When a Soul’s Door Is Left Open

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Cole Martin Thompson. Go ahead, show me a nicer pair of nostrils.

As I mentioned in my last post, my first grandchild Cole was born on November 30th. Days one through seven were dicey, as he was in the NICU with schmutz in one of his lungs. His face—and let me emphasize, it’s so boo-boo-beautiful you want to order a few of them ala mode—was jaundiced because his system was trying to absorb a hematoma on the back of his head, which was smooshed up against my daughter Elena’s pelvic bone for a week or two. Enough of that. He’s safely home now.

Most fresh grandparents are like me, all burble and coo. At the very instant of Cole’s birth, as he was soaring from womb to bosom, he crop-dusted his mother with meconium. I wasn’t there to see it, yet as soon as I heard the details I said in the voice of an animated bulldog, “That’s my boy!” Not because his first act was pooping on Elena, but because I took it as an existential statement.

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Cole wiggled his nose. We saw him! (Credit: corbisimages.com)

As a newborn he’s swaddled most of the time, so his activity is at the low end of the spectrum. (Note on swaddling: Geez, Louise, they wrap infants up tightly these days. Cole looks like a white cotton bullet with a round, fleshy tip.) In other words, he’s often motionless. But when he does anything at all, makes kissy lips or even seems to be bearing down, you’d think Pavarotti just sang “Nessun Dorma’s” final vincero! The kid’s butt rumbles! The crowd goes wild!

These are the days that fracture men’s souls; at least that’s my experience. When my own Elena and Micah were born, I was too nerved up to take in the fullness of their beauty. I missed a lot—ah well, life is thus. At fifty-two, I’m still a goofed up customer, but together enough to be present to Cole. And his beauty has cracked me open. No kidding, the Swedish Bikini Team and the Victoria’s Secret Runway Squad could show up, and I’d rather look at the face of my grandson. I’m not going to lie: I’d glance up every few seconds, but Cole would get most of my attention.

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Cole while still in the NICU, hypnotizing his grandpa.

Not even his face. His lips are enough. Or his assertive little nostils. God help this bizarre grandpa, I’m getting verklempt thinking about my grandson’s nose. I’m honestly undone. I’ve had hundreds of days when concentrating was difficult because of troubles real or imagined, but I can’t remember ever struggling to stay on task because of consuming joy.

Sure, Cole’s a standard-issue, boiler-plate, pretty-darned-decent-looking infant, but resting my lips against his fuzzy head has pushed open the door to my soul. Not only can I receive that boy’s beauty, but the lessons and wonders that crowd around me constantly come in for a visit.

Some wonders are quirky. Son Micah wandered into the kitchen last evening smoking his e-cig and wearing something resembling onesie pajamas, tiger slippers, and a hoodie. “I don’t care what anyone says,” he reported. “This is some comfortable shit.” My twenty-one-year-old has developed a taste for the Casablanca Hookah Lounge on Erie’s West 5th Street, where he read old National Geographics, drank Near Eastern tea, and smoked before coming home and changing into something more comfortable.

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Uncle Micah relaxing, smoking his e-cig.

Until Cole was born, the plastic Halloween bobble kid Kathy glued to the truck dashboard annoyed me. The joy space he cleared changed my sneer into a laugh.

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Oh, okay, kind of funny.

A couple lessons in recent days belong in the Whoa, Kind of Deep catagory. The other day I gave extra time to reading the work of fellow bloggers and was rewarded with this affirming observation from James Hollis, posted on agentleinstigator.wordpress.com:

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Jean-Paul Sartre (Credit: Wikipedia)

“What constitutes personal authority? Stated most simply it means, to find what is true for oneself and to live it in the world. If it is not lived, it is not yet real for us, and we abide in what Sartre called ‘bad faith,’ the theologian calls ‘sin,’ the therapist calls ‘neurosis,’ and the existential philosopher calls ‘inauthentic being.’ Respectful of the rights and perspectives of others, personal authority is neither narcissistic nor imperialistic. It is a humble acknowledgement of what wishes to come to being through us.

In my usual state I would have paused and considered such powerful words, but with my soul’s door open, I was able to receive them. “To find what is true for oneself and live it in the world”—yes! That’s my purpose. And acknowledging “what wishes to come to being through” me—another yes! I have so many failings. Some days my life stretches out in front of me like a cobblestone road made of imperfection. But if “what wishes to come to being through” me is a compassionate gaze toward the world, I should also use those loving eyes to regard my own brokenness.

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The face that opened a soul’s door.

Cole, wonder that he is, even guided me to a new appreciation of Facebook. A Napper’s Companion prodded me to join Facebook, but the friends I’ve connected with there have reminded me of human goodness. My light bulb moment came when my nephew Ed called himself a nerd for liking big band music, which reminds him of riding in the car with his late grandfather. Friend Abby, who I’m pretty sure doesn’t know Ed, posted this message for him: “I don’t think you’re a nerd. I think it’s pretty rad you were able to conjure up a great memory.”

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Credit: Wikipedia

Ah ha. Ed in Utah receives affirmation from John’s friend Abby in Pennsylvania. Technology is used to bestow a blessing. Civilization takes an inconspicuous cleansing breath. My past disgruntlement with Facebook had to do with news stories of cyber-bullying and friends being jerks to each other in cyber-public. Only after Ed and Abby’s exchange did I consider that humans are always finding new ways to treat each other like hot dog water. Blaming Facebook for a small fraction of its users’ shabby behavior is like blaming ranch style homes because couples sometimes argue in them. Hey, it’s not the house’s fault. So I say to Facebook, “Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.

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My soul’s door was battered anyway. Cole has done me a favor by unhinging it. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Is Cole’s face responsible for a couple of random epiphanies and shocks of joy? Has his beauty loosened something in me, healed an old wound or two, soothed a deep spirit-cramp? Is he helping me to see graces I’ve overlooked? Or is he innocent? I guess the only judge who matters is writing these words, and I say the kid’s guilty. When I suspect for a second that his eyes are actually meeting mine, my soul’s door swings open. The blessed trouble is, I can’t get it closed again.

Some time today I’m going to stop at Cole’s house, hold him, and wonder if souls can get along fine without doors.

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13 thoughts on “When a Soul’s Door Is Left Open

  1. What a delightful gift your latest blog posting is John. It brought memories of the birth of my own grandchildren into focus. I know Sue will identify with what you wrote as well. I’ll show her when she gets home.
    Enjoy the soulful ride.

    Rob

    • It’s a soulful ride all right, Rob. At the moment, the poor lad has mad diaper rash–poor little bum. Thanks for your kind words. Peace, John

    • Hi, Elizabeth. I really appreciate your reading. I’m looking forward to gushing in the years ahead, but I’ll try to control myself. Peace, John

  2. Welcome to the enlightening world of grandparenting. I need to tell you some stories of Emily and Jimmy. Hoping I will see the wonder of the season through their eyes at Abiding Hope again this year!

    • Hey, ML! First of all, sorry I was silent on your Facebook greeting some time back. Love and appreciation to you always. My world of grandparenting at the moment includes one wicked case of diaper rash–poor red bum. Look forward to see you soon. Peace, John

  3. Beautiful, as you do we have a new grandson born Nov. 1st, a long way away from us, grandparents, and I know how you feel about having your soul opened up, also the look in his eyes as he gazed up at us, I think, and the fuzzy head…..had to leave him behind and come home, this grandchild relationship will be different from our first who lives in town…..guess there is a good thing about facebook and facetime and skype etc. we shall see….
    Thank you for putting into words how we feel about our grandchildren, babies are such a nice way to start people, is a saying that I have on a tile and read it often….enjoy your life with him, it has changed us forever…..

    • Oh, June! You have to be away from the newbie. I’d be weepy, and even though I’m a guy, probably lactating, too. Goodness, this is a consuming love. Peace and thanks, John

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