unfair world

As I syringe the milky medicine into my son’s mouth, he shivers like a fledgling being fed. But these are tremors, remnants of the grand mal seizure that ripped me out of bed just before six a.m. At once, I understand why he had such a hard day yesterday—shrieking, finger snapping, grinding his teeth, banging his head, then waking at midnight crying, wanting me close, his knees tucked into his little bird chest, his arms around my neck.

In bed next to him, my mind wanders from one thing to another. My hand draped across Calvin’s lap, an image comes to me of little six-year-old Jacob Hall lying in his hospital bed, his face discolored and puffy after suffering a bullet in his thigh which drained too much blood from his head. In the photograph, his father, who from behind reminds me a little of Calvin's dad, leans in to kiss him one last time, his mother curls up next to him as her son breathes his final breath.

And then, in the darkness of Calvin's room, his legs propped on mine, my mind begins to reel.

I think of the children of Aleppo. I see them scavenge daily for scraps of food, scamper to find water, wither without their meds. I see them in photos—stone-dust covered—having perished in their mothers’ arms, innocent victims of the ceaseless shelling not far from southern Turkey where a lifetime ago I once happily tread. Then I imagine my own mother who raised six kids. She must have felt as trapped as I sometimes, having traveled solo to another continent for months when she was barely twenty. And yet, her children were perhaps her most cherished accomplishment or gift. Then I remember the brick ranch home I grew up in, the room in which my mother slept, the slouchy bed on which I sat and brushed her hair and in which I sometimes slept, my little aching legs slung over her ample hips. Through the purple japanese maple and cloud of cherry blossoms I can still imagine Seattle glinting in the sunset. I wonder how my mother felt, stuck in a kitchen, wrapped in an apron, unable to meet that gleaming horizon of possibility she once had. She lost two of her sons in any event, not to war or sickness, not even death, but perhaps to some kind of neglect. And then I think again of little Jacob Hall and his parents, of the senselessness of pain and hurt in this world of greedy man-wars over land, over money, over bodies, over oil, over gods, over medicine.

I turn to Calvin, my lips and breath brushing his forehead, and whisper something I’ve denied saying for years.

“Life is unfair,” this mother finally said.

Photo by Michael Kolster


  1. Calvin chose his grandparents well. They raised an exceptional and eloquent mother. Could you do a comparison on where Calvin was, say three years ago and how he is doing now? From the West Coast, I would say you all have come quite a ways with him. Good work and Go Calvin!

  2. I have said the same many, many times Christy. But I've been at this a pretty long time. As always, your words tug at my heart.