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Beverly Beckham

A world of love and hope from a baby I’ve never met

31zobeckham - Mark Garfinkel reflected in his son's eye. (Mark Garfinkel)
Mark Garfinkel
Mark Garfinkel reflected in his son's eye.

They have been my surprise silver lining in 2017, Facebook posts from a guy I barely know about a baby I’ve never met. Words and photos that gripped me from the start, that made me hope and gave me hope, and that continue, every day, to make me smile. Like a favorite show or a book you can’t put down, the continuing story of Leo Robert Garfinkel is my antidote to this big, bad, ever-troubled world.

Mark Garfinkel
Leo Robert Garfinkel.

It’s been an extra tough year. Wars, hate, bombings, lies, arrogance, disrespect, threats, injustice, fire, floods, hurricanes, earthquakes. All day. Every day. Tragedies without end. It’s a challenge to stay positive.

But into this toxic mix came a baby I’ve met only online, whose presence, whose existence, makes me believe here is hope for the human race.

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Leo was born on April 14, 8 1/2 weeks before his due date. He weighed just 3 pounds 14 ounces. His mother, Laura Crimaldi, is a reporter for the Globe. His father, Mark Garfinkel, is a photographer for the Boston Herald. Given our shared profession, you’d think that we’d be friends. Or at least know each other a little. But we don’t. We have never talked on the phone. We have never once visited. We are only Facebook friends.

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And yet, their child has brightened my days. Or maybe it’s his parents who have given me hope. Right after he was born, Mark began posting about him. Facts and pictures. Leo in the NICU, so small that his pacifier hid his face. Leo on Day 19, “Today I weigh 4 lbs and 11 oz and I’ve decided to be a pin-up/centerfold model when I grow up.” Leo on “Day #whatever the heck it is,” when he didn’t need his feeding tube anymore.

On May 20, Leo came home. On May 22, there’s a photo of him drinking his bottle. On the 25th, he’s reaching for his mobile. There’s his room. There he is doing tummy time. There he is listening to music. “Today Leo discovered Led Zeppelin.”

There is so much love in these posts. It’s not unusual, this love. It’s the love of two parents doing what most parents do, feeding, changing, smiling, gawking, basking in the gift that every child is, standing next to a crib late at night and whispering, “Thank you, God,” the miracle of one, tiny human being, too big for any other words.

What is unusual is that Leo’s parents are sharing their joy, documenting all the small things that are really the big things, the most important things. Here’s our Leo, the parents say, not showing him off, just showing him. Giggling at his mobile. Staring at his fish. Sleeping in a onesie that says, “EAT. SLEEP. DREAM.” Mark writes under a selfie of Leo and him, “Best friends.” And on a day when tensions about nuclear activity from North Korea escalate, Mark writes, “SUDS o’ Fun/wLeo. Bath time,” and posts a half-dozen pictures.

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“Apple of my eye, err, Leo’s eye,” is a closeup of Leo’s eye in which his father is reflected. It’s a beautiful shot. All the photos are.

But it’s not the quality of the photos that rivet me. It’s the joy in and thanksgiving for every little thing. Leo in a new hat. Leo cooing. Leo at the beach. Leo frowning. Leo smiling. Leo growing bigger and bigger every day.

Mostly we hear just bad news. That’s what news is all about. And bad news leaves us feeling not just bad, but hopeless.

Leo is good news, and more good news is that this world is full of mothers and fathers, aunts and uncles, grandparents and friends, ordinary people, who love the way Leo’s parents love. With wonderment and joy. And wonderment and joy are contagious. Which, in these troubled times, may be our saving grace.

Beverly Beckham’s column appears every two weeks. She can be reached at bevbeckham@gmail.com.