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Miles to Go—Touch Me


By Marianne Miles

Grandma moved into a retirement home six months before this visit. With three small children, I didn’t come as often as I thought I would when she moved here, but usually came at least twice a week, often with the kids.

“How are you, Grandma?” I asked as I stooped to kiss her. She reached for me and held me fast as she kissed me. She didn’t release my arms and held my face close to hers. Her eyes searched mine, looking for… what? I didn’t know.

“What is it?” I asked. She looked away and her hands slid slowly down my arms to rest in mine. I wasn’t moving. I rubbed my thumbs over her fingers.

“Grandma?” I waited

She shook her head slowly and fished a hanky from her pocket to wipe her eyes. “It’s human touch,” she said at last. “You can’t imagine how much it means to have a hug when you’re alone.” This was the first time I realized the sure power of touch. From then to her last day I found excuses to lay my hand on hers, support her elbow when she walked, brush her hair, rub her feet or massage lotion on her arms and legs.

But I knew, back brain, many years before, the importance of touch when I became a mom. Nothing soothed their anxieties like being held. I’m reminded of ‘mother magic’ as I play ‘grandma’ to a young couple. Their five week old baby wants to be held. He tolerates being swaddled in a thin blanket when he sleeps away from Mom and Dad, but only because it reminds him of their touch—tight and safe.

I also knew—again, back brain—that perhaps something might not be quite right when my second child, a special needs son, did not like being held and snuggled as a baby. Many autistic and other special needs children do not like to be touched, or only on their terms. This was a hard lesson to learn as a mom. Sometimes, the rejection felt personal.

With patience, relentless pursuit, and the deep desire to know my son, I learned how to “touch” his heart and mind, while giving him space not to be irritated by the discomforts of his sensory perceptions. I learned he loved me to stroke his hair, but hated me to pat his head. I learned his ears were super sensitive to the ‘S’ sound and spoke the letter softly. I learned he felt ‘maneuvered’ into emotional hugs, but came up on his own with our secret code of three squeezes of the hand which meant “I LOVE YOU!”

I’ve heard it said that children need eleven hugs a day, adults need three. I understand the reason that educators are now so frightened of giving even appropriate hugs or a pat to children these days, but I know this wilderness of warmth is difficult for the children. I visited a friend’s second grade class to see the children all but climbing on her to gather affection where they could. Eight hours is a huge part of a seven-year-old’s day to go without. As she sat in her chair two children sidled up to her on either side, like cowboys on leaning posts in a saloon!

I suppose, I could end up alone, some day, in a room by myself, wishing for my three hugs. I’m sure ‘human touch’ will take on new meaning for me like it did for my grandma. Even so, I think I could settle for three squeezes of my hand.

©2010 Marianne Miles. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

*Copyrighted back columns are available for reading in archives of Comfort Cafe. Contact Marianne for reprint availability.

Marianne Miles is a free lance writer intent on bringing comfort to mom’s of special needs kids. As she and her husband raised their children, including a son with special needs, Marianne developed a passion to support hurting mothers. Her message revolves around the love and provision of God, even in times of trial. Marianne has worked as a volunteer in the public schools, home school mom, and a teacher in a private school. She writes on the subjects of family and education in the form of devotionals, magazine articles, and poetry. Marianne welcomes reader’s comments and publisher’s questions at Marianne_Miles@yahoo.com.