1.18.2020

weekend update

At noon, it's fourteen degrees out. Last night it got down to two. We're sick as dogs inside this lonely house. Sidewalks are icy. While walking Smellie yesterday the windchill factor was well below zero. I feared my jeans would freeze to my kneecaps. The dog has become a little bit gimpy and we don't know exactly where in her leg it hurts, or why. We think it's arthritis as the result of Lyme. Can't get outside today to walk her since I don't have a nurse to watch Calvin.

Michael is on his way home from being gone for nearly twelve days. I hope he brings Hawaii's sun and warmth along. The other night a friend asked if I resented my husband's travel. I told her only sometimes. It's his work, and it makes him happy and he misses home and wishes I were with him, with or without our boy. Alas, because of Calvin, it can't be so.

While Michael has been gone, his parents have been regularly checking in on me by phone. Several friends have walked Smellie when I can't, braving the wind and cold. A dear friend and his daughter shoveled my snowy driveway. One lovely dropped by some homemade spaghetti and cookies. Another brought me tulips, English muffin bread, tea, honey, Meyer lemons and Honeybell oranges. Still another showed up with a warm loaf of lemon poppyseed cake. I'm so lucky to be taken care of by friends in this small town.

Last night Calvin had a grand mal seizure. Strangely, I didn't see it coming. It was early enough in the night that I feared he'd have a second one like he did the past two times. So, I gave him a little extra homemade THCA oil and spooned with him. He didn't have another one.

I hope to get some sleep tonight. I feel wrecked, with achy eyes and a voice which is nearly gone. Thankfully, Calvin is in a mellow mood, thus has been pretty easy to take care of. Of late, I've seen his behavior trending toward more calm. From his room next door I hear him yawn. Time to try a nap of my own while Smellie is out walking with friends. Soon she'll be on her way home.

From the field behind our home.

1.11.2020

double whammy

Blame last night's double whammy on the arc of the full moon. Blame it on a low-grade fever or virus. Blame it on sleep deprivation or anxiety, the barometric pressure or gravity. Blame it on a lack of fluids, a dip in blood sugar, pressure or O2. Blame it on the protracted effects of benzodiazepines which should have never been prescribed for my three-year-old. Blame it on the weight of the world, the scourge of hateful rhetoric, the insanity of deceit and greed, the power of willful ignorance, the threat of war. Blame it on injustice. Blame it on the patriarchy. Blame it on the pharmaceutical industry. Blame it on the superficial solace of the stock market. Blame it on yesterday's regrettable IEP. Blame it on the vacuum of Daddy's absence. Blame it on the warm front coming, and being trapped indoors. Blame it on his brain's messed-up pathways. Blame it on growth spurts and raging hormones. Blame it on the vile nature of epilepsy. Blame last night's two grand mals on anything and everything.

Calvin's grand mal seizure from eight years ago; some things regrettably never change.
             

1.06.2020

weight of the world

Saturday night, I listened to my son wail until he was nearly hoarse. I watched him writhe in some unknown pain. The event, whether cramps, hallucinations, night terrors, or most likely migraine, went on for five hours. None of the measures I attempted—acetaminophen, ibuprofen, THCA oil, CBD—helped to quell his misery.

Downstairs, our dinner guests kept me sane with their loving support through a difficult situation. Hell, we even had some laughs in-between sips of wine, bites of Michael's melt-in-your-mouth porchetta, mashers, green beans, and hearing Calvin shriek. It didn't help for me to remain upstairs with my boy; he's getting big, so someone's liable get hurt if I were to crawl into bed with him, though I did make one failed attempt. Luckily, he's safe in his padded, paneled, netted-canopy bed, able to flop around into positions most comfortable for him. At one point, during my frequent checks on him, he had drifted off briefly while sitting up.

Calvin finally fell asleep close to eleven. Regrettably, three hours later he had a grand mal followed by another one at six a.m. I can't remember the last time he had three serious events in less than twelve hours. He had been doing pretty well lately.

As I laid next to Calvin in the wake of his first seizure, I wondered if perhaps he feels viscerally the weight of the world, causing him anguish or triggering seizures. I thought of the damage our reckless president is doing to the already volatile Middle East. I feared for the animals and people in peril from Australia's rampant wildfires. I worried over a friend who is suffering from late-stage cancer and the side effect from its heinous treatments. I fretted over recent hard conversations with a dear friend regarding prejudice, judgment, the virtues of political correctness, and the hurt felt by both of us. I wondered if Calvin could feel me.

Then, after spending too much time brooding in bed next to my son, I remembered a girl I had met at the grocer earlier in the day. A thin, blond, sweet seventh grader, she had smiled shyly and waved, saying, "Hi Calvin," as we passed her in front of the cold cut case. Holding onto Calvin's hand, I stopped to return her greeting, introducing myself to her father. She explained having met Calvin last year while visiting his junior high school's Life Skills class where she made friends with another student very much like our boy. It dawned on me who she was and that, a few weeks earlier, I had met her mother and another woman who had come to our door sharing info about Jehovah's Witnesses. At first, I'd been a bit sharp with them; because of Calvin, I'm prone to growl whenever anyone tells me that "everything happens for a reason."

"I am not worthy of my son's suffering," I declared to the proselytizers, my heart pounding with contempt for any suggestion that Calvin's misery is some divine plan, a notion which to me seems no less than sadistic. I went on to explain my disdain for organized religion, my disbelief of a merciful or judgmental, anthropomorphized god, stressing my conviction that the Bible is metaphor written by men to explain the unexplainable and to further their power and control over others.

The Jehovah's Witnesses had been kind and forgiving, respectful of my beliefs. I went on to let them in and led them upstairs to meet Calvin, who was in bed resting. There, we exchanged ideas about god, the afterlife, and hell on Earth. Some of our beliefs seemed to overlap. They were loving to Calvin and most sympathetic to our burden. It was a short visit, and as they were leaving I gave them both hugs, plus my card, which has a photo of me and Calvin printed on one side and my blog and email addresses on the other. Two days later, one of them wrote to me, explaining the discovery that her daughter knew Calvin.

Back at the grocer, I said farewell to the girl. I thanked her for being so kind to Calvin and for making and keeping friends with his former classmate, who is non-verbal, developmentally delayed and seizure-prone, just like Calvin.

"You're going to save the world," I told the girl, firmly believing in my assertion that this gentle creature standing before me in boots and a little overcoat, this old soul with wavy blond locks swept back into a bundle, doesn't have a mean bone in her body and loves everyone, just like Calvin.

Lying next to Calvin that night after his miserable pain episode and first of two seizures, and holding the images in my mind of the girl's rosy face and that of her mother's, I drifted off to sleep with the weight of the world—Calvin—in my embrace.

Years ago, photo by Michael Kolster

12.31.2019

hopes and regrets

regrets:

having said the wrong thing. having said the right thing at the wrong time. a handful of half-read books on my nightstand. thin patience. having missed seeing david byrne on broadway. too much complaining. letting time slip through my hands. knee-jerk reactions. time on social media. missed and mixed priorities. complacency. too much focus on politics and the news. pettiness. friends' unanswered emails in my inbox that are over a year old.

hopes:

carve time out to read books during the day. get more sleep. work on my neglected memoir. take up running for the umpteenth time. get out with my girlfriends more often. more simple pleasures like bringing cut flowers into the home. be a better correspondent. get out of town. praise more, complain less. help elect a decent, experienced, respected, measured president. seizure freedom for calvin.


12.30.2019

seizures and dreams

Last night in the wake of my son's seizure, while spooning him, I dream.

I'm in a small room in a strange, sparsely furnished house with a dozen others, none of whom I know. It's just after twilight, an indigo sky crowning a nearby mountaintop. Suddenly, the lights go out. Somewhere, whether in my head or from some eerie broadcast, a man's voice booms that everything is going to come down. It's clear the others hear the ominous message too; I see them scrambling about nervously. Then comes a low rumbling, one which I feel deep in my bones. Is it an avalanche? An earthquake? An explosion? Peering out a nearby window I notice that all of the homes nestled closely together into the mountainside are darkened too. I sit and fret, wondering if a tree will crash through the roof and crush me. I imagine the ceiling caving in, the earth swallowing us whole. I'm held captive awaiting my demise, only to wake to the sound of my son rustling under his covers. It's not yet dawn, and I hear the lonely rumble of passing snowplows, feel the house quake as the plows clear fresh snow from streets which are yet desolate.

With the exception of the unexpected seizure, all is well. Compared with years past, Calvin sleeps well after his grand mals and does not go on to have subsequent ones. No longer does he stay up for hours wired as if in a panic, his heart pounding, his fingers madly knitting. My guess is he is nearing full freedom from some of the effects of benzodiazepines and their withdrawal. Perhaps he is also benefiting from a much lower dose of Keppra than ever before. Maybe my latest batch of THCA cannabis oil is responsible for his recent, relatively low seizure count—only four grand mals this month and zero focal seizures so far—which is less than half his average monthly total.

As I drift back to sleep with surprisingly little worry about my boy, outside, tiny white flakes fall in windless conditions. Though the sun is far from rising, the sky is grey-white. The sleeping world is dark and still and quiet, save the rumbling of passing snowplows.

12.25.2019

north star

Last night, while much of the world lit candles on their menorahs, celebrated the birth of the baby Jesus and prepared for the coming of Kwanzaa, I watched my son seize. He had fallen asleep about an hour prior, and just as Michael and I were readying for bed, I heard Calvin screech. When I got to him, he was reclined with all fours in the air, crooked, stiff, and trembling. There on his back, he couldn't breath. Quickly as I could, I unlatched his bed's safety netting and panel then, reaching in, yanked his right arm to turn him onto his side. Soon, oxygen began passing his lips again, which had turned a ghostly shade of grey-blue, his airway having been blocked by flesh or fluid.

Holding him close to me as he drifted back to sleep, I thought about the tens—perhaps hundreds—of thousands of others whose sons and daughters were also seizing, disrupting special gatherings and gift-giving, candle-lighting and festivities. I thought about refugees who had traveled miles, many to be separated from their parents, to be kept in cold cages, slumped on hard floors without their medications. I lamented the cruel way they've been forsaken.

Earlier, Michael and I had been moved to tears upon reading a message that one of Calvin's nurses, Rita, wrote to us in response to my recent post, hard conversations. Within her loving sentiments, she included this prescient quote:

"I want to know if you can get up, after the night of grief and despair, weary and bruised to the bone, and do what needs to be done to feed the children." —Oriah Mountain Dreamer

She went on to say:

I have the rare privilege of witnessing you and Michael do that day after exhausting day for years and years and years, perhaps for the rest of your lives.

You chose to share your beautiful, so severely limited son, a child who teaches us great lessons in compassion and loving more. In this gifting season, you all are one of the most profound gifts of my life.

Last night as I tucked him into bed, for the third or fourth time, he curled and cuddled into the covers, in his sweet peaceful way. As I kissed him goodnight, again, he gifted me with his sweet smile. He blesses me with his love. I am so grateful for Calvin.

I'm no believer in the folklore which teaches that Jesus is our savior and lord. But, because I have a child who inspires love, acceptance, compassion and empathy, I thought about Jesus, wishing others were so. And in pondering the stories of Christmas—the wise men, the refugees, the innkeepers—I realized Calvin is most like the North Star, bright and constant, shining on everyone no matter who they are.

Photographer unknown