Week 4, day, night?
It’s the mother of all before-and-after experiences, a tectonic shift inside and out that sidesteps all anticipation and eludes all explanation. And that’s just from a parent’s point of view. For the newborn it can barely be guessed at. Born of the world and into the world, rent from the soft and muffled darkness of amniotic slumber, from darkness into light. A before-and-after trip never to be remembered, and most likely for very good reasons.
Each day delivers kaleidoscopic shifts in perspective now and, living in the neutral zone of a non-relationship with no outlet save my smart phone’s notepad and the sanctuary of the diary, emotions eddy endlessly as the ground pitches and rolls beneath my feet.
A baby’s cry, once someone else’s problem, mere noise pollution – distraction from a book on a bus or the sound of a checkout queue that’s lasted too long – is now my baby’s cry. It’s Leo’s, it’s distinctive, uniquely his, somehow always known to me, and coded for my response. It resonates at a cellular level, molecular vibrations turn my entire body into an ear. And I never imagined for so much as a second that it would not be his crying that would be intolerable, but rather his suffering, the pure anguish and injustice of needs unfulfilled. And now the cry of any child echoes his own, and the inner voice that once implored the parent to shut that child up now urges help that child.
His face, a reflection of mine, enhanced with visual echoes of my father’s and his mother’s father’s, but his very own, a one-off for all time and ineffably beautiful. Each morning a new day in his eyes. I look at him, I look at me, and it seems barely credible, ludicrous even, that I had a hand in his creation, so luminous is his beauty. There’s a joke in there somewhere but I can’t find it in me to laugh at it yet, and for now it’s enough to know that it is indeed I who can take (half of) the credit for this latest, all-new chapter in all our lives.
A story half-read in the day’s papers – Sinatra Sr leaves Sinatra Jr when Jr’s barely six, and the pieces barely picked up four decades on to leave decades more of debilitating uncertainties as a son flounders in his father’s shadow, and you wonder how any man can turn away, whatever the enticements, whether centre of his own star-studded universe or part-timer forever mithering on the periphery.
A shame-faced reflection on those less fortunate and an attempt to place my own small whirlpool of turmoil into some form of perspective as I read of a young Liverpool widower’s struggle to raise four young children alone, months after cancer has taken his young wife.
A scene from a parallel life as I daydream in the afternoon – Leo as a child, seat-belted in the open rear of a hire car hurtling holiday-happy along southern French roads colonnaded by plane trees, mouth agape in delight as sunlight and shade dance in alternation across his face. I can’t see who’s driving – an episode from my life or someone else’s?