Thursday, February 05, 2015

Lullabies From The Great Beyond

My wife and I recently welcomed a new baby into our lives. A little over 8 pounds of wiggle, gurgle and squeak, his first few weeks introduced many new realities and ideas. One of these connects to a man who died shortly after I turned 17 years old (long ago). But we'll get back to the Bruddah in a minute.

We have been learning about how easily sleep can become optional (even if it remains the most lovely and wonderful thing when available), how well a person can listen while "asleep," and who is the lightest sleeper in our house (spoiler: neither of us would have guessed but it's me).

Starting in the hospital, we worked on a balancing act that parents have navigated long before us including our parents, grandparents, and theirs before them. Welcoming our defenseless, beautiful little boy into our lives, and our arms, we tried to uncover what he needs and wants based on cries, grunts, looks, smells, and the wisdom of books, doctors, parents and friends. This has been a wonderful adventure.

In those earliest days at the hospital, I was learning about what it took to soothe a crying baby, trying music, bouncing, and eventually one day doing a slow dance around our small hospital room with our baby in my arms. He seemed to like my broad, swinging motions as we swayed together to Jeff Buckley's cover of Leonard Cohen's, "Hallelujah," Lou Reed's "Perfect Day," and a long-time favorite, Israel "Iz" Kaʻanoʻi Kamakawiwoʻole's mashup of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" and the Louie Armstrong classic, "What a Wonderful World."

Here he is snoozing to Wilco, not Iz, little hands in the air.
It felt magical when these dance moves of mine and music combined to send him down into a quiet, peaceful sleep. Weeks later, we continue to try to master the tricks of motion, sound, and light to locate the snooze button. Variables abound that can throw off sleep efforts, and constants emerge as well. Iz became our go-to solution when a sleepy baby was needed in the very first days. He provided many needed moments of relaxation, quick chances to clean something or someone, or just the moment to hit the bathroom. We have played many kinds of music for our little guy including classical, alternative, country, zydeco, soul, folk, world music, jazz, an array of singer song writers, and some select rap, but from the first days at home, putting that one island tune on repeat was the most reliable way to let our guy catch an express train to dreamland.

During his own time, Iz was a singer who was larger than life, in more ways than one, and ultimately he was larger than life could contain, succumbing to multiple health issues at the young age of 39. His last name translates as, "The Fearless Eyed" but to our newborn son, I would re-name him, "the heavy eyed." There are all kinds of beliefs related to what happens after we die, but for Iz, I can say with certainty that his voice persists, and is one of the most reliable tools we have found to help our baby boy find his comfort zone, and enjoy some sleep.

I can only imagine that in his little baby dreams, he feels the edges of waves lapping against his tiny toes, as he listens to a large Hawaiian man who strums a tiny ukulele keeping him wrapped up in the arms of sleep, whether he's snoozing through a bright blessed day, or a dark sacred night.

What a wonderful world, indeed.

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