Sunday, May 20, 2012
Reaching for Affection
See that little paw? Every time I walk past him, TB reaches out a paw. Even when he's asleep, if he senses me moving, he'll reach out a little paw towards me. I generally reach down and grab hold of it for a second, then I rub him a little and move past to do my thing. When I come back, the paw comes out again and we spend a few more seconds making contact.
Dad was like that. When he was driving, he would reach out his hand to whomever might be sitting up front with him. I liked to mess with him and ignore it. Pretty soon, he'd say, "Hold my hand." So, I did. I remember him sitting in a chair reading. Whenever one of us would walk past him, he'd hold out his hand. Sometimes he wouldn't even look up from his book, he's just put out his hand and expect us to at least touch him.
I always knew that I could count on Dad to initiate the words "I love you" in any telephone call. If he didn't and I got to say it first, it was always a surprise to me. One time we got off the phone without either of us saying the words and it bothered me so much, I called him back. He made sure he always said those words.
Mom wasn't nearly as effusive with her love. She'd grown up in a really cold and unloving environment. Her mother could love one person at a time - either she loved mom or she loved my grandfather. It couldn't be both at the same time. I saw video of my mother as an infant, and the woman holding her was not my grandmother, but a nurse who had been hired to come into the home. That freaked me out.
Dad was the one who taught mom how to love. But a lifetime of conditioning had made it difficult for her to initiate love.
I always thought of her as a very loving person. I spent a lot of time hugging her, snuggling, wrestling, holding her hand and sticking pretty close. After she died, I discovered that my sister didn't see her the same way. Then I realized ... I had always been the one to initiate the physical gestures of love. When I came home from college and was freaked out at how alien the environment was, I sat on her lap in the recliner. I needed her to just hold me. When I felt like she was getting too distant, I'd drag her into a wrestling match. When we drove together, I reached out my hand and asked her to hold it. When she was in the hospital dying, I crawled into her bed with her, just so she could comfort me.
TB has no hesitation in reaching out for a little affection. He's my cat - I guess I raised him that way.
What about you?