treading water

another good soaking. all day long. water gurgles down storm drains to who knows where. i wonder what it's like down there. above ground, cars swish by in rivers. just like on my morning drive. lots of ruts and muddy puddles. on the backroads today i see exactly no one. makes me feel somewhat alone. but freedom and comfort come to me in radio songs and thoughts. any musing or channel i want. tank full of gas. my kid in the backseat playing with his bare foot and trying to chew on his sock. happy and calm. my trusty dog along for the ride. i consider my luck.

on the drive i think about running—away. past. into. from. i see white caps off simpson's point. the sea is seething. i feel it. our vaccine rollout is now based on age alone. talk about marginalization. the most vulnerable treading water—indigenous, black, brown, poor, disabled, chronically ill like my son. dying at two to three times the rate of others. as if life in this pandemic wasn't hard enough. a year of escaping each wave, of perhaps being swept away with half a million others in the grip of this viral tsunami. i think about privilege, its pastels and able-bodied shapes. must the rest of us crouch in the margins until summer? is that the american way?

but beautiful colors are beginning to emerge from winter's white and gray. the burgundy and bronze of small-leaf rhododendrons. the acid-green of mop cypress. the copper of fallen pine needles. the chestnut of wet bark in rain. mist is about to rise from the fields. february is melting into march. spring awaits us.

white skies blind at twilight. i walk the dog in the rain. ice and snow become reflecting pools. streets are half flooded. sidewalks are glacial in places. i trudge down the middle of the road. kick a sopping glove to the gutter. where is its partner? one driveway down, a crusty knit hat thaws out. who is its owner? not a soul to be seen except the fedex driver. he slips on a wet metal step at the back of his truck. catches himself. i ask if he is okay. "that was a close one," he says, as if to himself.

the moon is full. i can feel it in the way my son clutches me. in his intensity. can see it in his face this evening. in his aimless pacing. i wonder if a seizure is on the way. does he just want out—of this rut, this pandemic, this house? like the sea, i feel him. tethered together, we tread water. thankfully, i can do it forever.

Photo by Michael Kolster


parallel universe

With tears in my eyes I tell my husband, "I would have been a good mother." He says that I am; he also knows what I mean. Like all expectant mothers and fathers, I had faith in the promises of parenthood—pretty much counted on them, even in my dreams—only to find out those promises are for some parents but not others.

We live near a small liberal arts college where Michael teaches photography, on a street which divides the main campus from the athletic fields. When school is in session, the nearby sidewalks and paths pulse with streams of energetic students. Whenever I walk Smellie to the fields, students nod or say hello to me. Masked up, I smile with my eyes and, at the beginning of the semester, I tell them how great it is to have them back in town. As they disappear over my shoulder, my smile melts. With stinging eyes, I think of Calvin. I wonder, again, what he might have been like if not for his brain anomaly. I ask myself:

What kind of student would he have been? Might he have been a math lover, professor or photographer like his father? Would he have been a skillful illustrator, designer or writer? Would he have been a talented athlete? What kind of conversations would we have had? Would he have had a zany sense of humor? or would he have had nothing in common with us to speak of? 

I allow my mind to wander to a parallel universe, aware that if things hadn't gone south, Calvin might be looking into colleges by now. Maybe he would've preferred one close to home. Perhaps he would've wanted to head out west to our beloved California. Maybe he'd fall in love there and never return. Perhaps he'd take a year off to travel.

I imagine these scenarios often, knowing none of them will transpire. The loss of those options, those dreams and promises of parenthood, weighs on me with each missed milestone, and probably always will; (we'll never know the joy of being grandparents, for instance.) Maybe that is partly why I cherish the relationships I've made—and kept close to my heart for years—with some of Michael's students: Arnd, Nick, Ivano, Emma, Micah, Hector, Ouda, James, Aspen, Moira, Raisa, Margot, James, Macy, Pawat, Ben, Jean-Paul, Daniel, Salam, Maina, Garrett, Izzy, Trevor, Nevan, Preeti, Colin, Henry, Alice, Octavio, Darius, Nate, J.P., Brennan, Niles, Katie, Jude. They are all incredible young folks—smart, kind, creative, confident, humble, generous and thoughtful—just like we would have raised Calvin to be ... in some parallel universe.

But Calvin, who is seventeen and is inching up on me, and whose face I heartbreakingly shaved for the first time the other day, still chews baby rattles, wears diapers, and loves to be cradled. Though some doctors cited a developmental hiccup, I still grieve whatever it was that caused his brain to be so messed up. I often wonder what kind of boy he would have been, what kind of grownup. I wonder what kind of parent I would have been if things had turned out differently. I like to imagine I would have been a rock star mom to an ordinary, healthy child. You know, one with high expectations though not too strict, one who encouraged autonomy, inspired confidence, offered praise, taught introspection, one not hung up on some of the puritanical aspects of American society. After all, I've always loved children—babysitting them, teaching them, coaching them—even the rambunctious, sometimes irreverent tweens and teens, perhaps because I never really lost touch with my goofy, rowdy, childish self.

But rather than excelling at motherhood in the ordinary ways, I've had to be my son's primary companion (he has no friends), his doctor, his physical and occupational therapist, pharmacist, caregiver and nurse, all rolled into one. That's the kind of mother Calvin needs me to be, and so I'm down. And I know I'm not the only parent who faces deep sorrows, losses, challenges and struggles. I just wish I lived in a certain kind of parallel universe—one which feels light years away—if only for a moment.


rain on a rooftop

soothing is the sound of rain on a rooftop. like bluesy music, songbirds singing, and wind rushing through treetops, it's comforting to me. one of the best sounds in the world. it quenches anxious spells. softens crusty peaks of ice and snow. cleanses the atmosphere. helps me fall asleep amid the worry, fear and frustration of tending to my choking, seizing son.

i first heard the patter of droplets on the sill outside calvin's window as i laid next to him last night in the wake of his brain's electric storm. in the silent moments when his breathing faltered, i heard the swish of passing cars. i nudged him to inhale. i wondered if the spate had brought on the evening seizure. sometime later, the rain began drumming hard on our red metal roof. underneath the covers, i soaked it in—the sound and thought of the sky opening up and surrendering. it's what i sometimes long to do—surrender. or at least escape life's dark clouds like raindrops do. i thought about my childhood home near seattle where rain is reliable nine months running. i sometimes got the blues. that same rain is now renewing. i thought about my thirst for spring, for a thaw to reveal the last frigging blade of green. or a melt good enough to coax the crocuses into coming up at the sunny southwest corner of our home. for frozen, curled-up rhododendrons to unfurl. for buds to swell and open. for winter's long and somber world to explode into psychedelic blooms. to get outside with calvin and move.

by morning the storm had passed. on today's drive, i put the front seat windows down an inch or two. at forty-three degrees and sunny, it feels like april. back at home now, smellie is napping in a patch of sun. calvin is resting and recovering on the green couch, his face beneath his baby blanket the way he likes to do. i'm sitting atop a pile of clean clothes, some folded, others not, in a corner chair. the house is quiet. cars swoosh by through puddles. a warmish breeze teases limbs and leaves into awakening. this weekend, more rain is coming and, like last night's storms, it'll move me and move through.


gratitude and happiness

Snow turns to rain turns to slush turns to ice. Walks at the college fields can be treacherous in February. Even the sidewalks that get me there can be risky. More than once I've fallen, though not since I got cleats for my boots. Glacial terrain is often rough and sometimes insurmountable. Again, I think of Mars. But the skies that draw me to the fields, with their breadth and magnificence, never disappoint. Gazing at them makes me feel so present, insignificant and humbled—just the way I feel I should. For Calvin, there's nowhere safe to trod outside until things melt. I wager we'll get outside together soon enough.

So many things save me from drowning in this molasses pandemic: writing and reading; listening to music; eating my husband's delicious meals by firelight and candle; watching good movies; receiving Calvin's frequent hugs; friends stopping by with champagne and flowers and homemade food; folks who check in from nearby and far; kind comments about my blog; daily car rides taking in spectacular and familiar vistas; the smiles, waves and nods from strangers who are out and about doing the things I'd like to do right now but can't.

As the sun shines through the upstairs window while Calvin takes a bath, I perch on the toilet seat in the warmth to write this blog. My son splashes and coos and sometimes goes nuts. He sounds like a monster, monkey or goat. Sometimes he's cute; at others, not so much. Sometimes he reminds me of a little Frahnkenshteen, teetering side to side with arms outstretched trying his best to capture his maker. Like Mary Shelley's prose, at times I feel we're both so misunderstood. As I type, I regard the the backs of my hands, the blue-green veins branching under the crinkly skin of age or dry winter, the simple platinum bands wearing ruts into two long, slender fingers. With time, these hands become less and more familiar. Still, they get done the work I need them to do, and for that I am most grateful.

Yes, it's all about gratitude—for the simple things, for each fleeting moment, for that which comes to us by sheer luck and not because we deserve it, for finding purpose in life's twists and turns and hardships. I heard gratitude breeds happiness, can make surmountable an impossible glacier, a darling out of a monster, riches out of misery. I've no doubt that's the honest truth.


an open letter to governor janet mills re: covid vaccines

Dear Governor Mills,

I've heard it said that a society—government, nation—can be judged by how it treats its most vulnerable.

My seventeen-year-old son, Calvin, suffers from multiple physical and developmental disabilities including cerebral palsy and intractable epilepsy. He is nonverbal, legally blind, incontinent and can do little to nothing by himself. His chronic epilepsy means his risk of serious illness or death from Covid-19 is three times greater than the general population. Despite his limitations, his life is precious.

Currently, it is unclear if children like Calvin are eligible to receive a Covid-19 vaccination as part of Maine's 1b vaccination phase. Nowhere on Maine's vaccine rollout plan are children with high-risk medical conditions mentioned. Though Calvin is old enough to receive the Pfizer vaccine, only adults with high-risk conditions are listed in phase 1b. Children age 16 and up are listed as the last to receive the vaccine as part of phase 2, which isn't expected to begin until June. 

Calvin cannot grasp abstractions, does not understand the existence or dangers of a pandemic and will not keep a mask on his face. He constantly touches and mouths surfaces and puts his fingers in his mouth with frequency. For these reasons we have kept him home from school since last March. Due to his intellectual deficits and the side effects of epilepsy medication which cause him to be restless, he is not capable of attending to a screen and therefore is unable to participate in remote schooling. I have no doubt that there are likely scores of children in Maine who fit this profile. Fortunately, I am able to take care of our son all day every day while my husband is at work, though it has been physically and emotionally challenging. 

Considering the fact that vaccines are not 100% effective and experts have not determined if the virus can be shed by vaccinated people, it is critical that vulnerable kids like Calvin and their family members get vaccinated as soon as possible. Needless to say, if Calvin were to get sick it would be devastating for our family. Moreover, if my husband and/or I were to get seriously ill or die, it could prove catastrophic in terms of providing for Calvin's care since he requires twenty-four hours a day of hands-on supervision and assistance with all activities of daily living. In other words, caring for Calvin while maintaining a household requires both of us.

If Maine is to pass the moral test of caring for its most vulnerable, it is imperative that children age 16 and up with high-risk medical conditions be added to the phase 1b Covid-19 vaccine rollout without delay.

To learn more about Calvin, I invite you to read my blog, which Dora Anne Mills, Senator Angus King and State Senator Mattie Daughtry follow.

Thank you in advance for your consideration,

Christy Shake

An abridged version of this letter was sent directly to Governor Mills.

Calvin with one of his favorite toys.


riches out of misery

a reader asked me recently, how do you do it? how do i care for a significantly disabled child with all the burdens, including a chronic condition? in response, i cited the brutal years of extreme competitive swimming and how it steeled me. i cited my strict father's wicked work ethic which i inherited. i told her how much i adore my impossible son. i considered how much i love a challenge. i thought about my supportive spouse. then I reflected on mindfulness as both meditation and distraction. like focusing on the way this morning's layers of sleet felt as if i were trudging through coarse kosher salt or sand at the beach. how the sleet sounded and felt when it hit my jacket and cheeks. how the birds in the trees seem to be announcing spring. how being the only human in the trails and on the road can feel both liberating and lonesome. how the trees have a tinge of silver as ice clings to their limbs and needles. how their branches sag under the weight of it all as if in solidarity with me. how still pools of water reflect the surrounding world, sometimes with heightened clarity. how luxurious it feels to have my son linger in my lap peacefully, even though he's ailing. how all these seemingly insignificant things, plus gratitude—for family, friends, kindly strangers, good fortune as well as struggle, the ability to write for myself and for avid, compassionate readers—can make riches out of misery.



I didn't really see it coming, at least not completely. Calvin had had a good day; though restless as usual, he was quiet, smiling at times, eating well. Michael and I had just finished dinner in front of a rolling fire. We had settled into our books (I'm in the middle of reading Jane Eyre) while FIP French radio played in the background. Just as I was luxuriating in a breadth of bluesy music and the soothing voice of the female DJ, I heard a screech come through the baby monitor. Though it had only been two days since Calvin's last grand mal, I knew he was seizing. I took the stairs by twos.

When the violent fit was over, our poor boy again had some trouble breathing. Whether excess fluids are obstructing his airway or his throat is constricted by aftershock spasms, it isn't clear. The good thing is he rarely turns blue during seizures anymore. Though it was only eight-thirty, I brushed my teeth and slid into the small space next to him in his safety bed. Thirty minutes later he woke quite agitated, his heart racing, his clammy fingers knitting in a panicked frenzy. This went on all night, every thirty minutes or so. Before midnight, I gave him extra THCA oil, but to no avail. I patted his back to help him burp, held him in my arms, stroked his face, kept him from careening out of bed. Somehow I managed to get a little shut eye before his second grand mal at half past three. Shortly thereafter, he settled for a bit, then woke again when he wet the bed. I scooped him up best I could using my legs and not my back to lift his eighty-five-plus pounds of mostly dead weight. His hands were frigid, but his face felt hot. His teeth were chattering, so I checked his temp, which was normal. I changed his diaper, and Michael, who had since woken, changed Calvin's pajamas and put him back to bed. I crawled back in next to him. Half an hour later he was up again, trying to bang on the wall and patting the side of his bed, so I gave him his morning seizure medicine early, hoping he'd settle. He didn't.

Much of my time awake I spent trying to think of another strategy to curb Calvin's seizures. I could increase his one pharmaceutical, Keppra. I could decrease the THCA since I've never really tried that; after all, high doses of any antiepileptic drug, even cannabis, can exacerbate seizures. I could try the Palmetto Harmony CBD oil again. I have an unopened bottle of it in the refrigerator; years ago, Calvin went forty days without any grand mals on just twenty milligrams of the product. However, when it quickly seemed to lose its effectiveness, we eliminated it from his regimen.

It's maddening, this epilepsy. Nothing I do seems to help quell his seizures. My boy suffers headaches, lethargy, restlessness, agitation, bitten and bloody cheeks and tongue, insomnia, panic attacks. My guess is he also experiences auditory and visual disturbances of some sort. I've little doubt that he's been ruined by the drugs which I believe are the root of his disquiet. For years he has not been able to sit still in our laps for longer than a couple of minutes unless he is sick or postictal. To be honest, the future looks bleak, which is not to say I've lost hope.

Today, Calvin is resting and recovering in bed. I'm perched on his changing table writing and wishing we were able to take a car ride. He hasn't had much to drink and nothing at all to eat. He's got dark circles under those gorgeous sand-and-sea eyes of his. There's every indication that this spate of seizures is not over. I hate to say it, but we may be in for another all-nighter.

One such day last summer


in the dead of winter

Just another Groundhog day in a runaway pandemic—cooped up with a nonverbal kid who suffers a severe and chronic condition. Waiting with bated breath for a covid vaccination. Unsure why our son's not yet able to get it. Feeling the need for a shot in the arm myself, both literally and figuratively. This pandemic has laid hardship on top of hardship. Everyone has their struggles, is treading water in some way. I ache to see familiar faces, to hear from people, to touch and hug loved ones. 

Driving around to pass the time, which has expanded like elastic in this pandemic. Creeping along at twenty to thirty miles an hour drinking in the scenery. Studying the colors of a cloudy day in the dead of winter: white, jade, chestnut, charcoal, stone, pine, pewter, juniper, straw, bronze, rouge. Subdued yet beautiful. I must remind myself to be mindful. Appreciate the mundane details. Especially in February in Maine.

Turning up the volume on songs I grew up with and ones much newer. The musicians croon about love, heartache, dreams, loss. Sometimes I sing along until my throat feels swollen. The tunes send my mood up and down like the lonely roads we travel along. There are moments when I feel like weeping. Sometimes I do. Life is a roller coaster. So many hills and hollows provoking excitement and unsettling feelings, yet seemingly leading nowhere. I even keep writing about the same humdrum stuff hoping to glean or give something new. Not sure if I do. Still, life can be fascinating in its surprises and challenges. And at least I can still dream and feel deeply.

I reach back to give my son a grape and he grabs my hand just to hold it. A smile spreads across his face. Even with his fuzzy little mustache, he's cute. He's in a good mood despite the grand mal he had two mornings ago. For the former, I am grateful. The latter can go to hell.

Thinking about yesteryear, I get a text from a dear friend whose wedding I was in twenty-three years ago. Another lifetime. Back when days seemed more fluid, pliable, full of hope and opportunity. Back when the California sun made getting out and around so much easier than here. Maybe I'm fooling myself, but I don't think so.

In the dead of winter with another storm looming, the optimist in me sets my sights on warmer weather. We're headed in the right direction. At a crest in a snaking lane I look to the horizon over a body of water and see a section of sky where the sun glows through. The water is nearly the shade of a tropic lagoon. Blue and green, colors of spring. The time when bodies thaw and can move more easily. My brother tells me we may be seventy percent through the pandemic. Like me, he sees the glass half-full. Maybe it won't be long until Calvin goes back to school. Maybe soon I'll be able to escape these four walls for some sort of adventure or comfort. Maybe soon I can work in the garden. I'm aching to dig in the earth, to mow the lawn and prune. Maybe it won't be long until I'll see old friends and make new ones. Maybe one day soon I can stand face to face and embrace you.


celestial bodies and monsters

This morning at 3:01, something woke me. The room was silent—no dream-yelping dog, no beeping, booming recycling truck in the adjacent parking lot, no gaggle of chatting college students passing either side of our house, no snow plows thundering down the street, no pre-dawn runners to jog me awake. It was so quiet, in fact, that I could hear my heart beat blood through the veins and arteries in my neck, could seemingly hear the buzz of molecules surrounding me. When I went to check on Calvin, he was lying on his stomach pressing his eyes. His hands felt clammy. Only then did I hear his telltale exhale and gurgling gut, hallmarks of a focal seizure. It wasn't the slight sounds of the seizure that had roused me. Most likely I had simply felt and expected its arrival.

After dripping a therapeutic and prophylactic syringe-full of homemade THCA cannabis oil into the pocket of his cheek, and changing a wet diaper, I went to get a drink. Out the bathroom window I saw a hazy, moonless sky with just one visible star flickering above the treetops to the west. I was aware the new moon was out there somewhere, its strong gravitational pull perhaps working on the fluid in my son's brain as if tides in a marsh. At least that's how I imagine it. I'm not ashamed to say at that moment I felt contempt for the celestial body.

I've always wondered about the anecdotal incidents of increased seizures during full and new moon phases. I mean, the brain is made up of some eighty percent water. Why shouldn't it be tugged into fits by the moon's gravitational force? Perhaps that gravity is also why my kid goes so berserk in the waxing and waning of full and new moons, like the monsters and werewolves of folklore are known to do, (and perhaps some mothers.)

As I laid awake, I continued to muse on monsters: epilepsy; coronavirus; lying, violence-inciting, fear-mongering, greedy, power-lusty politicians duping thugs into marauding the halls of congress to terrorize and disrupt our precious democratic process. Clenching my teeth and clutching my pillow, I wondered if there had been a full or new moon on January 6th which might have contributed to the mayhem at the Capitol. But, no, these were just angry, deceived, resentful people instilled with a sense of entitlement. Rapidly, my thoughts returned to Calvin, the sweetest boy in the world whose brain was just under assault, and I wondered, what happens to people?

Finally, I began to drift off with the hope that the seizures—Calvin's and the January 6th one of our Capitol—were one-offs and not the beginnings of insidious clusters. And as I faded into the blackness of sleep, my mind still on monsters and celestial bodies, I heard the radiator creak, knock and ping, my son whimper and fidget, and my dog yelp in her dreams.

Another such morning



seventeen years ago today, calvin was brought into the world. a full moon triggered him into existence. six weeks early. several days before a planned c-section in boston. on the heels of an ice storm. that's just how he rolls.

one o'clock in the morning. waking on a sheet soaked with clear fluid. remember dropping the f-bomb. quickly donning sweat pants, favorite boots, puffy coat. grabbing toothbrush, hairbrush and wallet. michael kicking open the ice-encased mudroom door. icy-black night. eerily quiet. rooflines, trees and power lines dripping with frozen crystals and diamonds. otherworldly. cold and still and strange as mars. breaths making frost inside of the car. traffic lights flashing caution reflecting as snowy yellow pools. desolate streets. feeling desperate and alone, but not overcome.

medivac helicopters grounded due to the storm. boston no longer an option. local hospital unable to deliver a preemie like calvin, his brain malformed. having nanoscopic contractions. thirty-five-mile ambulance ride to portland. its jangling chains like some kind of omen. pre-dawn arrival at the hospital. reciting, for the umpteenth time, history of my uneventful pregnancy up until the shocking sonogram. recounting our day-trip to boston—the diagnostic tests and specialists, theories, plans and strategy. silently doubting the small-city hospital. no donor platelets in case calvin bled. extracting mine by pheresis in case he did. blood sucked from one arm, centrifuge-spun, then pumped back into the other. too few remaining platelets for a safe epidural. only option: general anesthesia. michael forbidden to be by my side meant neither would witness our child being born. remember holding his hand until we were torn. wheeled away on those waxed linoleum floors. wondering if i'd see him and calvin on the other side of anesthetic, c-section void.

operating room just as you'd imagine. sterile and cold. ample plastic tubing and chrome. aluminum tanks, bright lights, monitors and leads. sharp, shiny instruments, white cloths, blue sheets. naked and shivering under a gossamer gown. stainless steel table a shock to my body, like putting a tongue to a frozen pole. nurses shuffling about, lovingly touching my arms. doctors' voices attempting to calm. gas mask in place before passing out.

michael held calvin within minutes of delivery. whisked away quickly to the NICU. at my first glimpse he was twenty-one hours old. my morphine fog kept us apart. he slept in a plastic isolette like a dozen others. a giant among them, weighing just under five pounds. i couldn't yet hold him. tachycardia. trouble breathing. animal surfactant. ventilator. C-PAP. monitors. tape. leads. head no bigger than an apple. sweet, wrinkly brow. thin, pinkish skin. a nose so familiar. precious little bundle. he opened his eyes for the first time when i called out his name. he recognized my voice. that was his beginning. today he turned seventeen.



nearly seventeen years gone by. an entire lifetime. so glad it's now and not back then. remembering that devastating thirty-two week sonogram. our tiny breech baby. his brain's enlarged lateral ventricles. harsh doctor saying we need to worry, it could affect IQ. remembering wanting to punch her in the gut. strong enough to sack her but lacking the will and bad character to follow through.

twenty-four hour visit to boston hospitals. dawn emerges behind leaden clouds. highway flanked by barren trees and frozen waterfalls. black and white landscape. salt-blanched asphalt. traffic for hours. gridlock in the city. bitter cold out. homeless people with cardboard signs begging for pennies just to get by. remembering somber faces atop bundled-up bodies hurrying to work on frozen sidewalks. hardly a spot in a dizzying, corkscrew parking lot.

remembering maze-like hospital halls. antiseptic atmosphere. plastic plants and waxed linoleum floors. sickening pink walls and queazy teal upholstery. optic-white jackets scurrying about. gaudy scrubs and squeaky clogs. fluorescent lights. bells and buzzes and alarms. remembering stacks of diaphanous johnnies. seeing my naked, pregnant, sobbing self reflected in a cheap mirror affixed to a changing-room wall. non-stop appointments and yet waiting for hours. radiologists. obstetricians. neonatalologists. pediatric neurologists. phlebotomists. sonograms galore. one fetal MRI. alone in that shiny white capsule as if rocketing to mars. three-hundred images in one half hour.

blood tests. false positives. theories of platelet incompatibilities, fetal brain bleeds, blood clots and blockages. four-hour intravenous gamma globulin straddling midnight. plans for a thirty-five week cesarean. hypnobirthing no longer an option. talk of possible brain surgery to install a shunt. donor platelets on hand in case of hemorrhage. talk of possible need to assist with his breathing. anxiety. dread. fear. exhaustion. the promise of parenthood comes into question. so glad it's now and not back then.

Photo by Michael Kolster


perfect storms

Strange pandemic days. We walk in circles at home. Drive around the same back roads. I spoon-feed and potty train my teenage boy. With the latter, he's doing surprisingly well. I never thought him capable. Perhaps I need more faith in him, and in my own abilities as his coach. They say if you can imagine something, it's possible. I'd like to think so.

This is the time of year—if windless, sunny and bundled-up—two degrees feels hardly worse than thirty. I'm proof anyone can get accustomed to the cold. Michael runs 5Ks even when the mercury falls below zero. In these parts, a lot of people do. If anything, humans are resilient. Remembering that gives me hope.

On daily drives this winter, I see hawks perched on telephone poles. They search for prey in fields of grass and snow. I stop for flocks of wild turkeys strutting across the road. I've spotted bald eagles and crimson cardinals. The other night I banged the hell out of the bedroom wall trying to shoo some sort of nesting vermin. In this pandemic, squirrels have manifestly taken over the neighborhood.

Yesterday, I baked some cookies. First batch since Woody's death last summer. They came out perfect—crispy, chewy, salty, sweet. Molasses, sea salt and dark chocolate are my secret. If he were still alive, I'd have brought him a handful in a napkin or piece of foil. Like last winter, I'd be on the phone with him standing in his driveway. Pandemic style, we'd be peering at each other through his kitchen window. We'd talk of weather warm enough for drinking whiskey on his porch together. I miss him so.

We're anxious for the vaccine's arrival. It might mean sending Calvin back to school. Why kids with high-risk medical conditions like Calvin can't yet get vaccinated is beyond me. He can't keep a mask on, which is why we mostly stay at home. He's three times more likely to die from Covid than most others. Please wear your masks, people.

This storm is meant to drop a foot of snow. One car is on the fritz. Can't risk driving it in case it stalls. Michael took the other to the studio. The snow is too deep for Calvin to trudge through it. He can't build a snowman. Can't catch snowflakes on his tongue. Can't make snow angels. So, we're stuck inside at home. Anyway, it's nasty out. Wind and freezing rain coming down in sheets. At least he isn't seizing ... yet; nor'easters in pandemics make for perfect storms.