Little hands can do many things: capturing hearts, bringing joy and comfort to others
| Helping Hands
by Donna Lowich
The first time I saw those tiny wrinkled little hands, I was amazed. I marveled at how the small, perfect hands possessed the ability to grasp my finger and capture my heart at the same time. Now, I know what doctors say about that being a reflex action. But I know better. It was an instant connection between my son, Jeffrey, and me.
The bond had been formed long before he was born. Somehow, between periods of morning sickness and cravings for strawberry milkshakes and cranberry juice with LOTS of ice, I knew my baby was a boy. And that's the direction my conversations took: "Good morning, little Jeffrey," I would whisper as I—we—would get ready to face another day together. "What should we do today?"
Our relationship was later cemented even further by Jeffrey's tight grip on my finger, first in the hospital and later at home. When we were home together, just the two of us, I repeatedly placed my finger in the palm of his small hand, and say, "Jeffrey, I love you so much," to which he responded with a long knowing stare that translated to "I love you, too." Just [how much would be revealed to me much, much later and in many, many ways.
As Jeffrey grew into a delightful toddler, his hands became the center of games designed to enhance his sense of self-awareness: Peek-A-Boo, SO Big, Pat-a-Cake. At the end of the games, he would clap those little hands in delight, and throw back his head and laugh. At other times, we would look at a book, and I would take his hand, and point to a picture and ask, "Who's this?" He sometimes responded by grabbing my hand, pointing at the pictures, and he would look at me, waiting for a correct reply to his command, "You" as in "You answer this one".
At age three, in his first Christmas pageant, Jeffrey was an angel. Once on stage, he nervously scanned the audience. When he spotted us, he smiled, hooked his thumb in his pants pocket and furtively waved to us with the other four fingers. Oh, those little hands! They were still bringing us joy.
Within two years, though, things changed drastically. I underwent two spinal cord surgeries and ended up in the hospital for six weeks, followed by a stint in the rehab center to receive physical therapy for an additional five months. During that time, Jeffrey visited regularly along with my husband, Walter. Those visits did more than I can say to bring hope and love and laughter to my otherwise dreary and rather grim reality.
Jeffrey's visits involved making up jokes to make me laugh. One time, he raced in to sing me a song, memorizing the words and melody of a song that embraced our special bond: "That's What Friends Are For". There was a magical element to my four-year-old son singing, "Keep smiling, Keep shining, ..Knowing you can always count on me, for sure.." During other visits, he placed his gentle little hands around mine, saying not a word, a comforting move that would become his signature gesture as he grew up. Oh, those marvelous little hands!
A few years later, when Jeffrey was in grade school, he would plan my Mother's Day surprise weeks in advance. On that morning, he would get up early, and sit in the living room, with his two little hands carefully balancing a basket of fruit, tea and cookies that he bought at school. As soon as he would see me, he shouted, "Happy Mother's Day, Mommy!" with little-boy exuberance. And, indeed, it was a very happy day, because he made it so.
Even in high school, Jeffrey continued to reach out to others. The same strong hands that gripped his baseball bat to hit a homerun were the same hands that gently picked up his cat, Lucky, always softly caressing his feline friend's fur.
Several years after I returned to work following my paralysis, I encountered a troubling situation. My co-workers from several nearby buildings were in my office after a meeting. I heard whispered conversations and thought I heard "lunch" mentioned, but I wasn't sure. I left the area for a few minutes, only to return to find out that everyone had left to go out to a restaurant. I was devastated.
Due to my spinal problems, I needed help to get in and out of the building and then assistance in to the restaurant. These same co-workers had always helped me in the past. I couldn't understand why they waited until I left the room before they left; the thought that they could do this was extremely painful to me.
Jeffrey came home from school that day and found me at the kitchen table, sobbing, with my head on my arms. I managed to tearfully describe what happened. Jeff said nothing, but I felt the warmth of his hands envelop mine once more. His hands worked their magic once again as I felt the abandonment melt away, replaced by the warmth and comfort of Jeffrey's love.
The tiny little hands that first worked their magic on me nearly twenty-seven years ago have helped me overcome many obstacles in the intervening years. He did this for me, not because I am his mother, but because he is my son..