little ball and chain

Calvin's being sick is a strange mix of emotions—fear, dread, sorrow, frustration—and it pulls me back from the feelings I have when he is manic and nearly impossible to deal with. Those are the times when I selfishly wonder what it would be like if my little ball and chain wasn’t around anymore.

When he’s this sick and crying, coughing, vomiting, not eating, not drinking and feverish, he has a hard time falling asleep unless he wraps his arms around my neck. So, when he was in his bed, I leaned over to let him hug me. His whimpers trailed off and he fell asleep with my head in his grasp, my knees dug into the side of his bed helping to support my own weight over his body. I remained that way until my hand and leg started falling asleep.

Calvin can’t tell us what is wrong, so when he is ill we make a habit of taking him to the doctor to get him checked out. After an hour of waiting we finally saw the doc. She inspected his ears and throat, which looked fine, then informed us that croup is going around. When we got home I looked it up:

Croup: inflammation of the larynx and trachea in children, associated with infection and causing breathing difficulties.

This is how kids like Calvin die. F*ck. What would I do without him?

With my head resting on his hot forehead as he sleeps I peer over his little bird wing to his exposed ribs and his thin, knobby-kneed legs folded up to his chest like a newborn colt. He wears only a t-shirt and diaper to help cool his fever. He appears much smaller than he is, even though at eight-and-a-half he still wears clothing meant for a six-year-old.

Calvin has never really been a healthy child, since even before he was born, lacking a significant amount of his brain’s white matter for no apparent reason save a possible developmental blip. He’s had digestive trouble since he entered this world, has suffered more than his fair share of ear infections and pneumonia, and has endured seizures since he was eighteen months old. Even in the absence of illness he still takes a mind-boggling amount of anticonvulsant medication that would hurl any adult into a brick wall rendering them senseless. The drugs meant to stop his seizures cause him heinous side effects—nausea, drooling, visual disturbances, ataxia, lack of appetite, brain fog. Poor little kid just can’t catch a break.

All day I feared having to take Calvin to the hospital to treat dehydration, respiratory distress or—worse case scenario—a seizure that won’t stop. But he made it through like the champ that he is, took his nine evening antiepileptic pills in one fell swoop and kept them down, then eventually stopped crying and started to drink again.

Today Calvin is on the mend and it appears he’ll be gracing me—and vexing me—for the foreseeable future, which is barely past the end of my own nose, if that. So I'll just try to live in the moment while loving and coping and struggling with my one and only, irreplaceable, sweet little ball and chain.

photo by Michael Kolster


  1. "Is it ok for one to feel this way about their own child?", one may ask. I say, "Yes, yes it is...". Thanks for always being honest, Christy.

  2. Your writing always brings me back to what's really important in life, it reminds me how all the trivial unimportant things that consume daily routine and tend to make me upset are just that, trivial and unimportant. The strength of present moment. Thank you for your words.

  3. dear 80sboy,
    thank you so much for writing. it means the world to me.