Tender Touch

I awakened last night, and reached for my husband in the dark, only to find that now familiar, empty space, instead. And I remembered how I would drape my leg over his, at night, and press my stomach against his back. Sometimes, he would stir, slightly, and tell me to take my leg off of him. He said my legs were too heavy. He referred to them as tree trunks. And I'd tell him that his legs were like twigs.


When we first met, he delighted in my body, and I, in his. We knew each other so well, every curve and spot. We were not young, and we sagged and puffed with age, a bit, but that didn't seem to matter, much. We fit together. He used to tell me that he loved my body. No one had ever said that to me, or made me believe it.

There is something so beautiful about sharing intimate touch. There is no replacement for it. Hugs from friends help, but it is not the same. It is bigger than sex (although we had that, too, and it was great). It is being seen, and felt, and known, and accepted--every part. It is the intertwining of two worlds. It is knowing each other's rhythms and ways. It is a softening, a melding. It is the weaving of two lives into one.

At night, we would lie next to each other, in our bed, and talk. We'd share painful memories, our fears and worries. We'd resolve conflicts, settle differences, say the things that might be too hard to express, in the light of day. He'd hear me crying, reach for my cheek, brush the tears away with his soft fingertips. He'd pull me close and stroke my hair.

These are the moments I ache for.

These are the times that feel most desolate:  when I awaken in the night, and find him missing; in the morning, when I rise, without the sound of his breathing next to me--the room silent, and bereft.

I fill these restless moments that stretch into late night hours, with information and internet. On the worst nights, I watch murder mysteries on the telly. On better nights, I listen to a dharma talk. But always I must drown the quiet, and chase away the memories. The emptiness and silence are just too much to bear.

The night before he died, Stan lay upon the sofa, and I sat next to him, pulled his legs onto my lap, and rubbed his aching calves. His calves were always hard, and painful to the touch. I stroked them softly, as we watched silly shows on TV. His youngest son was here, with us. Stan was quiet and pensive, as if in a bubble of his own.

I crept up the stairs, before him, and when he came to bed, he turned his back to me, and I let him be. His son had died, two weeks before, and we were headed to the funeral the following day. I didn't know how to reach my husband. I thought he wanted space.

Oh! How I wish I had wrapped my arms around him, and pressed myself into his back. How I wish I had whispered in his ear that I would be there for him, no matter what, that we would get through this together, that I would be, always, at his side.

But I didn't. I kissed his cheek, told him goodnight, and turned my back to his.

In the morning, I brought him his tea.  I scrubbed his back, in the bath, laid out his funeral suit, wiped the dust from his good shoes. I helped him dress. Straightened his tie.

I held his hand at the funeral, and put my arm around his shoulder, after he had read the tribute to his son.

I held his hand tightly in mine as we walked out the door of the chapel. Felt it slip from my grasp as he crumbled to the ground.

The 9th of June, 2014. Exactly 9 months ago, today.

Our final, tender touch.

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