Perched on the toilet seat lid, my boy propped between my knees, I hear the rattle of the shutters in his little hands, feel the smoothness of his belly in my palms. I smell his hair, the sweetness of his breath, notice the grooves in the wood floor beneath my feet, bits of grit wedged between its slats. I’m tempted to wallow in the monotony, but this time, instead, I try practicing mindfulness, which my friend Elizabeth highly endorses. Mindfulness, as I see it, is the art of living in the moment taking in all of life’s trivial details with each breath, letting them settle like dust in my mind’s eye before exhaling. Mindfulness is also something we can practice with others.

Our scene becomes its elements, we become its essence. Little fingerprints on the mirror are clouds, the black mark on the wall, a comet. I regard the bend in my son’s slender arm which he offers me, and I fit my mouth on it, delicately, like sucking on a peach. He giggles. Nellie pads into the room, her blonde coat like a palomino, its darker parts the color of Puerto Rican sand or of a penny. Nellie’s brown eyes are the same as my mother’s, and I close mine trying to conjure her voice.

I melt back into the moment, notice the hydrangea on the other side of the drool-smeared window. Its blossoms are beginning to open, turning from faint green to ivory, bowing their popcorn ball heads under the weight of a recent rain. Spiders and their beaded webs inhabit the spaces between shrubs. Woody stepped on one yesterday. “Spiders are good luck,” Michael had said as Woody's loafer twisted into the bug, and I’d thought about the daddy long legs my friends and I had pulled apart limb by limb when I was a child.

While struggling with Calvin on our way to visit Woody, my monotony turns to self-pity. I want to cry over my sorry circumstances, about the fact that my son engages in the same activities that he did when he was two, that he can't talk and can't walk without risk of falling, that he remains in diapers though he is ten years old. Life paces along slowly. Little changes. Little improves. “It gets better,” one woman said to me the other day. I told her I wasn’t so sure. Another man, a stranger in my home there to check the furnace, asked about Calvin and when I explained he said, “God doesn’t give you more than you can handle.” I stridently disagreed, citing those lost to suicide. Shamefully, he insisted, saying, "That's their choice." I told him that, if there is a God, a Force, a Spirit, "He, She, It" doesn't dole out misery and suffering, giving more to some than to others, "Like Calvin," I said, "I don't believe that for a second." Forgetting to be mindful, he continued to shove his belief system down my throat before motioning to Calvin and saying what I already know, “He’s a good boy.” I could hardly wait for the guy to get the hell out of my house.

The UPS man arrives just as I stroll with Calvin up the block and into our driveway. Calvin is walking like a drunken sailor, so I’ve got hold of his right hand, and with my other I’ve got his harness. “You want this or shall I walk it up?” says the man in brown, who is offering me a very large, awkwardly shaped package. “Please set it on the deck, I’ve got my hands full,” I answer as politely as possible while biting my tongue wondering if he might’ve thought I had four arms.

Clay comes to pick up the cannabis oil for testing. He greets us and swoops right in close to say hello to Calvin who seems oblivious to most things. Clay doesn't mind. I tell him that almost no one touches Calvin, while at the same time thinking of John C. and of Elmer, of Matt and of Luke who lovingly do. "It's like they're afraid," I say. Clay stays for a while and we chat. Before leaving he crouches on the floor with my boy, puts his palms on either side of Calvin’s torso in Reiki fashion. Calvin calms, tilts his head back to listen. He’s being mindful, I think. Clay’s essence is pure and kind. I believe he, too, lives in the moment. We hug and say goodbye. Nellie stands next to me on the floor and I look into her chestnut eyes. Calvin crawls under her legs and for a moment it appears as if he is shouldering her. She remains still. She’s mindful of her new brother, and he of her. I smell her apricot hair, which is soft and warm from having napped in the sun on the hardwood floor, which I notice has grooves and grit between its slats.


  1. Nellie is a beautiful dog, sounds like she's gentle as well. I'm not a fan of "God doesn't give you more than you handle" either. Smells like bullshit.

  2. Definitely bullshit. I heard that one a lot when I was deciding to have brain surgery for epilepsy as an 18-year-old. It was more than I could handle then and is still more than I can handle. Incidentally, though, mindfulness is what made the experience survivable if not "handleable". I am now a meditation teacher and I love every minute of it.