patch of light

At one-thirty in the morning I open my eyes to see Nellie sitting at my bedside with her furry muzzle resting on the mattress. I pat her head and as Michael goes to let her out for a mid-night pee—something we haven’t had to do in the month we’ve had her—I wonder if she might be trying to tell me that Calvin is going to have a seizure. I look in on Calvin and find him sleeping as soundly as I’ve ever seen, which makes me nervous, but I’m so tired I have no trouble falling back to sleep.

It’s four-thirty. I hear my boy gurgle and gasp. “Here it is,” I say to Michael, who quickly joins me at Calvin’s bedside, helps me unfasten the netted canopy, unlatch and lower the safety panel. Calvin’s hands are grey and clammy and his eyes are roving as if he’s blind. Because I don’t want him to have a second seizure, I fetch the cannabis oil, draw up the golden liquid squeezing several drops between his parted lips, pausing every few drops allowing him to swallow.

We change his diaper, which is soaked, then I crawl into bed next to him and Michael turns the light out. Besides a patch of light on Calvin’s back wall the room appears black to my unadjusted eyes and I can hear Nellie breathing on the floor next to the bed. She has never slept there before.

From Calvin’s room I can hear the downstairs clock chime every half hour. Calvin shakes and shivers for over thirty minutes, finally easing into calm, rhythmic breathing. I turn my back on him to get comfortable and, for a moment, he goes silent, still. I wonder if he has stopped breathing or if his heart has stopped, or both. It happens to people with epilepsy. They die in their sleep. For a second I consider whether I should turn to check on him or whether I should just let him be. He suffers so much, I think, and I imagine releasing him, imagine my life without Calvin, which could be so liberating yet so dark. But then he takes a big breath and yawns, and I know he is still with me, my little patch of light amidst the blackness of the hours.

photo by Michael Kolster


  1. It wouldn't surprise me at all if Nellie grew sensitive to whatever signals Calvin puts out of an impending seizure. She seems like a very sweet girl.

  2. It sounds to me, too, like Nellie may become Calvin's service AND comfort dog! That would be such a blessing!

  3. My daughter has a mole that is changing. I considered just leaving it, thinking that perhaps melanoma might not be so bad, very briefly. I took her to see the dermatologist who looked at it and said it was not melanoma, even though it fit all the criteria for melanoma. She needs a general anesthetic for a biopsy which he didn't want to do, too much hassle. Which got my fur up and I realized I don't want to lose my daughter just yet, even though life with her is hard. I will fight for her just as you fight for Calvin. It's what we do.

    1. lily, my calvin has a similar mole. there is a name for it and it is benign even though it has the characteristics of melanoma. his is changing (getting bigger) simply because he is growing. i had similar thoughts around calvin's mole. i know what you mean. we are in this together. xo