Shortly after my father lost his long battle with cancer over fourteen years ago, I dreamt vividly about him in what has become a recurring nightmare. In the dream I'm a kid again playing in our gravel driveway with my friend Monica. My father goes to get something out of the garage. As he lifts the wide, rolling door hundreds of large, colored helium balloons burst out. Each is tethered to one thick, braided rope loosely coiled at the entrance.
The huge mass of balloons escapes swiftly into the air and as it does the heavy rope snakes and flops like an errant fire hose. Inadvertently, my father steps into the center of the coil and—like in seafaring movies—becomes entangled. The end of the rope lassoes one of his ankles, yanks his feet out from beneath him, and seems to suck him upwards with the might of a tornado. As I frantically reach out to him he silently sails away, his strong, slender arms outstretched beseechingly.
Craning my neck and shading my eyes from the sun I watch my father, red-faced and upside down, as he soars above, diminishing in size until he and the balloons appear as a speck. My horror is—not only in my acute awareness of his impending demise—but also in my utter lack of control in either preventing the situation or from saving him. I awake from the dream suddenly with a hollow, sick feeling in the pit of my stomach.
This same ill feeling has become familiar to me since my son started having seizures when he was two. There was a time when Calvin was having one to two dozen lengthy tonic clonic (grand mal) seizures each month even though he was on three antiepileptic drugs, plus a rigorous diet, all aimed at curbing them. Each seizure is as unsettling as the last and they appear as an infinite chain.
Calvin has seized in the bath, he has seized in his crib, in his johnny-jump-up, in the grocer, in the doctor’s office and in the car while speeding seventy miles an hour down the highway. And though we are doing everything in our ability to prevent this persistent trauma to our child we feel ultimately powerless and out of control. The feeling is loathsome and bilious, and though I try to maintain control and hold on to hope as tightly as I can, I still feel Calvin's condition slipping just beyond my grasp.