When I spend long spates of entire days taking care of my thirteen-year-old son Calvin, I'm apt to become testy at times. Monotonous as his care is, my patience sometimes wears thin enduring his drool, his shit, his manic fits, his restlessness, his incessant sun-staring, his sticky hands tearing out my thinning hair, his penchant for putting his fingers all over my face and into my eyes and mouth, his desire to butt me when he presumably doesn't feel well, his wont to drop down refusing to walk when and where I need him to go.

Add to those hourly irritants stepping in Nellie's diarrhea then nearly missing her pile of barf in the yard on a morning after having had little to no sleep because of Calvin's grand mal. I feel wrecked . . . and trapped and going nowhere fast and neglected and bored and exhausted and dirty and resentful of what often times feels like an utter waste of two lives.

And then I watch this gripping op-doc (also shown below) which brings me to tears, slaps my ungratefulness in the face, and makes me wonder why we all don't behave like the benevolent man at the helm, why we don't embrace all humanity in its gorgeous and various forms.

I finish watching the short video, wipe my eyes and breathe deep, having been snapped out of my pitiful brooding. Though it's hot as blazes, I step outside and manage to tug Calvin along to Woody's house three doors down. Calvin rings Woody's doorbell (as always with much assistance), then sits in Woody's rocker and eats the usual piece of chocolate which we regularly pilfer from his candy jar. After a typical three-minute visit, Calvin insists on making his customary stop at Woody's garage to slap and bite its vinyl siding in the same, drool-stained spot he has for years.

As I tug Calvin back home, I hear a catbird singing its heart out, and see all sorts of other birds bobbing and flitting by. I get a glimpse of a salty, floppy-eared black lab poking its muzzle out the window of a passing car. I hear the unmistakable racket of polyurethane wheels on asphalt and turn to see a handsome, college-age skateboarder (I love skateboarders) in a floppy hat, rolled-up summer khakis, white tank and sneakers, and a billowing shirt sail by flashing me and Calvin a Pepsodent smile. Once home, our friends' daughter Zoe comes by to walk Nellie, just as her brother Felix, who is six weeks younger than Calvin, had done the day before. Later, I see sweet Nellie—the best dog in the world who we can afford to feed and keep and who brings us immeasurable love and levity—eating her own barf, and at first I get angry. But then I think about that video—those suffering men, women and children who've been pushed to the very brink of existence and, having left behind virtually everything they know and own to escape war or rape or famine or massacre, risking their lives and the lives of their children to find a better way—and I have to laugh at my pathetic self and my handsome wreck of a child when I remember how extraordinarily lucky we are, and that compared to most, we are swimming in the calmest of seas.


  1. Fine writing. Now, if we diagram this story, is Nellie the protagonist or was it her edible barf?

    I am pretty sure Calvin is likely trying to show you the location of a hidden star gate behind that vinyl siding. He has secret powers. One day he will gnaw his way through that wall and launch to the stars for a little extra galactic sight seeing.

    Go Calvin!

  2. "What seems like the waste of two lives" is so powerful. I think unless you are in the thick of this life ,A person cannot possible understand. Thank you for putting it into words. Andrea

  3. I don't think you are at all ungrateful, I think you are exhausted from caring for a very high needs child. It's not your fault or his, it just is the reality. And the reality is that there is no end in sight which makes it so much harder to bear.