lost to me

From time to time, and more often than I’d like—though simultaneously cherishing the feeling—I am confronted head-on with my loss, the loss of what could have been but will never be.

Sometimes simple moments appear and move past me, like the toothless little girl, skipping in rubber boots with her father saying to him, “it’s not mud, it’s watery dirt.” Other times it’s a young toddler sitting happy and confident, bobbing on his father’s shoulders. Still others might be crisp college-bound kids with skinny necks, neatly dressed, strolling slowly arm in arm with their parents down a tree-lined campus path.

These images, and untold others that I encounter every day, are reminders of what I will likely never experience with Calvin. In the beginning, seeing them was difficult to bear and I’d run for cover, sheltering painful sobs in my sleeve. Then I gradually realized, over many years, that life wasn’t going to stop for me. It would keep going on around me whether I liked it or not. Babies would be born, they’d learn to crawl, to speak, to ride bikes, to read, to one day have sweethearts, and so on. These are things to celebrate even if it isn’t my child who’ll be doing them, I say to myself. My brain now acknowledges this, though my heart has had trouble keeping up.

A young man I met briefly a few years ago, a former student of Michael’s, has reacquainted himself with us after my invitation to help me on a project. He came up from New York and spent a low-key weekend getting to know Calvin and hanging out with us in our home. He was simply a delight, courteous and thoughtful.

When the weekend was over, as I drove him to the airport, I embellished emotionally on Calvin’s birth and epilepsy. At the drop-off curb, I got out and hugged my new friend farewell. I was sad to see him go. As I drove away, a sting of sorrow, intertwined with a warm happy glow, twisted and tightened around my heart. I realized that this young man, who a handful of years ago was just a boy, was young enough to be my son. What a wonderful son he must be, I thought. My mind flooded with so many images of things lost to me because of Calvin’s circumstance, images that layered at first like a collage and then became a sorry stack of one faded snapshot after another in a chain link reaction of loss over time.

But then, I thought of him again, the young fellow, and how he has become a part of my life, if only for a moment. I feel so lucky for my fondness of him and for the mere fact of our meeting to exchange ideas and emotions. My loss has taught me to take nothing for granted and to see, with utter clarity, the gifts bestowed onto me by others. Perhaps what has been my greatest loss—Calvin’s lack of thriving development and well-being—will be in some weird and wonderful ways also my gain.

Though if I were asked, I’d always choose a healthy Calvin who could make some other mother feel the same way that my new friend has kindly made me feel.

1 comment:

  1. When Christy emailed me to tell me that today's post was about me I was eager to read it. Every entry of her blog is so touching: always beautifully and powerfully written. I have to admit that whenever I hear from Christy or Michael my heart fills with happiness.

    Michael, Christy and Calvin invited me in to their home with the most generous hospitality I've ever received.. For the first time in my life I actually felt that I could make myself at home while being in someone else's home.

    After reading today's post I'm left with some mixed feelings. While I am grateful for Christy's kind words, I also am incredibly sad for Calvin's lack of development and well being. I am amazingly thankful for my growing friendship with Mike, Christy and Calvin, and the last thing I would want is to remind Christy or Mike of their loss in Calvin's development and his struggles with epilepsy. Although, I gather that Christy's feelings are more complicated then a simple sense of loss. She is very intelligent and looks beyond her loss to find happiness. I must say that the lucky feeling that she has for our friendship is mutual.

    Reading the post today reminded me about a story my mother has told me several times about my cousin who was born with down syndrome. As his birth approached doctors were very negative in the way they spoke to my aunt. They told her of all the things he would not be able to do -of all the disabilities he would have. As my cousin grew into a delightful, happy young man, my aunt told my mother that all of the doctors that were focused on my cousin's lack of ability never mentioned how much love he would be capable of. I look at my cousin now and aspire to the amount of love he gives forth.

    I agree with Christy and spend a lot of time with Calvin in my thoughts - hoping for his well being and wishing that he didn't struggle with so many disabilities. I would choose a healthy Calvin, too. However, I still feel that in her lost Christy has had, in some ways, a weird and wonderful gain. When I look at Calvin I see a beautiful, happy young boy. He has the best laugh I've ever heard. After only one weekend with his family, I know that Calvin recognizes his parents and loves them immensely. Although it's a hard pill to swallow, I think Calvin's disabilities are also a gift. He certainly makes me want to be a better person and appreciate every moment of the life and opportunities I have been given. Let's find a cure for epilepsy. Let's help Calvin to develop and grow into the amazing young man that he will become, so that he may continue to impact the lives of his family and others in profoundly touching ways.