one more spin around the sun

Yesterday we celebrated Calvin’s eighth spin around the sun. Michael and I awoke thankful for the fact that we are eight long years past the particular hardship of our son’s birth.

I’d ordered a carrot cake—Calvin’s first real birthday cake—from our town’s bakery, partly because I hadn’t had a piece of the scrumptious one they’d donated to the benefit last Saturday, and partly because I always want to feel some semblance of normalcy in this life with a not-so-normal child.

Calvin came off of the bus with a stack of handmade cards from several of his homeroom classmates. They were folded and stuffed into a backpack since he can’t carry them himself. There was one with red and purple hearts and stars and a drawing of Calvin complete with his thick auburn hair and glasses. Another sported a gold chalice, or trophy, and a football similar to the one he plays with in the bath. Others, drawn in thick felt marker, offered simple wishes for a happy birthday. One, written in heavy, confident pencil read:

HaPPy Brthday Calvin!! hoP you hav lots UV FoN to day. HaPPY wishis aNd lots uv XOXOXOXO

Then there was a blue card from his one-on-one, Mary, that said:

You make me so happy with every little accomplishment. I forget that this is work when I’m with you!

Reading it aloud to Michael my eyes filled with tears.

Calvin came down after his bath looking and sounding chipper, better than he had in days since suffering from a prolonged virus including runny nose, headache (we think) and diarrhea. He’s lost at least a pound in the last several weeks on top of the two-plus pounds he’s lost since starting the Keppra for his seizures. I can count his vertebra like a string of marbles and his shoulder blades are sharp as mini boomerangs. So it felt great that he managed to eat a little dinner along with his eight anticonvulsant pills.

I watched the drugs wash over him until he eventually slumped in his high chair in a daze. I set the cake before him and lit eight candles. One for each pill, I thought. He stared at the flickering flames and took a half-hearted bat at the frosting. Poor kid wasn’t interested in anything about the cake, just wanted to poke his eye. He’d hit a chemical wall—a wall of sedative drugs—and appeared as if he’d melt right into the frosting and dripping wax.

I brushed his teeth before Michael carried him up to bed. The candles were still aglow as I peered down at the happy little cake adorned with tiny orange and green frosting carrots. Alone in the room I took a deep breath, leaned down and, as I blew out Calvin’s candles, made a wish that he would one day soon grow out of his epilepsy and be rid of both the seizures and the drugs.

After dinner Michael and I had a piece of the cake as if it were any other—no balloons, no happy birthday song,  no unwrapping of gifts in shiny paper, no fanfare; only fierce birthday wishes for our sweet boy, who hasn’t a clue of the significance that he’s made it one more spin around the sun.

photo by Michael Kolster


  1. Buon Compleanno, Calvin!

    Tanti, tanti auguri da Milano.


  2. dear federica,
    what does 'tanti, tanti auguri da milano' mean?

  3. I wrote:

    "Happy birthday, Calvin.
    Many, many wishes from Milan"

    I started writing and even though I know you don't know Italian, I needed to express my wishes so deep from my heart, in my mothertongue.

  4. yes, i was so glad to get a message in italian! i love it. a friend had already interpreted it for me. xoxo
    are you on facebook?