Touching and affection are powerfully important elements that keep me happy, sane, and functioning. I know I’m not alone in this. Quarantining is wreaking havoc with the psyches of many of us who are stuck in our homes by ourselves, with no outlet for our love and affection.
Missing Rick’s hugs – his giant, huge, loving, embrace – was one of the most difficult challenges to endure after he died. That man could hug! When he wrapped you in his 6’5” 300-pound powerful frame, you felt it. He often lifted me off the floor in the middle of the hug, and I’m no light weight.
Rick also patted my ass every time I walked by him. He randomly rubbed my shoulders when he came up behind me as I sat at my desk, stroked my hair back from my face when we lay in bed, and held my hand everywhere – sitting in the chair next to mine, walking into stores and restaurants, even across the console in the car as he drove. And – my favorite of all – he slow-danced with me at random times – in the kitchen when a romantic song came on the radio, or on our deck at the end of an evening of wine and dinner. Sometimes, there was no music. Slowly, gently swaying back and forth wrapped in his loving embrace was the epitome of our expression of love for each other.
So, yes, when Rick died, I lost all those warm, wonderful, comforting opportunities to express my love and feel it pouring back to me. But, over the past two and a half years, I’ve found substitutes. I hug just about every family member and friend upon greeting and departure. I’ve hugged many of my coworkers. Eventually, I even purchased a weighted blanket which feels a little bit like a hug. And of course, my grandchildren – ages 3-18 have kept me well-supplied in hugs. The youngest two seem to spend most evenings when I visit sitting on their Boba’s lap, or cuddled up under a blanket, nestled in on either side of me as we watch movies together every Wednesday and some Saturdays. Well, they used to, anyway.
When I began to quarantine six weeks ago, I left the house once right at the beginning. My son and his wife were photographing a wedding (the last one before the rest of their clients’ big days were cancelled due to the virus). They planned to stay overnight at a hotel, and I had agreed to watch the boys. We debated if I still should, since I’m over 60 (elderly?!) and on high blood pressure medication, both of which had been indicated as risks for complications if I contracted the virus. However, I decided to make this one last trip out of my house before burrowing in for the duration – having no clue back then as to how long the looming isolation would be.
I spent a wonderful day and overnight with my 3- and 5-year-old grandsons. As I prepared to leave, and went out to put my bag in the trunk of my car, I heard the oldest crying loudly. Apparently, he thought I had left without kissing and hugging him goodbye. When I went back into the living room, and sat down in a chair to reach his height level for a big goodbye hug, he didn’t let go. Instead, while still clinging to me, he climbed up on my lap and held on. This had happened the last time I stayed overnight. We literally hugged – with him on my lap, his head on my shoulder, his eyes closed tightly – for more than five minutes. I joked that I would like to hold him like that forever. I asked him if he thought his mom would bring us food if we hugged liked that and didn’t let go for years, until he grew up. He kept his eyes close, shook his head yes and held on tightly. His mom assured us that she’d bring our meals. Jonas chuckled. And held on.
Little did I guess that this long, long, cuddle from my grandson would be the last human touch I would experience for the next 45 days. And how much longer remains to be seen.
So here I am, in the same awful predicament as so many other “hugging” widows just like me, bereft of all those substitute hugs I’ve been amassing throughout the years. And I’m suffering from hug withdrawal. I randomly squeeze my pillow when I need a fix, but it’s not working. My cat is getting lots of squeezes, but she’s too small to really provide the amount of cuddling I need – and, besides, she doesn’t hug back.
I can’t really think about a future with no hugs. I have to take this one day at a time. When things get rough, I pull up the weighted blanket around me, but – again – no substitute for the loving embrace of another human being. For now, I’ll rely on my memories. I’ll close my eyes tight and picture those dances so long ago, or the last giant cuddle-fest I had with my young grandson. For now, I guess that’s the best I can do.
But when I’m finally let loose from this prison of isolation, I pity the first person who comes in my path.