All In A Whisper
As I scrubbed my hands and forearms, and donned a gown and mask for my first meeting with my grandson, fear gripped me. When will we be sure he'll survive, and what other surprises are in store for us? He was a miracle... a three-pound living miracle. He took his first breath ten weeks earlier than expected, and at precisely the moment God had planned. His mother would spend most of her waking hours with him in what she knew as NICU (neo-natal intensive care unit). She, like her two younger sisters had met the world when the world expected them, so this early addition was a new experience for all of us.
Through the clear plastic case that would be his home for several weeks, I viewed in silent awe my first grandchild. Assisted in every breath since the first, he would leave the plastic case only in carefully timed and orchestrated bonding and feeding movements. As I looked on, his lip quivered with each draw of his lungs as if he were speaking to me in a whisper. Machines were set up to examine the rhythms of his breathing and heartbeat; and at every arrhythmia an alarm would sound to alert an attendant and also to startle the little one into a more uniform pattern. This tiniest of men was fighting a battle. He was in the fight of his life with the most fragile and immature lungs and heart as his defense.
The fear that had gripped me earlier had slowly given way to confidence. I could see the determination in this young man, and I knew he would win his battle. I knew he must be destined for something extraordinary. I spent the rest of that night, and many nights thereafter, imagining what the little one may have been whispering to me through that quivering lip. I surmised that, in a voice fresh and clean from God's presence and unsoiled by human influence, he was reminding me how important it had suddenly become for me to be a "man of good character". I have to study myself in a more honest light, and discard my self-built barriers against reaching for and valuing virtuous thought, action and social behavior. I must help this young man do the same early in life, because as humanity, modern society, and sometimes family take their toll, a man naturally finds it easier (and therefore more appealing) to achieve only the acceptable standard... which is not always (or perhaps is rarely) the "right thing to do".
In the four years since that night, I've accomplished little of what I had been commissioned to do. I've struggled (often miserably failing) in life, friendship, married life, fatherhood and grand-fatherhood. I've taken the commission seriously, though, and I'll continue to strive for the goal. I search for the necessary strength outside of my weak self, and usually find it demonstrated in other men's lives. I recognise them as the tallest, strongest and eventually the oldest trees in a forest overpopulated by "trees of low character". They're so much easier to spot now than they used to be. That is, since the night I first met my grandson.
More by this Author
Walt Whitman: A man, yet by these tears a little boy again, Throwing myself on the sand, confronting the waves, I, chanter of pains and joys, uniter of here and hereafter...
A growing dissatisfaction with government and church brought forth an influential philosophy known as transcendentalism. Through this philosophy and in the movement it spawned, religious, social and educational norms...
I always seem to learn lessons the hard way. In my decades as a father-in-training I haven't reached my goal of doing the right thing the first time through.