two peas in a pod

Tuesday 7:00 a.m.

I’m sitting here in Newark airport sipping coffee during my three-and-a-half hour layover after having taken the red-eye from San Diego. Michael’s phone call came in just before seven a.m., startling me out of a dead sleep that I managed to get with the help of some ear plugs, the puffy jacket Macauley gave me and two padded airport seats facing each other. Calvin had done the dreaded thing and vomited his morning seizure meds, so Michael had redosed them. A few minutes later Michael called telling me he vomited again.

At the exact moment my eighty-five-year-old mother had been ramping up to have another panic attack at home in San Diego, shortly before I kissed her goodbye, my ten-year-old son Calvin was having a seizure back in Maine. Mom managed to dodge the bullet. Calvin was not so fortunate and had a second seizure several hours later, then a third and possibly others.

Back in San Diego I had learned that my mom’s panic episodes have been occurring more frequently, perhaps the result of what we think was a November stroke, perhaps simply because that’s how Alzheimer’s rolls. During these events Mom hyperventilates, seems overly confused about where she is and disturbingly cognizant of her fears. I'm told they happen when she’s had too much stimulation: lots of activity, looking at photos from her past or at pictures on the computer—perhaps even Skypeing. They are heartbreaking to witness. Yesterday, I’d taken her to the park twice for a change of scenery, to get her blood and lungs moving and to keep her body in the best shape possible to avoid a fall. And, since we can’t leave her alone in the car anymore, I’d also taken her into a convenience store to pick up a few supplies. My visit, in and of itself, might have been enough to trigger an attack.

Calvin's seizures are triggered whenever he gets sick, even the common cold can induce them. With the help of two cannabis oils—one CBD, the other THCA—we’d managed to keep the seizures at bay for twenty-one days even though he’s been sick with one virus or another since before the holidays. But his little brain and body finally succumbed to the winter assault, and he crashed last night.

Tuesday Noon

Finally arriving home just before noon, having been shuttled from the airport by Lucretia and her husband and after being smothered with kisses from a very excited Nellie, I enter Calvin’s room just as he is waking. Michael, who is there sitting in the dark with the shades pulled, gives me a warm welcome. He tells me Calvin has been waking, crying, vomiting and falling back to sleep every fifteen minutes since morning. I turn to Calvin and see his eyes rolling up into what looks like a complex partial seizure. Fearing it will turn into a grand mal, and this being at least the third in a cluster, we lift him out of bed and onto his changing table where I give him the Diastat rectal Valium. Slowly, the color seeps back into his lips and pale face, his eyes relax and just before he falls back to sleep I give him his afternoon seizure meds in a spoonful of yogurt. This time, he keeps them down.

It's not quite 10:00 a.m. in San Diego, so Mom is still asleep. She sleeps a lot lately, probably because of all that ramping up mania, like Calvin before a seizure. I slip in next to Calvin as he sleeps and I remain there much of the day while Michael cleans up and walks Nellie in the bitter cold. When I kiss Calvin's head I realize it's the same way my mother kisses me, and I think of how similar they've become. They're like two peas in a pod, I think, my mother and my son, snuggled securely into their little husks of lives—small, sweet, green and alive.

Calvin and Mom, February 2005


  1. what a gorgeous, poignant image, christy. those peas, sweet, green, full of promise.

  2. Christy: only now catching up on my weekly reading of your blog. The dispatches from your visit to San Diego to see your mother and brother are poignant, funny, sad, angry and ultimately full of love and hope all at once. You are a great writer because you are a great human being. Thank you. Love, Matt