The Giving of Strength

Posted on | March 18, 2015 | 2 Comments

I’ve never been much of a hugger.

I don’t really like it when people do that lean in thing where you know that at any minute they’re going to put at least one arm around you. My body goes stiff and I fall into an Ally McBeal moment where I wonder what would happen if I just stepped back and let them fall or maybe put up a karate high block like “No. Just…. no.”

Because of my … under-appreciation of hugs, I’ve always been really careful to let J know that he’s not required to hug anyone he doesn’t want to hug. When some people get offended by this, I just explain to them that he’s the master of his own body and he chooses who he lets hug him and who he hugs. Usually, my kid is a hugger, so it’s not an issue, and as I said, I generally don’t force him to make physical contact with anyone.

However, when we stopped by to see my Granny, his Great Granny, on Sunday when we left North Carolina, J asked if he could stay in the car and I could just tell her bye from him. Initially, I said that was fine. Initially, I fell into my routine of “he chooses,” and told Banks to just let it go. Then we got to my grandmother’s house and I realized that this was it. This was, without a doubt, the last time I would ever hold my Granny’s hand, kiss her forehead, or make her laugh that hoarse half-chuckle that she does when she get’s just a little “tickled” by something.

I told Banks to bring J in.

He didn’t want to hug her, of course he didn’t. She was lying there, so old and worn by time that there was barely any of her left to hold. Her hair was disheveled and her eyes were barely seeing anything and she looked, for the first time in her life, like the almost 99 year old woman that she is. He didn’t want to step closer, didn’t want to meet her outstretched arms and I knew, without asking, that he wasn’t interested in kissing or hugging this frail old woman before him.

So I did something I’ve never done.

I pushed him forward and leaned down to tell him that he absolutely, 100% HAD to hug his great-granny. And he reluctantly did it, stilted in his walk and leaning in like it pained him to even touch this woman who had greeted him into the world with the purest and happiest of loves.

And I realized that sometimes, hugs aren’t for giving, they’re for receiving. Sometimes, it’s more about what you are offering to the person before you… the love, the warmth of your touch, the comfort that comes with just being held. My Granny always says “come here and let me feel of you” and what she means, I think, is just that… she wants the comfort of holding her loved one in her arms, to feel the warmth and life that they exude.

So I made my son hug her and then I hugged her as tight as was allowed by her tiny, fragile frame. I made him hug her, not because he owed it to me, but because we, both of us, owed it to her. We owed her that gift of letting her feel the strength and life in his small body and in my own. We owed her the knowledge that after she’s gone, that strong little boy she held briefly will still be here, carrying her genes into the world. I think maybe that when you’re losing your own strength, there’s something uplifting in the physical feeling of someone elses.

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Though I still don’t love hugs and I still will balk slightly when someone leans toward me, I think I’m learning that sometimes it’s not about the taking of my personal space… it’s about giving some of my strength to someone else who needs it. And I think my son is maybe learning that, too.

Last night, as I was putting him to bed, he leaned in and put his head against my shoulder.

“I’m glad I got to say goodbye to great granny,” he said softly. “I think she liked it when I hugged her.”

Comments

2 Responses to “The Giving of Strength”

  1. Madonna
    March 23rd, 2015 @ 7:18 am

    I’m sorry to hear about your grandmother. Whenever we visit the great-grandparents (or even my in-laws who are 10 years older than my own parents), I have the kids give hugs. It started out as “you just never know” and has turned into what you said – the joy of the other person receiving them. When my grandpa was recently in the hospital and then rehab, I had the kids give hugs to him before we left. And man-oh-man, did his face light up from those hugs. At that point, it put it all into perspective also.

  2. Michelle
    March 23rd, 2015 @ 11:22 am

    <3 <3 <3

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