Holding Hands

While I was in Colorado this week I went to see my 88 year old uncle.

He stays in an assisted living facility now, with increasing dementia robbing him of the ability to care for himself.

This picture was taken in the mid-sixties after my uncle and his family moved to Houston.  From left, my cousin, David, Aunt Marlene, Uncle Bud holding my cousin, Mary, my cousin, Buddy, and my dad.  The four year old standing in front of my dad is me.  And my mom took the picture.
This picture was taken in the mid-sixties after my uncle and his family moved to Houston. From left, my cousin, David, Aunt Marlene, Uncle Bud holding my cousin, Mary, my cousin, Buddy, and my dad. The four year old standing in front of my dad is me. And my mom took the picture.

Driving up the interstate on my way to visit him, I thought about all the times he’d driven me around Houston when I was a little girl.  He worked as a claims adjustor for Allstate and could zip-zoom through Houston traffic better than anyone I’ve ever known.  If you were moving too slowly behind him, well, you were lucky if all you got was a look when we passed you.

You might say he was a bit impatient.

And if you crunched potato chips too loudly sitting next to him at the table, he asked you if you were enjoying the gravel.  I learned to hold chips in my mouth until they got soggy before chewing them up.

I never talked to him on the phone that he didn’t tell me a joke.

If I was sick, he’d say, “well, God love it,” or “bless its tiny time.”

The last time I visited him, four years ago, he was still living at home.  He drove me to a Chinese restaurant near his house for lunch, and other than repeating himself a lot, he was still very much my Uncle Bud.

This time when I called him “Uncle Bud,” he asked me who that was.

We looked at old photographs in a book his oldest son had made for him.  We looked at some I had brought on my laptop.

I sat with him, watching him drift off to sleep for awhile, and then wake to ask me, “Now whose daughter are you?”

“I’m your sister, Betty Jean’s, daughter – I’m Sally,” I’d say.  Over and over.

And sometimes his eyes would brighten and a brief smile would come across his otherwise blank face.

Most likely I was just someone kind who came by to see him this week.IMG_0834

But at those moments he would take my hand in both of his feeble, rough, dry hands and very gently pat.  Then he would raise my hand slowly to his lips, kiss the back of my hand and hold it to his face for the longest time.

I felt my Pawpaw’s hands.

I hope he felt his sister’s and mother’s in mine.

Advertisements

One Comment Add yours

  1. djlazzell says:

    Tragic and beautiful!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s