I poke through an assortment of stuffed animals left after our grown children moved out. Among various bears, here is our son’s rhinoceros, two circles on its face like vertical eyes where velvet horns are now tattered nubs of cotton stuffing. Such abnormalities are birthmarks, in a way, marks of the emergence into adulthood after the long human development of a child. How necessary it was, all that wear and tear, the regular nightly embraces that softened and thinned the horns of a toy rhinoceros whose counterparts in Africa lie wasted from human greed.
There are stories of terror. And there are others of human magnificence. Our small granddaughter, three days old, lies sedated in an incubator, her face, chest, arms and legs relaxed open in surrender. She has been saved by magnificent humans, her own strength, the warm touch of her parents and grandparents, and the grace of God.
I wrap up "Rhiney" for my now 31-year-old son to hold while he cannot hold his first child. I wonder at this inanimate thing, the color of stone, able to vibrate with life and healing though it cannot heal itself, or feel me holding it. We shoot meaning into what we touch and attend to. What essence are we connecting with in these things, which are also somehow vibration, linking with our own pulsing souls?
And how much more then, between living beings?
“How shall I hold my soul that it may not
Be touching yours? How shall I lift it then
Above you to where other things are waiting?
Ah, gladly would I lodge it, all forgot,
With some lost thing the dark is isolating
On some remote and silent spot that, when
Your depths vibrate, is not itself vibrating.
You and me – all that lights upon us though,
Brings us together like a fiddle bow
Drawing one voice from two strings, it glides along.
Across what instrument have we been spanned?
And what violinist holds us in his hand?
O sweetest song.”
— Rainer Maria Rilke
Our granddaughter, Olive Rose, was born Monday night with a congenital abnormality called Tracheoesophageal Fistula, which means that her trachea and esophagus were connected in bad ways, and her esophagus did not connect with her stomach. She would not have survived if surgeons at the Children's Hospital had not operated Wednesday to reconstruct the trachea and esophagus for normal functioning, after a day of tests Tuesday. Gratefully, Olive does not seem to have the other abnormalities that can come with this one (and do for half the babies that do), and she underwent five hours of thoracoscopic surgery with four little incisions. She will stay in children's hospital 30 days to recover.