Holding Hands

You see, I’m not sure how life works. But I know that just being with a person who holds your hand can make ordinary things become poetry.

It’s early morning. It’s dark outside. And it’s cold enough in our motel room to hang meat.

This is my wife’s doing. She cranked the AC to negative-eighteen degrees. I can see my breath.

We’ve been on the road for weeks now, and my wife has enjoyed sub-Arctic conditions in various hotel rooms. My nose is about to develop frostbite.

Funny. I remember when my father got frostbite on his ears when I was a kid. He’d been welding outside one January day. He came home in bad shape, the tips of his ears were black.

He wore bandages over his ears for a week.

“Why do you have to work outside?” I asked Daddy.

“Because I love you,” he said. “That’s why.”

“You must REALLY love me.”

“I do.”

“How much?”

“Oh, s’pose you take the stars in the sky, multiply them times a billion, then wrap them in sunshine… That’s not even CLOSE to how much.”

Good men die too young.

So, this morning I’m writing you—because I don’t know what else to do while my wife slumbers in this icy, artificial climate. I can’t feel my toes.

This woman.

She and I have gone through several phases of life together. We’ve changed careers a dozen times.

I laid tile; she worked in a hospital cafeteria. I hung gutters; she taught preschool. I worked landscaping; she was a nanny. I worked nights, playing guitar at an all-you-can-eat-crab-leg joint; she babysat weekends.

Years went by, and my Great Career Ferris Wheel kept spinning. Then, I got laid off.

It was quite a blow. We didn’t know what to do. So we did what all half-broke couples do. We took a lavish vacation.

Well, it wasn’t exactly lavish. We went camping in Indian Pass, Florida—a sleepy North Floridian beach with one seafood shack. We made camp at the water’s edge. We built campfires. We looked at stars.

During sunsets, we would wade into the Gulf with floating beer koozies.

Once, we waded too far from shore. We drifted where the water was too deep to stand. And to this day, I don’t know what on earth we were thinking.

We held hands while treading water. We got pulled farther from shore by a gentle current. It was all happening so fast and so easy.

We didn’t speak, we were too busy moving against the water, flapping our limbs to keep from sinking.

The sunset was probably beautiful, but we missed it. We were too busy trying not to drown.

“I think we’re in trouble,” my wife said.

“Yep.”

“What’re we gonna do?”

“Keep swimming.”

“Don’t let go of my hand.”

“Don’t let go of my beer.”

We held hands in the water. We worked our way back to waist-deep water. We held each other. I was out of breath. She was out of breath.

I felt stupid for swimming that far from land. But then, we made it. We survived. Together.

Sometimes, I wonder if maybe success has nothing to do with careers and bank accounts. Maybe success is simply not dying.

You see, I’m not sure how life works. But I know that just being with a person who holds your hand can make ordinary things become poetry.

My wife is stirring in the bed beside me. Hark. The Polar Beauty awakes.

“Morning,” she says.

“Morning,” I say.

“You been up long?”

“Yeah. Just writing.”

“What’re you writing about?”

Oh, I’m writing about how a man could take all the stars in the sky, then multiply them times a billion, wrap them in sunshine, and still not get close to how much I love you.

Thank you for holding my hand, darling.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m turning on the heater.

32 comments

  1. Daniel C Thorne - April 21, 2018 7:06 am

    Awesomeness

    Reply
  2. Beth Reed - April 21, 2018 7:30 am

    Such a fantastic story Sean. I am a polar bear. I can’t sleep if it’s not about 70 at least. 64 degrees is my perfect sleeping weather. I freeze everyone. I have this thing called hot flashes and believe you me, I need the cold, never mind that I wake up under 3 blankets and all the pillows on top of my head.
    You know your in love when you have frost bite on your nose and can’t feel your toes!
    Keep writing Sean. Don’t let anyone tell you that you are not a real writer because I have read zillions of books that can’t hold my interest like your stories do.
    Can’t wait for the next post to see what you have to say.
    As for me it’s almost 3:00 in the morning so I am saying sweet dreams. Xx Beth

    Reply
  3. Gary - April 21, 2018 9:21 am

    I use to sleep like that. Get it so cold on summer nights I would have to sleep under a quilt or two. I guess I did that because I was raised in Mobile and we didn’t have air conditioning. Use to wake up a zillion times a night to turn my pillow over to lay my head on the “cool” side. It’s hard to sleep while you’re sweating like a hog in the sunshine.

    Reply
  4. Barb - April 21, 2018 10:33 am

    I love this story. Wait. I love all of your stories! You may have been freezing while writing this but your heartwarming words are woven into homespun pictures. You invite this reader into a glimpse of your life and those you write about, giving an otherwise undiscovered view on Life. Things. People. Feelings. So delighted to have discovered you, Sean of the South. Keep on holding hands. Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
  5. CaroG87 - April 21, 2018 11:11 am

    I’m the total opposite…. always freezing! I’m that girl in the office wearing a parka at my desk in July bc they’ve cranked the AC full blast…. love these stories! You give this old cynical heart a dose of beauty each day.

    Reply
  6. Melissa - April 21, 2018 11:19 am

    Couldn’t help but think of George and Barbara Bush as I read this. Holding hands in her final hours on this earth. Having someone you love to hold your hand through all the good and bad times and all times is a blessing indeed.

    Reply
  7. Penn Wells - April 21, 2018 11:35 am

    “Take all the stars in the sky, multiply by a billion and wrap them in sunshine” just made it into my quote book…with credit to your dad. Good one. 👍

    Reply
  8. Debbie - April 21, 2018 11:41 am

    My take on your story is not so much the temperature (though, yes, I’d rather sleep cold than hot) but the hand-holding, and the “how much I love you” comment. Just when I think there are no new words to say how much I love my husband of nearly forty years, there they are! He introduced me to your writing….and I’m so glad he did. Keep on writing, Sean. You have a gift and the world needs more writers like you!

    Reply
  9. Connie Havard Ryland - April 21, 2018 11:55 am

    I want to be loved like that. I love that you love your wife so much and you’re not ashamed to tell the world. Love and hugs. Be safe out there.

    Reply
  10. Amy - April 21, 2018 11:59 am

    ❤️

    Reply
  11. Trina V. - April 21, 2018 12:12 pm

    Love this, and I love the way your dad described his love for you.

    Reply
  12. Bob Chiles - April 21, 2018 12:16 pm

    You are the best writer, ever.
    I used (with credit to you) one of your stories in a funeral sermon last week. I’ll send it to you when I get to work. Must have been two dozen people asked how to sign up to get your stories. I told em.

    Reply
  13. Nix LaVerdi - April 21, 2018 12:16 pm

    The way you write your stories. Pure gold. I say this, often, in your comment section. I just can’t think of a different way to describe them. Pure gold like the sun. Beautiful. Thank you for living in this world.—Nix

    Reply
  14. Leigh - April 21, 2018 1:34 pm

    I love love the illustrations too… so very touching.

    Reply
  15. Sue Cronkite - April 21, 2018 1:34 pm

    Keep writing. You just made my day.

    Reply
  16. Edna B. - April 21, 2018 2:25 pm

    I like it cool for sleeping so that I can snuggle into my blanket. I loved this story. Love is awesome, isn’t it? You’ve started my day off with a smile again. Thank you. Have a super day, hugs, Edna B.

    Reply
  17. Richard Cotton - April 21, 2018 3:17 pm

    Man, I love your writing. Your talent to write so beautifully about the mundane things of life is God-given. You have found your calling in life. May God continue to bless you and your wife.

    Reply
  18. Sandi in FL - April 21, 2018 4:01 pm

    Sean, I get the distinct impression that you are absolutely crazy about your sweet wife!

    Reply
  19. Jack Quanstrum - April 21, 2018 5:25 pm

    Your story put a Big Smile on my face!

    Reply
  20. janiesjottings - April 21, 2018 6:34 pm

    I’m one of those people that can’t fall asleep if it’s not cool. I like a fan blowing right in my face when I’m sleeping even in the winter when it’s cool enough to sleep under a quilt. I love how you write about your feelings for your wife. And your Daddy would be so proud of you!

    Reply
  21. Sandra - April 21, 2018 7:16 pm

    Thank you, Sean, for reminding me that no matter how difficult life gets I have a wonderful man by my side to hold hands with. We will get through this tough time together. Blessings to you and your Polar Queen. 🙂

    Reply
  22. muthahun - April 21, 2018 9:51 pm

    The best thing in life: having someone to bump along with and love you. (note: there are very nifty little electric blanket deals – microplush electric throw – for about $30. Well worth the price of not losing yer toes!!)

    Reply
  23. Judith - April 21, 2018 10:40 pm

    Love the hand holding ( my hubs and I still hold hands) and the love expression. Another ” how many ways do I love you ” saying. Thanks again.

    Reply
  24. geralddowlingbooks - April 22, 2018 12:23 am

    Sean, saw you over in Monroeville along with that pretty young lady wearing cowboy boots ; the one that holds your hand. Heard nothing but food things from the folks at mutable and again today the day after over in Montgomery. Keep those tunes coming; make my nose run just a little.

    Reply
  25. Kim tillman - April 22, 2018 1:13 am

    I love this one so much!! Keep um coming!!

    Reply
  26. Jack Darnell - April 22, 2018 3:21 am

    Hey dude, this is our story, except she couldn’t swim nor tread water on a deserted beach in NC, 1957. Yeah, we have now been married 61+ years, but still remember fighting that tide.
    Very good post.

    Reply
  27. Stephanie - April 23, 2018 5:21 pm

    This made me tear up…so beautiful. ❤️

    Reply
  28. Mary Lee - April 23, 2018 6:41 pm

    Good one. Beautiful story. Happy y’all made it back from the abyss.

    Reply
  29. Jmwmson - April 24, 2018 1:11 am

    I almost drowned once, too. Two of my cousins and I were in the Gulf off Thomas Drive on Panama City Beach. My younger cousin went back on shore along with their golden retriever, as my older cousin and I stayed out about chest deep just talking and bobbing up and down. Then we noticed that when we bobbed up, we were continually being taken further out. We both knew to let the undertow carry us to where it looped back toward the shore…but this was not happening. Our efforts just took us further and straight out rather than looping us back to shore. We both realized that we needed help and started yelling to his brother and waving…but he only waved back. Suddenly, their dog began to race back and forth along the shore line. His brother was alerted to our dilemma, and began to swim along with the dog to where we were struggling. Their dog swam to my cousin, and his brother swam to me. I hung onto him with my fingers looped into the belt loops of his cutoff jeans. Each time he went down to get traction on the bottom I was pulled underwater and felt like each plunge would be my last. At one point, we did not see his brother, even though the dog was beside us. I knew that my cousin’s act of saving me might mean his brother might not survive…and I told him that I would rather him save his brother and let me go, because I did not want to risk his saving me only to lose his brother. He did not listen…and his brother finally was able to hang onto the dog’s tail…and we all made it to shore…and the dog lost the fur on his tail…and my cousin went into shock and temporarily went blind and vomited at least a gallon of water. We sat motionless after we made it shore. I had nightmares for a long time after that. It was horrible, but my cousins and I shared a special bond as a result of this. So, I wanted you to know that your near-drowning was not lost on me. Been there, done that…no tee-shirt, but grateful that I am here to acknowledge the magnitude of that experience! We succeeded that day, as well.

    Reply
  30. Anita Ryan - June 27, 2018 12:59 pm

    Wonderful story, Sean. I like to sleep cold, too…it’s just better sleeping. And I still long for a hand to hold for the rest of my life!

    Reply
  31. unkle - June 27, 2018 3:11 pm

    and you saved the beer! uk

    Reply
  32. G. Mitchell - June 27, 2018 5:11 pm

    Kinda sounds like a ‘girl’ thing, the temp I mean. I sleep ontop of the covers in a sleeveless nightgown with the ceiling fan above spinning so fast it sounds like a jet engine and with the air set at 70degrees. My poor hubby, wearing thermal tee and flannel pj bottoms is buried under a down comforter. Every single night! We hold hands when we fall asleep because snuggling makes me too hot. Not the good kind. Bundle up Sean, you’ve got a long road ahead of you:-D

    Reply

Leave a Reply