Heartbeat - A Fatherís Observation
By Midnight Rose 1992
I have no recollection of the reason I went to Vincentís chamber tonight; it was so late. But what I saw there was like a revelation to me and now I sit here at my desk in the glow of a single oil lamp, trying to put my thoughts into words. The journal I have kept on Vincentís life lays open before me, filled with a Fatherís many observations, a doctorís many, unanswered questions, and my own fears.
Vincent knows nothing of this record I keep, yet in a way he does, for it is his life I document here. Tonight, I write again in retrospection, perhaps a mystery has been solved; perhaps only an understanding has come to light.
It is the slow steady rhythm of life. Is this not the first sound a baby hears when still in the motherís womb? Is this not the first thing a doctor listens for when treating a patient? It is the proof of life. It is the pulse of life.
The baby Vincent came to me so tiny and so ill. The doctorís vow to preserve all life, no matter whose--or whatís---was what guided me at first. It was not until I saw the love for this strange life in gentle Annaís eyes did the father in me take over from the doctor. Only a fatherís love could have given me the hope and courage to survive the fear of nearly losing the weak, abandoned baby whose life hung so close to death.
Three days the baby Vincent burned with fever. Three days he cried. Three days he barely kept down any nourishment. Three days I held, walked, and rocked the irate baby not letting anyone else care for him. I had lost someone I loved very dearly a few short years ago because I did not do all I could have done. This time, the patientís fate would rest all in my hands. I had to prove to myself that I could still save lives and that my years of training were still worth somethingÖthat I was still worth something.
Tired and worn, having gone days without sleep, baby Vincent and I went to the bathing chamber. Perhaps a cool bath would help relieve the fever that gripped the tiny, lion-faced boy.
I disrobed, wrapping a towel about my loins before undressing the squalling infant. The chamber itself was cold, but the water would be warm. An instantaneous scream of cold, fear, and distress resounded in the tiny chamber as the weary infant found a renewed strength to sound against the undressing.
Guilty from the added distress I caused, I picked up the shivering baby, pressing him to my chest and snuggled a towel about him. Almost immediately, the tiny infant quieted. I was stunned. My tired, blank mind reached out to try and grab the reason. What was I doing now that I had failed to do for three days?
As I abandoned the towels and slipped into the soothing water of the claw-footed, antique tub, not a sound of protest came from the worn-out infant cuddled against my chest. I was dumbfounded. I basked in the silence and the warm tub as long as I dared for the babyís sake.
The crying began again the moment I put Vincent down to dry and dress him. Redressed and back in my chamber, I rocked and rocked and rocked. It was to no avail, the tiny infant cried as before, I even held him against my chest as I had done in the bath. What was I not doing? Why could this strange baby not find comfort?
Gentle Anna, the quiet mid-wife, came to check on doctor and patient as she had many times in the past few days. She worried over my health and my lack of sleep. She pleaded with me to let her take the tiny infant so I could sleep. No. I refused. So, she sat beside me on the edge of my cot to soothe me with her presence.
Wearily, I relayed what had transpired in the bathing chamber, still not understanding what I was not doing now that had comforted the wailing baby before.
Anna thought a moment and then gave me the sweetest all-knowing smile. She leveled her blue-gray eyes at me and said. ďMy dear Jacob, have you never heard of the soothing comfort of a warm heartbeat? Open your shirt and lay the baby against your warm heart.Ē
That was the key! Doctor and patient---father and son slept soundly for the next twenty-four hours. For the next month the baby Vincent slept on top of me, his fuzzy head against my warm bare chest.
It is a soothing rhythm of warmth, love, and safety. The beat of a fatherís heart was a haven for the child Vincent. The lion-boy would find comfort in its sound in times of fear, hurt, and distress. The golden child would seek out my lap and press his ear against me often trying to tear the shirt from my chest with his claws. When he was no longer small enough to fit in my lap, the small lad would throw himself against me and clutch me with all his surprising strength. I could do nothing to dislodge him, but held him tight until his distress past and his grip loosened.
This childhood ritual was lost to my memory until a teenage Vincent lay on his deathbed waiting for the end of the dark battle that raged inside of him. I cradled his limp upper body to myself; his strength was spent, all his energy gone. His breathing was shallow and his heart barely able to choke out another beat, but somewhere he found the strength to nuzzle against my chest. I understood what he sought and I pressed his fevered head against my heart. He died in my arms, then miraculously, lived again, waking to the sound of a fatherís love.
Some have said the heart is the seat of the soul. Others say the heart is the center of all emotion, the wellspring of love, the badge of courage, the feeling of joy, the break of sadness. What many do not know is that it has a rare, mysterious and wondrous link that binds two souls, two hearts together. It is the proof of love. It is the pulse of love.
The incredible bond that has formed between my son and his beautiful Catherine is testament of this silken heart-thread. A true, pure love entwines their hearts, their souls, their spiritsótheir very lives. They are as one, each the extension of the otherís heart.
The love they share is extraordinary. It has stood steadfast against every obstacle, fought for good in the face of evil, and has withstood more trials and tribulations then any other love could.
As the rage of man and beast consumed a grown Vincent for the second time, I knew this battle was out of my hands. The only one who could save my son from self-destruction was his soul mate, Catherine. As she walked into that dark tunnel, away from me and into the terror of the unknown, I had to admire her courage. Her love was her only shield against the rage that tore Vincent apart; her love was his only hope.
Hours of silence followed. No longer able to wait, I entered the passageway to follow the path Catherine had taken. Somewhere deep in my mind and heart I knew how I would find them and with great relief I found it so. Vincent gently cradled against a beating heart, the heartbeat of love.
Tonight, I entered Vincentís chamber to find him asleep in the arms of his Catherine. How could I disturb such a beautiful sight with my now forgotten request? The fairytale pair was cast in the amber glow of the stained glass window, contrasts of ivory, gold, bronze and shadow, so beautiful. They had fallen asleep in the middle of what they had been doing; books and papers had slipped from slumbering hands. Catherine was half reclined on the pillows, Vincent laying on his side tucked beneath her arm, his limbs entwined with hers. Her fingers were tangled in the gilt tumble of his mane, holding him to herself.
His exotic leonine features bespoke contentment and peace. Vincentís head pressed to the warmth of his loverís beating breast, the simple and eternal pulse of life and love beating softly in his ear. Catherineís love was the heartbeat in Vincentís life. He embraced her love as though he knew his life depended on it---perhaps it did.
It is the slow, steady rhythm of life. It is the pulse of love itself. I have been so blind to this fact until now. Only someone whose love was so innocent and so unselfish could have shown me this. Only now can I begin to understand.
For Vincent, the sound of a heart was the tangible proof of life and love. Out of a fatherís love, I had tried to protect him from the pain love could bring him. How could I know I was denying him life too? For so many years he had been only a shell of who he could really become. His life had been void of love because of his inhuman differences, because this fool had thought it was the only path for him. I had denied him of the most basic and human need---the touch of warm, living flesh and the sound of a beating heart.
If I had not been ignorant of this elemental need---a need in all persons---would Vincentís life have been different? Easier perhapsÖ
A heartbeat: love and life.