on bruises and black ink

Between the hours of 6:00 and 8:00 a.m. he pulled my hair, pushed off of my throat with the heel of his hand—his upper body weight behind it—and bit my ear. None of this Calvin does with malicious intent, it’s just the way he rolls. He’ll chomp on pretty much anything if it is in front of his mouth, and I’m waiting for the day when he starts to bite himself. I’ve heard stories of neurologically compromised children who engage in self-abuse; they punch themselves in the chest or the head, bite and scratch their arms, nick their corneas, but for us—for now—the only casualties appear to be Calvin’s caregivers.

In the therapist’s chair I lamented my bumps and bruises—both to my body and to my psyche—but my thoughts kept returning to the children of Sandy Hook. We talked about the twenty joyous little lives that had been snuffed out by scores of searing bullets. I hope it had happened quickly enough so that none of them had to suffer or witness their friends’ suffering, but in my mind I couldn’t see how. In a selfish stream of consciousness I spoke of my own joy and how little of it raising Calvin brings me, of how the scales of pleasure and hardship—worry, frustration, anger—are weighted like a stone compared to a feather. I told her, though, that joy isn’t the only redeeming quality in raising Calvin, but that having him has opened up realms to me that I might otherwise never have experienced—my writing, first and foremost. “I’ve always loved words,” I told her, remembering that my favorite book as a child was a thesaurus. I went on to consider that perhaps, in the past, I didn’t think that I had anything important to say with them. So I had stuck with what I was good at, the visual arts, my drawing, photography, designing and quilting, which I loved but that had never fed my soul.

In speaking with my therapist I discovered that my writing is much more than simply cathartic. “I think I help people,” I told her. I went on to describe what a beautiful art form writing is to me, how in my mind it’s another sort of visual expression. “I think of it like sculpting,” I said, and went on to explain that I build a framework, like an architect, then edit and shape the work, carving into it, adding on bits then smoothing them as a sculptor might with clay. As I fashion the piece I paint it with descriptive images, which perhaps transport the reader into my space, my head. I hope one day my writing will take the form of a book with delicately fibrous pages, jet black ink and a hard cover.

After a day of errands and walking Rudy the Dog, seeing my therapist and, most of all, writing, I am recharged, at least enough to endure an evening of possible frustration, hair pulling, shrieking and biting, but no doubt a smattering of smiles, joyous hugs and self-discovery along the way.


  1. RIGHT ON, RIGHT ON, RIGHT ON, Christy! I don't know whether your writing art (for that's what it is) would have emerged in full for any other reason, but it is a wonder now. Your images are vivid with the detail you incorporate, they communicate in depth what you are thinking and feeling, they link me to your life in a way I didn't think anyone could do. It has to be a book, and there will be other books to follow. Meanwhile gird yourself for the bites, scratches and blows that blanket you now, for you will survive to do this.

    Hugs to you, Michael and Calvin....

  2. Do you see me in the room next door? That room of my own? I raise my typing fingers to you --

  3. You do help people; people who feel alone and that they can't possibly put into words, the true amount of suffering that comes with intractable Epilepsy. That's me. I don't complain a lot and when I do, it's usually with my Southern drawl and alot of humor. I'm not brave enough to put it all out there. Putting it all out there makes it very real.

    I suppose that's my coping mechanism. I can't fall apart. I have one child who needs hope that his life is not always going to revolve around his sister's Epilepsy. I have another that needs me to be that "dragon Mom" . I also have a husband who needs to go to sea for months at a time and know that I've got it. I have to keep it together and stay strong so I can cut off a finger tip, rescue my nanny from domestic abuse, and make huge medical decisions, all without him or his warm embrace. (true story- all in 1 weeks time)

    So, you speak for us, those of us who are afraid that doing so, will crumble this foundation we've built. Ain't nobody got time for that! See- told you so.

  4. dear alecia,
    and, too, your words help keep me going.