Before I even get started, let me please say that this post isn’t going to make any sense. How that differs from most of my other posts? Well, it doesn’t except that this time you’ve been pre-warned.
First I want to tell you all to beware of werepires. Yup. Werepires.
Nope. I haven’t officially lost my mind.
This weekend Watermelon came home from a friend’s house and said a friend told her that if the blue veins in your wrist are in the shape of a V – you’re a vampire. If they are in the shape of a W – you are a werewolf.
Obviously – the entire family had to have their blue veins translated by Watermelon. One by one – she declared each of us either a vampire or werewolf by looking at our veins in our wrist like some mad scientist. Rambo declared himself to have “I don’t give a shit” veins.
I went back to watching TV until I heard Banana scream at the top of her lungs, “Mama – I’m a werepire! I’m a werepire!!”
That’d be a WEREwolf with a shot of vamPIRE. Holy hell.
I don’t know why I even laugh anymore. Earlier that morning she asked me for some hanitizer.
That would be HANd sANITIZER. Hanitizer.
Okay, moving on to something slightly more heartfelt and serious.
I was thinking over the weekend about how sad I sometimes get when it comes to me and my dad and what he wasn’t capable of giving me. At my very core, however, I do know he gave what he could. And he loved me.
Sometimes I remember the little ways he showed me that would knock me to my knees in surprise…and gratitude. Sometimes I’d do better to remember those things instead of all the ways he failed. This weekend I remembered one of those little ways and I need to write it for memory’s sake so my girls will read it some day.
We were a strict Catholic family as I grew up. We NEVER in all my days missed church on Sundays. I was a kid which meant I hated going. Until things changed at church for me one summer.
Our priest we’d had for a while was being transferred to another parish. We would be getting a new priest soon. Everyone moaned and groaned – mostly because that’s what people think they are supposed to do when someone forces change on you.
The new priest came. Everything about our parish stayed the same. Everything about how the masses ran stayed the same. Except for one teensy little detail. The one little detail that changed it all for me.
I’m sure some of you are familiar with the prayer called the “Our Father”. Well, our new priest told us that that prayer was thee prayer. The one we should honor more than any other. The one that could move mountains and unite enemies. He felt that since this prayer was so uniting and beautiful that in any of the parishes that he ran – he had always asked the congregation to hold hands during the reciting of this prayer.
Holding hands – with your family and with strangers and with acquaintances from town – was shocking. I mean – we were actually supposed to touch each other in church? That wasn’t very “conservative Catholic”. It was new age touchy-feely bullshit. It was change. It freaked us the hell out.
He said it was voluntary and optional but he urged us to try it. Hold hands with the person next to you for less than one minute during a sacred prayer.
Fine. I mean if you’re going to challenge us, then we’ll do it. In fact, about 90% of the people in church did it. It felt weird and funny and there were nervous giggles and apprehensive outstretched hands and uncomfortable grasps. And relief when it was time to let go.
Except each Sunday it got easier. You started to see people reaching out seconds before Father even told us to do so. Pretty soon Father never had to prompt anyone to hold hands – people just reached out.
I remember being slightly fascinated by it all. I’d watch people’s faces when it was time to hold hands. I’d often wonder if the last time a certain couple had held hands had been at church last weekend. I’d look at my brothers who wanted nothing to do with hand holding and laughed at their awkwardness.
As time went on – it was clear this was something our church loved. Today you’ll see a person at the end of a pew ahead literally turn sideways to reach back to hold the hand of the person at the end of a pew behind them. It’s remarkable.
For me – it was downright incredible. The hand holding had been going on for a while before I happened to sit next to my father during church. I was nervous the whole time. I had never held my Dad’s hand. How the hell was this going to go?
I knew his hand. Knew how huge they were. Knew the rings he wore. Knew the callouses he had from working so hard for me and my siblings.
What would it feel like to hold one of them?
I soon found out. I set my tiny hand in his huge hand and I held on tight….knowing this was only going to last for a minute. It’s all I would have so I told myself to savor the moment.
When the prayer is done – everyone in the church automatically knows to let go of the peron’s hand you are holding. Soon after you let go is one more short prayer and a few minutes and it’s time to give the sign of peace by shaking everyone’s hands….so you’ll be needing your hands again in a minute….so we all let go after the Our Father prayer.
Except my dad never let go.
Did you hear me? He never let go of my hand.
I tried to softly move my hand from his when the time came and the prayer ended but he slightly tightened his grip and I was so caught off guard that I anxiously and confusedly dared to look my Dad in the eye to question his move. I was certain he’d just missed the cue that the prayer was over and that he should let go. But he just gave me a half smile – and a wink – and he held on.
He never let go of my hand.
For a few more minutes in time, my Dad was holding my hand because he wanted to. Not even because it was required or a priest gave him permission to.
We were in public. Anyone could see that my father still had my hand in his.
I nearly lost it. I could barely keep the tears from slipping out onto his huge hand holding mine. I remember just staring at our hands. Unbelieving that this man purposely wasn’t letting go of me.
It was a moment of intense pride for me. Overwhelming love. Overflowing gratitude. Awe. Shock. And a million other feelings I can’t put a name on.
The moment was brief but not as brief as it could have been – because he held on.
A few minutes later when it was time to shake hands…then he let go – and I felt a sense of loss almost. I went through the motions of the rest of that service. It was such a monumental thing and no one around me even knew it. He gave me something in those few minutes that I’d needed for years.
And so yah – you can bet I was going to test his theory. I sat my happy ass next to him every Sunday thereafter and I waited anxiously for the Our Father prayer when he’d reach out and grab my hand.
Again – he didn’t let go. For a few minutes longer than anyone else – my Dad’s hand was clasped around mine. And he didn’t care who saw it or how it looked. And I would stand there – still and unmoving – to be careful not to do anything that would make him break his hold. Sometimes I’d even hold my breath the whole time without even knowing it.
These days, I don’t go to church with my Dad but once or twice a year. If I do now, my little girls are usually with me too. And yes – I’ve seen him hold their hands longer than is necessary. I’ve seen them be puzzled by it the first time and then savor it the next time. Even they know that those minutes are special and rare and mean a lot even though no words ever accompany the moment and hundreds of other people are in the same room.
I’ve never spoken to them about it. Somehow they just know what the moment means.
He’s a man who does what he can when he can to show you that his love is immense. It may never be the love of fairy tales or blatant and outright…but that’s okay.
It’s still there. Ever present. Even if he can never bring himself to say the words that are in his heart out loud and to my face.
The words are there.
In his hands. In the moment he “chooses” NOT to let go when everyone else has.
I have felt his love in that moment.
I only hope to God he felt it back. In my hand. Or in my stillness. Or in the tears in my eyes.
My love was there too. Every time.
Once a week in my hands.
Constantly in my heart.