This last week, my parents were staying on the Gold Coast, visiting from Newcastle. We don’t see each other nearly as often as we’d like, but we call each other every few days, and I travel home to see them as often as I can. Time passes quickly and I am very aware of loving them, now.
I am fortunate — I have both of my parents in my life. They have certainly seen their share of health concerns: Dad, now eighty, has faced cancer, and Mum, a few years younger, has good days and bad. They’ve lived through joyous times and very dark, and they still, after all this time, walk with one another, holding hands.
Yesterday, we sat at a picnic table and shared fish and chips in the winter sun. Families relaxed on rugs nearby. Pelicans wheeled in the air and, landing, spooned the water with their great bills. Gulls squawked and loitered, waiting for titbits. We talked of one thing and another, and found ourselves talking of hands. My mother showed me her hands, telling me about the pain she feels in the joints of her fingers. My father reached across the table, offering his hand, and he, too, spoke about the ache of arthritis in the joints of his thumb. I held both of their hands in turn, wishing I could magic the pain away.
My hands are very like my father’s. His are bigger, of course, but I recognise his hands in my own — the same breadth of palm and rounded nail. All my life, people have told me I look like my mother, and I do, but the older I get, the more I see my father’s expressions in the mirror. It takes me by surprise, and yet I like it. There is no doubt I carry my parents with me. When I take the steering wheel, I see my father’s steady hands. When I sit with my chin in my hand, I am sometimes aware I hold my face, cover my mouth, exactly like my father.
After lunch, we took a drive around the coast. My father sat in the passenger seat next to Brenda, who was driving, while I sat in the back seat next to my mother, with our dog behind us. My mother took my hand and held it as we drove around. For nearly an hour, while we looked out the car windows and chatted about life, I held my mother’s tender hand. When you live apart from one another, every moment of connection is precious.
Today is a different kind of day. Grey sky and wind. A day of reflection. When I sat at my desk to consider what to write, all I could think of was hands. The dearest hands. Hands growing older. Hands I love.
Hold them while you can.