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Saturday, October 30, 2010

Whisper of a touch

A man I barely know touched my shoulder in conversation recently and I bristled. My body actually stiffened on a noticeable level. I realized that this sort of innocent touch happens often between two who are intimate, such as husband and wife.

Like when I would be at the sink washing dishes and Andie would need to wash his hands- our bodies would brush against each other. Or when I was cooking dinner and he would lightly kiss the back of my neck as he walked by. Sometimes when we were both in a rush to get ready and would end up in the closet picking out clothes at the same time we would bump into each other. I remember our arms touching in the car as we both would rest an arm on the center console- often this would lead to us holding hands for a few seconds, or me rubbing his arm. I think of passing each other in a doorway, he was almost as broad as the doorway and we would both have to turn sideways to make it through but we would have a moment of connection. I remember touching his shoulder often when I talked to him, just like the man who recently touched mine. When I would hand him one of the babies while he was sitting on the couch and our legs would rub against each other. Or our fingers would meet for a second as I was handing him the car keys. The most comforting closeness was lying in bed next to each other and feeling the presence of him- often in the night he would roll over and lean against me.

It reminds me of the studies I've read about infants in Russian orphanages that are left in their cribs almost 24 hours a day with no cuddling and no touch. The psychological damage of that is lifelong and they often go on to develop numerous psychological problems, failure to thrive, Reactive Attachment Disorder. To know that something so easy to give and so rewarding for both people involved, is the very thing that keeps these babies from thriving is truly heartbreaking.

The catch phrase "Reach out and touch someone" holds significant meaning- we need touch, connection, validation from another that we exist and are important and are valued. Funny how an innocent pat on the shoulder can hold so much meaning; "I'm still alive and noticed," it says. I'm usually one that has a definite "bubble"- I've never been a hugger. But these days I'll soak up any kind of touch I can get- I even welcome hugs and the requisite intrusion of my "bubble".

Of course I miss the kind of touch we all think about; hugs, kisses, holding hands, shoulder rubs.

But what I miss the most is the whisper of a touch...those barely perceptible moments of connection that you don't even realize you have.

Until they're gone...