war zones, torture, and safe havens

I've heard it said that sleep deprivation and the recordings of crying babies are used as torture on prisoners of war. Having survived both for seventeen years, I have every reason to believe that's true.

Monday was gorgeous. Blue skies and plenty of sun. No breeze to speak of. Trees leafing out in apricots and greens. And yet melancholia had its grip on me as it does when things begin to feel hopeless, which a string of not-so-good days for my son can do to me.

Calvin's behavior has been an ongoing test of my emotional stamina. I guess that's nothing new. I suppose it's the cumulative years of hearing him moan and shriek and cackle madly that makes life with him at times so hard to bear. I'm no veteran of actual war, but I wonder what being Calvin's mother has done to me—the war zone of sleepless nights, the shell shock of repeated seizures, the dread of the next attack, the enduring din of his misery, the relative inability to quell his unrest, the fear of him succumbing to the enemy. Since Calvin's epilepsy diagnosis when he was two, I've become slightly jumpy. I'm tighter than I used to be. I'm sometimes prone to the rapid-firing of expletives. I have nightmares about him seizing. I both love and resent my little captor. I imagine escaping this imprisonment. I wonder how he endures his own.

And other things trouble me. Like the moment when I turn my back and Calvin crams half an over-ripe banana and some of its softened skin entirely into his mouth. Like so many other items—twigs, grass, rocks, the rubber stopper and metal catch in the bath—my heart pounding, I fished it out. Like a foot soldier, I'm forever at a heightened state of awareness, can never let my guard down in case of an ambush.

And there are times like today when Calvin won't stop carping like some wounded thing caught in a trap. Nothing I do helps. I'm sure it's because a seizure is on its way. Nevertheless, to hear him is torturous, and so too is feeling this mix of pity, self-pity, despair and contempt. It's times like these that feel so dark and bleak inside, even when the sun is out.

So Monday, after putting Calvin on the school van, I went for a drive by myself. I drove west on some back roads which I hardly travel along. At the top of one rise I was able to see for miles—a rarity in this landscape. It made me recall the steep, high hills and myriad vistas of my beloved San Francisco—so many chances to see distant horizons, whereas from my current vantage point there seem so few. I let the winding roads rock me. I turned on the radio to listen to some tunes. I switched between stations until I found songs that moved me; I so want to be moved.

Back at home, before Calvin returned from school, I spent some time in the garden working the earth, meticulously shaping nature—mowing, planting, weeding, pruning. Gardening is a natural elixir for the helplessness I feel from having so little control over my son's condition. By noontime, my melancholy was gone, having been evaporated on the roads and dissolved into the garden—two safe havens from the torture of my kid's war-torn condition.