One of the hardest aspects of nursing Steele while he was in hospital was the loss of physical touch. There is so much communicated between two people by the physical touch. Few things express desire like a sensual kiss. Few things express compassion like a hand held in moment of weakness. When a child is hurt, one remedy guaranteed to sooth the pain is a parent’s embrace, particularly the tenderness of a mother’s touch. I wanted to give that to Steele. I wanted to give that to myself. I wanted to crawl into his hospital bed, for us to hold each other; to lay beside him entangled in a cocoon of blankets. I know what it feels like to borrow the warmth of a lover on a cold night. All it takes is a simple touch. I wanted him to borrow my strength.
I didn’t like to be in the room and not be touching him. So I would usually sit at the foot of his bed and massage his feet, or simply rest my hand on them. The day he slept unconsciously for about 24 hours straight was one time I got the closest to him, perhaps in violation of his rights, and certainly in desperation for his touch. I had the nurses turn down the side railings of his bed so I could get closer to him. Perched on the chair next to his bed, I leaned across his bed to rest my head on his pillow and wrap my arm around his.
The one day he spent outside of the hospital, at his mother’s house, he invited me to sleep in the bed with him. That was so emotional. It felt deceptively good. I wish i would have stayed awake, as i lay next to him, to be present to his touch. I was so tired. I fell asleep quickly. When I woke up he was already out of bed, suffering in pain. i don’t even know how long we spent together.
The extent to which you allow someone to touch you is an indication of the level of intimacy between two people. When he asked me to bathe him, I was overwhelmed with emotion. He stood before me naked, so vulnerable, but completely open. The responsibility intimidated me. I had to channel a different kind of energy towards him than would have normally been required bathing a naked body.