standard deviation of three

I know my beloved son—compared to the mainstream population—might be seen as a little freak—an anomaly, misfit, oddball—or whatever word the image of Calvin might conjure on any given day at any given moment. Recently, I got inspired to look up the word.

freak \ˈfrēk\
a very unusual and unexpected event or situation.
a person, animal or plant with an unusual physical abnormality.
a person regarded as strange because of their unusual appearance or behavior.
a person who is obsessed with or unusually enthusiastic about a specific interest.
a person addicted to a drug of a particular kind.
sudden, arbitrary change of mind; a whim.

react or behave in a wild and irrational way, typically because of the effects of extreme emotion, mental illness or drugs.

Whether noun or verb, the above definitions describe Calvin to a great degree. He was born unexpectedly early and with abnormal brain architecture that lead to his unusual behavior, the seizures, the drugs and, as a result, his obsession with biting and banging, his mood swings and mania. I remember when he was two—before the epilepsy—a developmental therapist came to evaluate him. I sat on the couch with a cup of coffee and answered a litany of questions about his progress (or lack thereof) to each of which she assigned a number before tallying. She told me that Calvin’s performance was three standard deviations from the norm. When I asked her what that meant she told me that it couldn’t get much worse. With the knowledge that Calvin’s developmental gap was widening as time passed, I wondered what kind of future he’d have, wondered if he’d ever be able to crawl or walk or talk. Then came the seizures and—on the heels of them—the drugs, drugs, drugs, drugs, drugs.

My little-standard-deviation-of-three-freakazoid and I often get the kind of gawks and ogles worthy of a couple of misfits. Sometimes we even provoke tears, whether due to the observer's fear of the unknown or some kind of intimidation of other—of a child behaving in an absurdly odd or grotesque manner. People are drawn to us and repulsed at the same time, like rubberneckers at the scene of some bloody accident.

Mostly, the gawking doesn’t bother me anymore, though I am still conscious of it in an-eyes-in-the-back-of-my-head kind of way. Perhaps I’m desensitized because I love and understand Calvin (to the extent that I can in the absence of his language) and I kind of know his depth of love and affection, his desire to feel good, to please, to progress and learn, which are the most normal things in the world. Or perhaps I feel an affinity with Calvin having always liked being a bit different myself—you know—the goofball, the artist, the clown, the extrovert, the progressivist, the magnet who embraces all walks of life without as much as a blink.

But I still wish others could get past Calvin's differences and see him for who he is, recognize the miserable hand he’s been dealt, understand the obstacles he faces, get to know him and simply love the little freak that he is. If this could happen I can only believe that there is hope for the world to be a much better place. But as long as the fear of other continues to fester amongst many orthodox thinkers, we freaks won't be the only ones facing hard times.

photo by Bebe Logan


  1. From your lips to the god the freaks' ears.

    In all seriousness, have you ever read Robert Rummel Hudson? He writes beautifully -- and in an unorthodox way -- about his daughter Schuyler and her polymicrogyria, which he calls her "monster."

  2. no, i have not red him. i've got a long list of must reads that i will add this to. xo