It has been awhile since I have been on this site but I figured I would try a different style tonight. The following is a short story that I wrote awhile ago. Hopefully you enjoy.
I watch my dog, Coco and my niece, Sally together on the front walkway. Coco stands in front of Sally, as Sally sits Indian-style bringing her palms up to smooth back along Coco’s face, gently cupping her head as her hands trail over Coco’s ears and down her back. Coco could do with this treatment forever and Sally is equally fascinated, studying the effects of her ministrations on her loyal friend. They are very much in love, this dog and girl-child. And in these quiet moments where there is only the two of them, you can feel the love.
Many believe that we love our pets and that they love us in return. But pets never say the words, “I love you.” We believe they love us because of non-verbal cues they give us – licking, gnawing, snuffling, pouncing. Between humans, we rely heavily on spoken words of love. So why is it, that as humans, we cannot rely more on the unspoken? The non-verbal cues that show love and devotion between two people.
I had a grandmother that was never vocal with her love for her children, grandchildren, etc. She was quite famously known for not speaking her emotions and being stubborn. This was so much of a fact that she acquired the nickname “the bulldog.” But her actions always showed her love.
My grandma suffered a series of strokes in her later years. And they started pretty early on in my life, so I never knew a grandmother that could walk on her own, she was always wheelchair-bound. But in her stubbornness, after an attack, she would come back better than ever. But no matter how much of her mental capacity she was able to retrieve, she was never able to retrieve that greatest of freedoms, being able to walk. One stroke had left her paralyzed from the neck down on her left side. And because of this she had to rely on nurses and my family to help her through daily life.
When I was old enough to drive, my parents would rely on me to take my grandmother on errands. I would roll her out to the blue LincolnTown car, lock the wheelchair brakes and help her make the transfer to the passenger’s seat. I would then fold up the wheelchair and load it in the car and we would be off. These rides were never full of deep conversations or receiving grand wisdom from my elder. A majority of the times, we would drive along in silence, the only noise being my grandma’s tendency to test every button on her door panel. Door locked, door unlocked, seat up, seat down, seat back, seat forward. Door locked, door unlocked, seat up, seat down, seat back, seat forward, window up, down. Window halfway up, window halfway down, door locked, seat back…back, up, forward, back, down, up, down, back, up, forward.
In its own way, this cacophony was its own form of music. And during all these trials, my grandma would slowly be slipping down so she would be slouched in that small space between the door and the seat. When she would finally get the chair at the right height, length, the window at the right height, she’d look out the front window and the side windows and then she would look at me. I never looked back at her, but I always knew when she would be staring at me. These many years later, I wonder what she was thinking in those moments of observation. My grandmother observed quite a bit. She was not a wordy person and would express her opinion in as few of words as possible. In all these moments of silent observation, I never asked her what she was thinking. I just let her look, and look, and look. She never voiced her observations.
If I decided to wear a shiny pair of earrings, or several earrings, out of the corner of your eye, you would see her hand reach out and touch it. And my nubby sweater would be rubbed, to feel the texture with a final pat back in place. She would situate herself and then take care to note me, to observe me – in a non-vocal fashion expressed to me the message, “I’m okay. You’re okay. And we are here – Together.”
I don’t remember the times when my grandma said “I love you,” but I still remember these moments of quiet observation and light touches. It was a ritual that my grandma would repeat with my sisters and my mother. It is a cherished memory that we all have of her.
So the next time I hop into the passenger’s side of my sister’s car, I will take the crunched up position between the door and the seat, I will adjust the seat, the window, the seat, the window, the seat, the window. I will look across at my sister’s profile and lightly tap the dangling hoop hanging from her ear. And she will turn and look at me with a grin on her face and without saying a word we will know, “We’re okay. We here together – We love each other.”