what he doesn't know

My eight-year-old son Calvin doesn’t know much—doesn’t know how to tie his shoe, use a knife and fork, scratch an itch. He doesn’t know how to talk or ride a bike or carry a bag or use the toilet or throw a ball or drink from an open cup by himself. He doesn’t know how to read or write or draw or sing or fly a kite or brush his teeth or blow bubbles or comb his hair or hold an ice cream cone or pick a flower. He doesn’t know how to tell time—perhaps doesn’t even have a concept of what time is. He doesn’t know what birthdays are or who Tigger and Winnie the Pooh are or why the sky is blue, that hay is for horses or that Red Sox fans despise the Yankees. Half the time I'm uncertain if he knows who Michael and I are, which makes me wonder if he has any concept of self. And Calvin doesn’t seem to know—or care—that he really has no friends at all, at least not in the true sense of the word.

Calvin won’t miss playing kickball or soccer or softball or lacrosse with his buddies. He won’t miss riding bikes, playing cards or making a papier-mâché piñata with his dad. He won’t miss making his first batch of cookies with his mama. He won’t miss trick-or-treating, picking berries, acting in the school play, fishing, learning how to swim, working a paper route or mowing his first lawn.

And when he gets older—if epilepsy doesn’t take him out first—Calvin won’t probably miss having a sweetheart to walk arm in arm with. He won’t miss driving a car, going to college, living in a dorm, drinking his first beer, or talking with his friends about the world and how to fix it. He won’t miss graduation and reunions and visits with his former teachers. He won’t miss traveling the world, landing his dream job, meeting his life partner and starting a family. He won’t miss seeing his kids grow up, celebrating their birthdays, visiting colleges, sending them off. And Calvin won’t miss all of the joys of being a grandparent. He won’t miss these things because what he doesn’t know can’t hurt him.

Thing is, I know.

photo by Michael Kolster


  1. But I'm guessing he knows that he is loved, even if he doesn't know the word.

  2. yes, i think you are right about that!!!

  3. This post makes me profoundly sad. The world is sometimes a very tough place, especially when it dishes out in series...