Tuesday, February 14, 2012

One Stroky’s Journey: Holding Hands

A helping hand

More than a decade ago my husband and I found ourselves labeled “cute.” We were on the return leg of a 180-mile roundtrip church excursion from our coastal Mississippi town to New Orleans.  We were newcomers to the church, and as soon as we settled into one of the two vans at the start of the trip, we noticed we were the “elders” in a group of fellow church members who were 20-somethings and 30-somethings.

We discovered our new “cute” designation when the group stopped for dinner at a restaurant on the way home. With about 16 of us seated together, conversation was lively as we waited for our dinner selections to arrive.

“Y’all are just so cute, still holding hands,” one young lady intoned. Others joined in and similar comments cascaded into the conversation. I doubted that holding hands automatically generated “cute” as an adjective. The tone and comments clued me in that it was two OLD people holding hands that generated all the interest.

I wasn’t offended. My first reaction was a sense of loss and sadness for the young marrieds surrounding us. I was thinking that I had not seen any of the couples with us holding hands as we were walking into the restaurant. My second reaction was a mental “Oh well” shrug and the thought “Different strokes for different folks.”

Husband Walter and I have been holding hands when we walk together ever since our earliest days as a couple. I have found it a comfortable and comforting habit then and now but had never given it much thought.

Now I am clearer on what it means for me. Such a simple, undemanding touch is healing. Even when we were aggravated with each other, that instinctive, habitual joining of hands was a form of communication that helped strengthen the foundation from which we worked through our differences. I think couples who maintain an enduring, loving, and caring relationship have all developed such communication “shortcuts” of some kind.

Right now, in this stroke recovery phase of life, we don’t hold hands the same way. When we are walking Walter is holding my gait belt with his left hand in case I lose my balance. His right hand is available for me to touch or hold as needed for balance.

The hand holding in the photo at the top of this post is actually hand-relaxing. His hand has just finished uncurling my fingers and thumb. What is not apparent in the photo is that he is exerting extreme pressure to keep my fingers, thumb and palm straight and flat against the table.

It is hard work, and that photo is the only time we have gone through that hand-relaxing process exactly like that. The process is good for fighting my stroke-induced tone, but it is far more effective as part of weight-bearing, and shoulder-loosening exercises that my occupational therapist assigned me for homework.

I sit on a firm surface with my hand beside me. To get my hand flat on the surface beside me takes the help of someone else to force my fingers and thumb open and hold them down. Because the negative tone causes everything to tighten back up as soon as I talk, laugh or yawn, the exercises are challenging for whoever is helping me. So far I have successfully enlisted the help of hubby, my youngest son home on a quick afternoon visit, and one of my walking buddies.

These helpers have been gracious about ignoring the moans and groans that I sometimes (okay, always) emit with the stretching of tight nerves and muscles. The encouraging result is that at the end of the exercises my fingers are straight and loosely relaxed, as least until I walk, talk, laugh or yawn. Even then they are easier to uncurl.

This new “hand-holding” is a welcomed part of my life. And the moments that hubby and I sit together and hold hands the way we used to do pre-stroke are also a welcomed part of my life. Such hand holding still supplies me with the same healing, comfort, and communication that it always has. 

Thank you Walter! And Happy Valentines Day to my dear husband! Wishes for a happy day also go out to all the other dear friends, relatives, readers and even strangers whose actions, prayers, positive thoughts and good wishes have helped me and encouraged me.


  1. Happy Valentine's Day indeed. My Valentine gave me a beautiful card. Still loves me after all these years. I suppose some would say that is cute.

    I enjoy your progress vicariously. Keep up the good work. One Day at a time you are recovering. Dianne

  2. you are blessed to have him holding your hand for therapy and for love. i like the photo. and you are still cute to me.

  3. This is the most interesting and uplifting post on hand holding I have ever read! Truly you are so blessed to have Walter, and he to have you. I also just caught up on your bucket post, what a good idea! I am so HAPPY that you are starting to do household chores!!! Way to GO!!! Do you watch The Big Bang Theory? It is our favorite, and I even tape the five repeats on Tuesday and Thursday. We love Sheldon, and I have seen him using the folder many times!! I hate to think what he would have to do without it! Wishing you both a very happy Valentine's Day!!

  4. Hi, I came here via Patti's blog and am glad I did. This is a very interesting post about hand holding from a stroke perspective. My hubby has high blood pressure, and I always worry that he will have a stroke one of these days due to his stressful job. I hope you will continue to progress well. Aloha from Hawaii and Happy Valentine's Day!

  5. Blessings on your hand exercises and hand holding.

  6. You are one Blessed woman Linda. Your sweet Hubby is one in a million. The healing power of touch is so true. Keep on holding hands and being the Cute couple that you really are.