Holding Hands for 32 Years

From almost the exact moment that we became a couple, my husband has held my hand. If we are sitting in different chairs on either side of a table watching tv at night, he will reach across the table and hold out his hand for me to grasp. When we are out together in the car, and the traffic isn’t too bad, he will hold his hand out for me to take it for a few minutes. If we get out of the car to go into a restaurant or store (you know, in the before times), he will reach behind to clasp my hand in his as we cross the street or walk up a set of steps, even just one step from the driveway to the sidewalk of the shopping center. He always walks slightly ahead of me “to block traffic” which is a long-standing joke of his.

We had a very small wedding, in my Louisiana hometown, about 60 miles southeast of New Orleans, just family and a few very close friends of our parents. Our only non-relative friends present were people who participated in the wedding itself: two musician friends, my maid of honor. The size of the guest list had a little to do with money as neither of us had any, and my parents were paying for the flowers, invitations, stipends to the church and musicians, and a small reception at my parents’ house after. It also had to do with the fact that my husband and I grew up in small towns about 100 miles apart from one another. At the time of our wedding, my husband had just completed grad school in Virginia and I was working and living in Maryland. We didn’t want to burden his Virginia friends and my Maryland friends with a decision of whether to fly to Louisiana or not, especially since my hometown really had no hotel, motel, or inn. So, rather than hurt feelings by inviting some but not all, we just didn’t invite anyone outside of our families.

Neither of us minded how small the wedding and reception were, because for us, it was all about just the two of us starting our life together. Nothing else really mattered. I bought a tea-length dress off the rack on my lunch hour. We took the bus to a nearby mall for him to buy a new dress shirt and tie for a suit he already owned. But, I remember with great clarity all of the Mass, us holding hands during our vows, our hands together when we exchanged rings, and even holding hands during the homily, which I am sure was frowned upon in my very conservative hometown Catholic church.

A family friend from my hometown had become a photographer, and he took our wedding photos. Once when I was showing them to a friend here in Maryland, she remarked that Tom is holding my hand in every single photo, and often, he is holding my one hand with both of his hands. After the wedding, we took a picture under the giant oak tree in my parents’ yard, the breeze from the Mississippi blowing in our hair, and yep, he is holding my hand in both of his, while I hold my bouquet in the other. When our parents offered up toasts in my mom’s living room, we are each holding a glass of champagne, and he is again holding my free hand.

June 10, 1989, St. Patrick’s Catholic Church, Port Sulphur, LA

Once my friend mentioned it, I couldn’t help but look for it in all photos of us after that. Sure enough, in almost every photo we have taken celebrating our anniversary having dinner out over the years, he has reached across the table and taken my hand just before the photo is taken.

Mykonos, Rockville, MD – 26th anniversary

I read an article once that said you should hold hands with your partner when you are arguing, as it will remind both of you of the bond you share, rather than the difference that is causing the argument. Full disclosure: we do not do this, and we argue just like everyone else. But, still, I wonder if Tom’s frequent reaching for my hand is one of the reasons why we are happily together after 32 years, even after the 24/7 together time of the pandemic.

Our parents (two-handed clasp here!)

I have another friend who offered up a more cynical thought on this subject. She said that he is holding on to me, like a possession, to keep me from getting away. I laughed, but inside I was thinking, “Get away from what? I’m right where I want to be!”

During the pandemic when we didn’t go anywhere, and especially to the no-appointment hair salon we had been going to for decades that was always swarming with people and chairs so close together, Tom’s hair got longer and longer. He’s Italian on both sides, so it’s thick and wavy, and in it’s longer “style” it could qualify as what we used to call “big hair” back in the 1980s. He thinks he looks like Elvis; I think I like it better short and neat, but it’s his hair so I’m mostly mum on the subject. However, now that he is back in the office every day, he has told me about all the comments he is getting about his hair, mostly compliments on the longer length, and mostly FROM WOMEN he works with. I’m not really the jealous type, but . . . I’m not entirely crazy about this situation, lol. I feel like showing up to his work one day and having him walk me around the office while I hold his hand.

Tom’s maternal grandmother (still holding my hand!)

Today, June 10th, is our 32nd wedding anniversary. We started it the same way we do every day now that I’m no longer teaching, having coffee together. And, as you might have guessed, he did reach out and briefly hold my hand across the table before he left for work. We’ll have dinner out tomorrow night, ask a server to take our picture, and of course, we’ll be holding hands. Happy 32 to us!

Breaking News

57913539451__22fb4574-1511-4e5b-ab08-7c0342047667Today, Friday, May 10, 2019, I am currently propped up in a recliner in my den, watching BBC America and writing on my laptop. My left leg is jacked up on multiple pillows on the recliner extension, draped in a blanket. I am surrounded by tray tables, pillows, and the minutiae of a normal life: phone, water bottle, remote, book, knitting bag, Kindle, tissues, etc. One table is tangled up in the charging cords of the devices that surround me, the hardware that is helping me pass the time as I wait. On Monday I go in for surgery on my broken left ankle and to have hardware installed, the kind that doesn’t come with apps.

Last Saturday I got up, dressed and went to First Holy Communion at my parish church and school where I teach. One of the students in the school choir became ill during Communion so I took her over to the school to wait for her mom to come and pick her up. I came home and changed, and my husband and daughter and I went out for lunch and some errands. I bought two new outfits for a trip planned for this summer, my 30th anniversary trip, to Hawaii. We came home and my daughter and I went to a shoe store to return some shoes, where I bought a cute pair of navy, strappy sandal wedges. I came home and modeled them for my husband and then went upstairs for a nap. This is where my whole world came to a crash.

IMG_0460After my nap, I came out to the living room and my dog, my adorable little 16-pound Maltipoo Puccini, was running around playing. He stopped short in front of me in that cute little stance, like he wanted me to chase him. I turned, and took one step to make the same sort of short stop to him, and BOOM–I tripped on the rug and fell flat on my back, banging my head on the floor hard enough to cause it to bleed (a little) and swell up (a lot) into an egg on the back of my head. While that hurt, the real pain scorching through my body was my left leg, from the knee down. So much so that I couldn’t get up.

Now, my left leg and I have had a love/hate relationship for years. In 1980, just at the end of my first and only semester of law school, I was changing the channel on my TV and somehow managed to fall over and dislocate my left knee, tearing cartilage along the way. Six weeks in a cast from my hip to my toes. Weeks and weeks of physical therapy. But, since I had not been invited back for the spring semester of law school, I had no scheduling issues, LOL.

Then in 2008, on a school field trip with my 7th graders, I once again fell over and this time I really did it, torn ACL in that same knee. Again immobilized for eight weeks and then months of physical therapy. Teaching from my rolling desk chair, using crutches in the hall dodging backpacks and teens, being physically exhausted by 10:00 AM with the whole school day stretching ahead of me. Not fun.

So, my first thought was that my knee was dislocated again, or worse, since I have no ACL to hold it in place. But, no, it was my ankle, which almost immediately began to swell. By later that night it was turning the colors of a Van Gogh painting. I only barely managed to keep my husband from calling 9-1-1. A nurse friend of my daughter’s came over to look at it, with that calm, cool demeanor required of this most distinguished of professions, running her finger tips softly up and down my foot. “It might be just sprained, but you should get it checked. Not necessarily tonight, but you should get it x-rayed because there are lots of little bones in the foot.” This assuaged my husband enough to let me go to bed with Advil and ice and pray for the best.

On Monday, off to the orthopedic I went. My doctor’s medical assistant took one look at it, and said, “probably going to need an x-ray on that.” Didn’t take long for the crushing news: left ankle, broken, bones displaced, surgery required.

One minute life is a series of small ups and downs, no big deal, missing part of First Holy Communion because of a sick student, finding some cute shorts and tops for a trip, having a great lunch, buying some new shoes, taking a relaxing nap, falling and hurting yourself over the stupid rug in your own living room. And then, a really big downer comes, surgery. A week to wait for the swelling to go down enough for the surgery to happen, and then TEN weeks of recovery. Not the spring and summer I had planned.

This week has been a revolving door of downs. Complete dependence on my husband: check. Pain, pain, pain: check. IMG_4293Crutches and realization that you are not as strong as you thought you were: check. In and out of the car multiple times for pre-op appointments and tests and the incumbent fear of something else being found wrong with you in those pre-op tests: check. Watching the clock for the next dose of Tylenol because that’s all you can take until the surgery (thank you opioid crisis): check. Mind-numbing boredom because you can’t focus on reading or knitting or much of anything: check. Stress over not being able to finish the school year and leaving it all to subs to cover for you: check. Anxiety and fear over impending surgery and doctors’ bills: check. Hotel reservations in Hawaii being canceled: check.

libra-2754246_960_720I’m a Libra, so it is no surprise to me that along with the aforementioned downs, there have been some really brilliant ups. Friends calling and texting. Commiserations on Facebook. A friend dropping off food. A neighbor walking my dog. My daughters checking in daily from afar. Flowers from a teacher colleague. img_4282Other teachers helping me out at school with making copies and helping my subs. Getting the hang of the crutches and the knee scooter, my best friend for the next ten weeks.

Of all the decisions I’ve made in my life, however, and this one has been reinforced to me a hundredfold this week, the best one of all is joining a church choir in 1987 to get to know a guy I had a crush on. And flirting with him (albeit not very convincingly) to try to get his interest. And moving across the country to follow him to the DC area. And saying “I do” on June 10, 1989. IMG_0864And having two beautiful, brilliant, talented daughters with him. And surviving loss of family members and friends. And living overseas for two years. And being empty-nesters on and off. I told the pre-op nurse yesterday that he is my rock…and that is a gross understatement.

Over-protective, annoyingly so, and meticulous in his care of me. For better or worse: check. In sickness and in health: check. Who told me, “Let’s say a Hail Mary,” when I was struggling on Wednesday: check. A marriage soon to be 30 years strong, with or without Hawaii: check. For richer or poorer: check. With love and compassion: check. Forever and ever: check.

stone artwork

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