two ships passing

It has become clear to me during the last few conversations with my mother that she no longer understands what a telephone is used for (we have to explain it to her) and, though she is familiar with dogs, she doesn’t know what a cat is. Words continue to escape her and yet—thankfully—she doesn't appear to be too bothered and, for now, maintains the capacity to understand quips and jokes.

I imagine Mom and Calvin like two ships passing in the night, trading places, though Calvin will never have the intellect that his grandmother once enjoyed. At this point—my mom eighty-three, my son eight—they both need assistance walking, they both wear diapers, they both need supervision while eating and bathing, they both require spotting while going up and down stairs and, though Calvin has yet to utter his first word, my mother is losing her vocabulary daily.

I am reminded of Martin Amis’ novel, Times Arrow, in which the main character's life goes backwards. Like Benjamin Button, he gets younger and younger with time until becoming a mere infant, his life eventually snuffed out in his mother's womb. Just like Mom, I think. Some day, likely in the not-too-distant future, like a baby she will no longer have a memory, then she will simply disappear into the womb of mother earth.

But fortunately, my mom will live on in me and in Calvin. We take her with us—put her in our pocket, to use a friend’s phrase—in the things that come to us naturally by way of our shared biology: vivaciousness, lightheartedness, sense of humor, optimism, kindness, affection, sprightliness and warmth. I clearly see all of these qualities in my boy, though he has no spoken language, and I am amazed and delighted at how much he takes after my mother. I’ll be forever graced with these two lovely ships passing in the night, even when they disappear into the fog.

Mom and Calvin, 2006


  1. There's a saying here, "¡Que sabiduria!" (¡What wisdom!") That's what I think of when I see this photo. I'm sorry for all you're going through, Christy.

  2. Spectacular photo, and the lilt in your voice, however tempered, makes my heart warm.