The Touch of Love: On the Simplest Display of Affection

A retired minister in the Triangle reflects on his practice of holding hands with his beloved bride of more than 60 years.
by David Rogne

A driver in the neighborhood rolled down her window and hollered, “You two are so cute!”

A lady in our retirement home hallway paused and said, “My husband and I used to do that.” 

A lady at church said, “I wish we had done that more often. Be sure to keep
it up!”

What these passersby were referring to was a couple in their 80s, walking and holding hands. My wife and I were doing what we have always done: publicly demonstrating affection and enjoying having each other to love. Apparently it is a rare enough sight that it causes people to comment frequently.

Mary Jane and I first took notice of each other at a youth group outing. She was 15, I was 16. We were on an evening bicycle ride around a romantic lake. She wore her hair in a ponytail and looked marvelous in a peach-colored pantsuit. I asked if I could accompany her home and she consented. We both attended the same high school, and I eventually began to carry her books for her. (There were no backpacks then.) Before long, we were spending a lot of time together, and I found that even if I carried her books, I still had a free hand to hold her hand. That gave both of us pleasure. 

The relationship deepened and neither of us ever thought of spending time with anyone else. It continued as I entered a nearby university, and we got engaged as she graduated from high school and entered the same school. We married when she was 20 and I was 21. We have now been married for 67 years.

I ask myself how hand-holding became such an important part of our relationship. I think we just naturally discovered that it is a form of communication. With a squeeze of the hand, we can say that all is well between us and that we are on the same page when responding to a situation. For example, if we are detained in a longer-than-expected conversation, a squeeze reminds the other that we need to move on. What I’m describing is nothing new. Many people do the same thing. But it’s a reminder that our hands are sensitive to communication.

The largest organ of the human body is our skin, and it has numerous receptors for detecting such things as temperature, pain, discomfort, embarrassment, danger, the pleasure of a caress. During the pandemic, we have witnessed many scenes in which family members are in agony because they cannot come and touch their infected loved one. Nurses have spoken movingly of the comfort they try to bring to a patient who is unable to communicate, but who desperately needs to feel a warm touch. These are anecdotes, not a scientific study, but they support what my wife and I have learned in our decades of marriage. 

If you have already discovered hand-holding for yourself, then remember to practice it often. If this hasn’t been your style, perhaps this Valentine’s Day is an opportunity to, as the song goes, “reach out and touch someone.” Happiness can be found in the hands of those we love, and those who love us.

David Rogne is a retired United Methodist Minister. A native of California, he resides with his wife, Mary Jane, in Morrisville.


This article originally appeared in the February, 2022 issue of WALTER Magazine