Holding Hands

Port Saint Joe—It’s early morning. It’s dark outside. And it’s cold enough in our 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 across the Southeast. 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.”

I don’t know why good men die so 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?”

I squeezed my grip on her. “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 had 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.

23 comments

  1. throughmyeyesusa - May 2, 2019 7:05 am

    I married that man. It makes everything worthwhile.

    Reply
  2. Cathi - May 2, 2019 9:29 am

    Thanks for that smile, tinged with a little hope.

    Reply
  3. Karen - May 2, 2019 9:41 am

    I love how much you love her. ❤️

    Reply
  4. Karen - May 2, 2019 10:16 am

    I miss my husband so much.

    Reply
    • Denise DeVries - May 2, 2019 11:03 am

      You seem to be able to get to the heart of life. Thank ypu.

      Reply
  5. Carol Heidbreder - May 2, 2019 11:10 am

    Ah yes. To hold my husband’s hand one more time. Yall keep holding hands every day! So much more to that than meets the eye! Agree with Karen. I love how much you love her. What a sweet sweet love story. Some of my very best memories are so like your “lavish” ones. No big fancy stuff. Just us being us!

    Reply
  6. Grace Murdock - May 2, 2019 11:30 am

    To be loved and told how much is an extraordinary gift! Good work!!

    Reply
  7. Shelton A. - May 2, 2019 1:13 pm

    You need a toboggan cap, gloves, and winter hiking socks…plus thermal underwear! Poor guy. We suffer for the ones we love but go through it because we love them so much. Hang in there!

    Reply
  8. Anne P. - May 2, 2019 1:28 pm

    Got up this morning and first thing my husband said was ” you have to read Sean”. I did and now my eyes are leaking. This is so us. You always hit it out of the park every day. Please never stop.

    Reply
  9. Lori Brown - May 2, 2019 1:34 pm

    You wrote about some of my favorite things today…Dads, life with the one you love, vacationing in the Port St. Joe, Cape San Blas, Indian Pass area, and holding on when that’s all you can do. Thank you for sharing your life with us! And just make sure you pack an extra blanket 🙂

    Reply
  10. Mary - May 2, 2019 1:38 pm

    Some folks think these new cell phones that share power are unique…they have no idea how holding hands with the one you love can share more power than they could ever imagine.

    Reply
  11. Melanie - May 2, 2019 1:48 pm

    ❤️

    Reply
    • Melanie - May 3, 2019 1:15 am

      Another ❤ from another Melanie😊

      Reply
  12. Debbie Phillips Hughett - May 2, 2019 2:10 pm

    Reply
  13. Ala Red Clay Girl - May 2, 2019 2:34 pm

    Simply beautiful!

    Reply
  14. Edna B. - May 2, 2019 2:36 pm

    I have to agree, it’s the holding on to each other that makes things all right. I love how your Dad loved you. Sean, you have a great day, hugs, Edna B.

    Reply
  15. Rick Schramm - May 2, 2019 3:13 pm

    If you’re still in Port St. Joe and haven’t already been there try Joe Mama’s wood fired pizza.
    Best ever!
    They permit dogs on the patio 😎

    Reply
  16. Connie Havard Ryland - May 2, 2019 3:20 pm

    I love how much you love her. Mostly I love that you’re not ashamed to let the world know it. Thank you for the sweetness this morning.

    Reply
  17. Charaleen Wright - May 2, 2019 4:03 pm

    Reply
  18. Janet Mary Lee - May 2, 2019 9:28 pm

    I love when two people find each other! And know it! (and appreciate it!) Never stop!!!! (hug!!)

    Reply
  19. Estelle - May 2, 2019 10:02 pm

    Wonderful words. 🥰 to you and Jamie.

    Reply
  20. Jack Darnell - May 3, 2019 4:40 pm

    I just forwarded this to my wife, who still holds my hand after 62 years. She will recognize the story as a replay of our young lives, in the Atlantic on the NC shores. But she could not swim…… Yep, we know the feeling once it is over.
    From NC, Sherry & jack

    Reply
  21. Robert Chiles - May 3, 2019 5:44 pm

    Today marks 44 years with my hand-holder. Thank you.

    Reply

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