Miss Kitty has always been fond of me, but never so much as since our greyhound Spider died a few years ago. She became noticeably needy and clingy after that, though she never had any use for the dog, leading us to conjecture a number of etiologies ranging from guilt to fear.
In any case, Miss Kitty follows me up to bed at night, and I pet her a few strokes before I throw her out the bedroom door and go to sleep. Then in the morning, having completely forgiven me for the previous evening, she comes again to my room and maneuvers herself under my hand for more petting and gentle scratching behind the ears.
On several occasions when I have expressed to my husband a desire to be closer to my children, he has suggested that a casual touch in passing or stopping a moment to administer a gentle backrub to a person sitting at the table will go a long way. (He knows I am a prickly person by nature.) His mother used to do that to him when he was a youth, and it evidently had a big impact.
I thought it good advice but never actually got around to doing it. (Alas, such is the way with so much good Christian advice.) But today I had the horrible epiphany of the mathematics of my delinquency: Every single day I take moments at evening and morning to minister to my neurotic housecat with the touches she craves. But those same days go by that I do not do likewise to my own children. That’s 365 days a year of cat love and zero days a year of child care.
This in spite of the fact that I have been blessed by as simple a thing as Renee down at O’Neill’s Market always gently touching my hand while giving me my change with the other hand.
Having had my eyes opened to this doleful asymmetry, I can’t wait till Calvin comes home for dinner tonight so I can sidle up behind him and massage his shoulders after a long day of landscaping. Jesus touched a leper (Matthew 8:3) when he could have chosen just to heal him. They say there are different “languages of love,” but I cannot imagine that an affectionate touch is not a universal word.