As Jenna and I were walking toward the school this morning, there appeared to be a car backing out of a driveway. She took my hand and gripped onto a little.
“Death Grip?” I asked jokingly.
“What does that mean?” she asked.
I told her that her grip was really nothing but related the accounts of my dad’s “bone-crushing” death grip. We called it the death grip anyway.
As a child, I had always thought that my dad’s hands felt clammy. Yet he was always holding the hand of one child or another. He did it out of love and responsibility.
By the time he was in his early 50’s, my dad had been the victim of several strokes – many which went undetected, as they were considered “mild”. But with each stroke came the lack of communication between his brain and his muscles.
His speech slurred more with every passing stroke – and although he knew exactly what he wanted to say, his brain didn’t send the message to his lips and tongue as quickly as it needed to.
Dad was very unsteady on his feet, as his legs weren’t getting the signals from his brain about how he should move. But he never lost his grip. In fact, I think it increased. He would hold onto things (people included) with every ounce of fiber that he had – and then some. It would not have surprised me at all if he had sent one of us to the doctor for phalange repair.
If I was the one he was gripping (stopping the blood flow in my arm or hand or what have you) I would stop dead in my tracks and say, “We are not moving any further until you ease up on your grip”
He would just laugh and start to drool (again the mouth wasn’t getting the message from the brain). Who would have thought that those would provide pleasant memories for me later on down the road?
Jenna also asked about my dad’s whistle. I am certain he lost that ability perhaps with the first stroke. I actually don’t remember when was the last time I heard my dad whistle.
He had a whistle louder than any other I’ve heard from any human being. He would put two fingers between his lips and let out a whistle that could be heard from anywhere in the neighborhood. That whistle was a sign to all of his children that it was time to come home – or sometimes just to know where we were.
Dad’s whistle soon became a recognized sound to many friends, “You’re dad is calling.”
I don’t remember ever being embarrassed by it. I think overall I was impressed to be related to such a quiet person who possessed this loud gift. And I am impressed, too, when I think of all the strength my dad held in his hand up to the end.