Welcome to Eureka Street

back to site

One child held my left pinky



One child held onto my left pinky finger everywhere we went. Never any other finger and never the right pinky but only the left pinky and never my whole hand. My finger misses her hand this morning.

Sisters walkingIt has been many years since she held my finger. To this day sometimes in the morning when I dress I stare at my left pinky and suddenly I am in the playground, or on the beach, or in a thrumming crowd, and there is a person weighing 40 pounds holding onto my left pinky so tightly that I am tacking slightly to port. I miss tacking slightly to port.

Another child held onto my left trouser leg most of the time but he would, if he deemed it necessary, hold either of my hands, and one time both of my hands, when we were shuffling in the surf, and the water was up to my knees but up to his waist, and I walked along towing him like a small grinning chortling dinghy all the way from the sea cave where we thought there might be sea lions sleeping off a salmon bender to the tidepools where you could find starfish and crabs and anemones and mussels the size of your shoes.

The third child held hands happily all the time, either hand, any hand, my hands, his mother's hands, his brother's hands, his sister's hands, his friends, aunts and uncles and cousins and grandparents and teachers, dogs and trees, neighbours and bushes, he would hold hands with any living creature whatsoever, without the slightest trepidation or self-consciousness, and to this day I admire that boy's open genuine eager unadorned verve.

He once held hands with his best friend during an entire soccer game when they were five years old, the two of them running in tandem, or one starting in one direction unbeknownst to the other and down they both went giggling in the sprawl of the grass.

It seems to me that angels and bodhisattvas are everywhere available for consultation if only we can see them clear; they are unadorned, and joyous, and patient, and radiant, and luminous, and not disguised or hidden or filtered in any way whatsoever, so that if you see them clearly, which happens occasionally even to the most blinkered and frightened of us, you realise immediately who they are, beings of great and humble illumination dressed in the skins of new and dewy beings.

And you realise, with a catch in your throat, that they are your teachers, and they are agents of an unimaginable love, and they are your cousins and companions in awe, and they are miracles and prayers and songs of inexplicable beauty whom no one can explain and no one own or claim or trammel, and that simply to perceive them is to be blessed beyond the reach of language, and that to be the one appointed to tow them along a beach, or a crowd, or home through the brilliant morning from the muddy hilarious peewee soccer game, is to be graced beyond measure or understanding.

Which is what I was, and I am, and I will be, until the day I die, and change form from this one to another, in ways miraculous and mysterious, never to be plumbed by the mind or measures of man.


Brian Doyle headshotBrian Doyle is the editor of Portland Magazine at the University of Portland, and the author most recently of the essay collection Grace Notes.

Topic tags: Brian Doyle, children



submit a comment

Existing comments

Beautiful and heartfelt, Brian.

Pam | 06 June 2016  

Beautiful. Poignant. Thanks.

Peter Goers | 06 June 2016  

Beautiful writing, and a glorious insight. Thanks!

Barry G | 06 June 2016  

"It seems to me that angels and bodhisattvas are everywhere available for consultation if only we can see them clear;" - sources of wisdom available when we're mindful!

Patricia Langan | 06 June 2016  

Oh, the horribly hard to learn English language that people struggle with all around the world. But then - a collection of English words comes together like this and - Kapooowwww. What power!

Rob | 06 June 2016  

Very descriptive and heartfelt!!

LynneZ | 06 June 2016  

Beautiful Brian! How lucky we are 'to be graced beyond measure or understanding'. Thanks for the reminder.

Maureen O'Brien | 06 June 2016  

A magical expose of the Presence of the spirit in every corner of our existence convincing us of another dimension ' not to be plumbed by the mind or measures of man'. Also a wonderful meditation on parenting, love and the bonds between us and our children.

Anne Doyle | 06 June 2016  

Thank you Brian for such a poetic expression of what must come close to being the secret of the meaning of a human life.

Rod | 08 June 2016  

Thank you Brian for helping us see through what some might think of as everyday to glimpse the other world and its glory

Jean Sietzema-Dickson | 08 June 2016  

Have come back this morning to read this a second time and the heart expanded again! Just love this man's writing!

Jennine Lennox | 14 June 2016  

Similar Articles

Miles Davis drama diminishes domestic abuse

  • Tim Kroenert
  • 17 June 2016

In one scene, as Taylor and Davis argue, the dialogue comes down and the score comes up; her voice is literally taken from her. When Davis then physically assaults her, the message is clear: his music and his violence are notches on the same spectrum. This conflation of creativity with destructiveness is a typical error of mainstream biopics about great artists who were not nice people. Yet applied in the context of spousal abuse it is not only specious but ethically dubious, even dangerous.


Losing and finding Dad in dementia

  • Julie Guirgis
  • 16 June 2016

Today I walked past the bathroom and noticed a pale yellow puddle with an odour worse than an unflushed toilet. I cringed at the stench, with the realisation that I had to wash urine off the floor ... Dad's illness sometimes causes ambiguous loss. It is unclear, has no resolution or closure. He is like someone I don't know anymore; he is gone-but-still-there. This leads to complicated grief. I can't look at him without seeing a fading picture of who he used to be, and speak of him in the past tense.