My first grandson was born by caesarian, six weeks premature. Fluid appeared in his stomach and he had stopped moving. The doctors had to intervene. He had a leak in his lymph system. Lines were hooked up to provide the fluids his little body was missing. After eight weeks, multiple lines were replaced by one line – a ‘broviac’ over his heart. Since his immune system was compromised, he was in the hospital for six months. As the insurance company was well aware, Oliver is a million-dollar baby.
The lymph fluid seeped into his whole body. The new soft baby skin was stretched like a balloon, swelling up his stomach, arms and legs. His tiny hands were like bubbles. An operation closed the major leak and Stanley’s own willpower seemed to do the rest. Gradually the swelling disappeared, his immune system developed and his muscles grew. His own evolution took over.
Fortunately, his mother had six months maternity leave and his father worked independently for a distant mortgage company, so both parents were with him every day. The blessing was that little Oliver had nothing with which to compare his experience. As far as he knew, this is life … there is nothing otherwise. He would get uncomfortable though, as fluid build-up affected his breathing. He was drained once a week. Consitutionally, he was a tough little guy.
I began praying for him from the beginning. I was miles away from San Francisco, in the California Sierra mountains but the little guy had all the family and professional support available. As the veterans said, it was up to him at a certain point. All I could do was imagine the best for him.
Prayer, to me, means looking inwards and finding the connection that takes me out of my self. Prayer is a state of mind. That state of mind belongs to us all. Prayer works, I believe, subtle as it may be. Decades ago, I had helped heal my dislocated hip by imagining a constant flow of blue-green energy, sweeping in and through the joint. Who knows for sure, but it seemed to me like it helped. There are subtle energies that operate on a spectrum just beyond our senses. It takes faith to reach them. I had believed that all my life and I practiced seeing things that way. I felt like, if prayer now had a place, it was time for all that practice to pay off.
In prayer, I began projecting, imagining blue-green energy swirling in and around my tiny grandson, finding and fixing unresolved tissue. I went there in my mind for hours a day. I called to him through the 25% of the genes that we had in common. Without thinking about it, I began to mirror his personal struggle. I started working with hand-weights when I went on my long daily walks. I made it my mission to get in shape, all the while thinking of little Oliver … imagining him to be me and me to be him. The difference was only 70 years.
His mother and father, the nurses and doctors, all commented on how strong the little guy appeared to be. That was the beginning of a novel thought for me. What if we can have something going on here? What if there is a connection, very subtle more than likely, that resonates between my grandson and me. I imagined that the experience would not be the same as having a son. Upon my son’s birth, it was clear as crystal that we had a connection. After all, he was half me. I did not expect the connection to be as direct for a son once removed. I was wrong.
Since the news of his conception, I had been imagining a connection in my meditations. As if I were he and he were me. After a month or so of directing my thoughts in this way, I began to sense an unfamiliar shape, swirling in my mind. A slight form emerged amongst the blue-green streams, spiraling and sweeping, this way and that. There was something very subtle about it. It had a pulse. At its’ heart, it didn’t seem to be me. I imagined it to be my grandson.
Since college and Carl Jung, I have believed that we are all connected on a subconscious level. There is an element of faith in exploring those dimensions. They are non-local and will not be pinned down in words, despite how hard religions and philosophies may try. The experience we all have had – of a resonance that lifts us up out of our ‘selves’ – cannot be captured or willfully repeated. It is just a glimpse of the weave that underlies it all. To be honest, I did not expect to be aware of a connection. I assumed it was all based on faith. But I began to realize, as little Oliver was in the hospital month after month, we were beginning to think along the same lines.
During one visit to the hospital, I watched as he lay in his crib. His mom lowered a bar from which hung several colorful plush toys. It occurred to me that the little red one on the far left caught his attention. I imagined punching the little rabbit with our left arm as precisely as I could. I saw his right arm lift. I assumed it had to do with our connection. He tried several times. I’m not sure he knew that it was actually his arm yet. There was a subtle difference. It didn’t work to ‘try’ to move our arm. I had to ‘assume’ it was moving. I had entirely forgotten how I move my own limbs. I couldn’t push it. I just had to imagine it was so.
In such a tiny body, it wasn’t long before he tired. I could feel him going to sleep. There was a softness that I had not experienced in my own life since was I was child. A warm sleepiness like sliding back into heaven. His parents and I went out to lunch while he was sleeping. In the middle of the food truck barbeque, I felt an internal tick that told me Stanley was waking up. I looked at his mother to see if she were feeling the same thing. She was enjoying being outside, chatting with everyone. I dismissed it as my own projection. Still, I imagined that Oliver would like to turn on his side. An odd thought.
It was when I heard the crying that I knew something weird was going on. I woke up suddenly, in the middle of the night. A baby was next to me, wailing for attention. I knew it was not my imagination. It was out there. I was living in an RV, deep in the pine forest. I had no neighbors. I looked around for the source. I heard it. There was something there. At the time, it didn’t occur to me that the sound I had heard had anything to do with my internal state, with my wishes and prayers. They were insubstantial. This was not.
This was a note I had never heard before. This was here, somewhere. As I lay awake for the rest of the night, watching thousands of stars roll across the pitch-black sky, it eventually occurred to me that, fantastic as it may sound, perhaps we had connected. I was an old man who had seen just enough to know that anything was possible and who had done just enough not to mind being wrong. What if I could guide this little soul through the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune? What if I could lend a sympathetic ear when all it takes is someone to listen? And what if we could do it all at a distance. It would be a tricky business, finding reality in the imagination. Boundaries would be important – something I was never very good at.
As the sunlight gathered strength, splintering between the pine trees, I heard another cry. It was a sound I would get used to. It would split into finer notes, eventually into a conversation, as we got to know each other well. I imagined wrapping my arms around that tiny soul and filling it with love. He would not be alone as long as I was around. In my mind, I put my finger in his little hand. Hold on to Grandpa, I thought, we will take this one on together.