

12/13/2005 11:09:00 AM  
Blogger Round Belly said...

As A mom I've had to sort the need for different types of touch.

Sometimes I can cuddle babies all day, but still long for someone to cuddle me.

There is a difference in touch from another adult and from a child. Maby it is just the need to feel comfort instead of always get it.

Oh yeah, children can never seem to get enough touch.

12/13/2005 02:47:00 PM  
Blogger Anvilcloud said...

I am so stupid that I need people like you to remind me of what should be obvious. My dad and I hardly ever, if ever, touched in all of my memories. But in the last month or so, when he was confined to a wheel chair, Cuppa would push and Dad would grab my hand as I walked alongside.

12/13/2005 03:27:00 PM  
Blogger Rob said...

I had practically no physical contact from my mother. I rarely touch anyone. I wouldn't have the nerve to go for a massage. :(

12/13/2005 03:59:00 PM  
Blogger Matt said...

Touch is wonderful, and it does not even have to be a physical touch, just being with someone whom you share interests with, or someone that inspires you can be quite a touch.

But I believe that we as humanity are not designed to be alone, were designed to be close with others.

12/13/2005 04:31:00 PM  
Anonymous Simply Coll said...

I am going to remember to touch someone today... and hug my family just a little bit more.

12/19/2005 09:47:00 AM  

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