I Miss Giving My Mom the Gift of a Good Hug
I don’t know if humans will recover from this pandemic: the lack of touch, the resocializing to keep our distance, the physical isolation. I have dreams where I’m in groups of happy people touching … and those dreams are actually nightmares.
My mom is a hugger. Whenever I visited my parents pre-pandemic, my mom asked for a hug as if it were a homemade gift I brought with me. She says I’m the best hugger she knows because I don’t let go until the other person is ready. Maybe it’s intuition, maybe it really is a gift.
The first week of caring for my mom during her lung transplant recovery, I wasn’t allowed to go near her without a mask on, and I wasn’t supposed to touch her. It was still early in the pandemic and those were the rules.
It was a shame because my mom had just started to get better at hugging since her spinal surgery to remove a tumor in 2018. After that surgery, I had to remind myself not to hold on too tightly or rub her back while we hugged. It pained her to have to hold back on something that brought her so much joy that she was sometimes moved to tears.
So, while helping my dad care for my mom post-transplant, I sat in the back seat of their car with my mask on and window down as we drove around the city for doctors’ appointments and sightseeing. I wore a mask as I handed over my mom’s breakfast plate and juice. I sat at the opposite end of the dining table as we ate dinners together. I relaxed on the other side of the wide, U-shaped couch in the living room each evening.
In normal times, I like to keep my distance anyway; we’re tightly knit, but not the kind of family that squeezes in on the couch together. This physical distancing thing has worked out for me since I don’t really like being touched unless I’m mentally ready for it. I think sometimes hugs are a one-way street. They fill up one person while draining the other. (I know from experience because I am guilty of this with my own partner.)
But as my energy-worker friends know, the cup is not definite. It can (and must) be refilled over and over. I think that’s how my hugs are for my mom. They fill her up, and in turn, they’re this gift I can give to her. And her gift to me has been a lifetime of support.
I haven’t been able to hug my parents in eight months. Because I live hours away, we can’t simply meet up for a physically distant outdoor dinner in their backyard. I would have to stay in their home, and that’s a risk none of us want to take, due to her many immunosuppressants, until my mom is vaccinated, along with more of society. I am grateful every day that both of my parents are still around for me to hug (eventually). And the next time I see my mom, I’ll make sure not to let go until she’s ready.
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