Besides being a personal reminiscence, this blog is about the physiology of “touch”.
Years ago (I mean over thirty) it was beginning to become fashionable in nursing schools to teach the art (or science, or method, or whatever) of “therapeutic touch”. By this I mean that it is observed that the power of human touch and “energy” that may be transferred from one person to another can be an objective healing force.The controversy that erupted from this teaching (“proven!” say the believers, “quackery!”, say the scoffers… each group has its own philosophical presuppositions and scientific studies to bolster their positions) continues to this day.
I’m not going to get into the scientific arguments pro or con, here. On the one hand I urge patients to be cautious of the subjective nature and sometimes outright charlatanism that exists in the “alternative medicine/healing energy” camp. On the other hand I am equally disgusted by the arrogant closed-mindedness of those who reject even the possibility of the spiritual and non-material realm and its effect on physical healing.
I can’t prove the existence of love by scientific experiments, but tell me of any greater force on earth for bodily recovery, reconciliation, sacrifice, bravery, and physical strength. And no one can deny that an empathetic touch or the healing presence of a caring person has physical therapeutic power to a sick one. The philosophical materialist who denies the existence of anything other than the tangible, observable, and quantifiable realm merely says such a phenomenon is “psychological”.
Oh…. right. That explains it away. (I refer the reader to my recent blogs on mind and body).
So what about the “Grandpa Moment’?
About nine months ago, when my first grandchild was a huggable little bundle instead of the perpetual motion machine he is now, I had come home to find my daughter and him with my wife. My daughter sweetly inquired… “Pappa, ya wanna hold your little grandson awhile?”
Now, mind you, I had already experienced as “Physician-Father” the miracle of my own daughter’s birth some thirty years earlier up close and personal. I had then assisted in the delivery of her firstborn, my grandson, not two months ago. This alone to me was mystical and special beyond comprehension. I had said as much to others, albeit in a rather intellectual and detached way. But the “Grandpa Moment” had yet to happen.
I knew, at least in my head, what that was. After over thirty years of medical practice, my patients of appropriate age and requisite offspring had long regaled me on the exquisite joy of grandparent-hood. I could describe fully (at least vicariously) the experience, having heard of it often enough.
So, at the moment of my daughter’s winsome invitation, my mind was a million miles away (it usually is) and I had a lot to get done and precious little time to spare. But… after a surreptitious glance at the clock… I knew I was obligated to hold my grandson, so I cheerfully said, “Of course!” hoping my insincerity would not be visible.
Taking the little slumbering lump in my arms I headed for the front porch to sit in the rocker. It was a lovely Fall day and I supposed I had maybe fifteen minutes or so to spare. Plunking down in the rocking chair and trying to settle in I felt a bit impatient, since, as I said before, I had a lot on my plate that day…
…About forty-five minutes later I didn’t care. Time had disappeared. “Stuff to do? What stuff?” I held the Universe in my arms. I stayed there another thirty minutes and you could have compressed Eternity into that time slot.
Say what you will about the physical effects of touch. Someone had mainlined a super sedative into my veins that afternoon. I’m looking at him now. (I’m still high).
Carrying the cuddly critter back to his mom I sighed peacefully: “I get it.”