breakthroughs on a somber day

again, my mood is somber, reflected in the sky's leaden heaviness. weighty as a handful of stones in my pocket. but like a cloudy sky, there are breakthrough moments of light. little bits of levity, like when i pick up a sleek and clean smellie from the groomer and she goes cutely berserk. or when my husband comes home early. or when i see the space open up as i chop down a sickly, old, monster rhododendron, and michael finishes it off with woody's chainsaw—so much possibility for something beautiful to take its place. something less beastly and oppressive. something i don't have to wrestle. something that doesn't burden me like my son's ongoing struggles.

lately, sorrow has been setting in as i'm reminded of how calvin, who is seventeen, should be a rising senior in high school—should be looking into colleges, reading interesting and complex novels, mowing lawns, hanging out with friends on the town mall or bowdoin quad, leaping off of piers and low bridges into brackish waters. instead, he's chewing on a crocheted rabbit rattle, having his hand held while walking down the sidewalk, tossing his sippy cup sideways like a toddler, playing with baby toys, being potty trained, wetting diapers.

several of my friends and acquaintances have kids his age. they're so grown up. independent in nearly every way. they've got futures as bright as breakthroughs of sunshine and blue sky in a bank of dark clouds—hopeful, sparkling, limitless. witnessing them is lovely, yet, like bittersweet lozenges, hard for me to swallow.

and as the pandemic has slackened a bit of its grip, i feel surprisingly unmoored. as the tethers are loosened, i'm not sure what to do. i find myself flailing. it's a strange mix of emotions. free and yet still imprisoned by my son and his condition. and while my husband made plans to visit italy this fall to print his next book (having photographed in paris and hawaii several times in recent years) i find myself wondering how i'll get through today, tomorrow, and the day after that. wonder where i'll be or have traveled, or what this normally-prolific self will have accomplished in two, five, ten years. nowhere? nothing? same old same old?

and i'm missing the handful of folks who unwittingly helped ground me during the pandemic. familiar strangers—the runner(s), bikers, strollers, dog walker(s)—smiling, nodding and waving to me from the roads. faces i look forward to seeing. lives i can only imagine and live vicariously through. haven't seen them lately. like a starless sky, without them i'm having trouble navigating through the pandemic's rough and receding seas. other than my husband and son, and the landscape itself, they've been my constants this past year, like little beacons or shards of light in a darkened sky. saw them much more than my own friends, though from afar. without their grounding, i feel as though i'm drifting from shore. and though i'm a pro at treading water, i feel slighly seasick. but perhaps, like stars on a cloudy night, they're not reliable. and why should they be? i'm nobody to these strangers. we all have our own lives and loved ones and struggles. and yet i remain eternally hopeful for communion, compassion, friendship, empathy, understanding.

today, however, on a favorite stretch of wooded road, i saw the black-clad couple (though this day wearing more earthen tones) who live on the point. i slowed and pulled over. rolled down my window and introduced myself. while trying hard not to choke up, i told them how i'd seen them frequently while driving the same roads nearly every day during the pandemic with my nonverbal, legally blind, autistic, epileptic, seventeen-year-old boy. they peaked in on calvin, who was in the back seat craning hard to find an absent sun. i told them how reassuring it was to see the familiar faces of strangers like them during months on end of long, lonely days spent solo with my son. they said they recognized my car. i'd seen them wave. the three of us visited for quite awhile, discussing neighbors and kids, drugs and doctors, the pandemic and back roads. i invited them to read my blog. it felt good to finally meet and connect with folks who have unwittingly been my mooring during a very difficult year. felt healing to offer them my gratitude in person. i wish i could have hugged them. they seemed quite affable and open.

finally, we said our so longs, and as i put the car in gear and headed to the point, i felt the sun's warmth and saw its rays start breaking through cracks in a vast bank of clouds reflected in a tranquil sea.


  1. As usual Christy, my heart goes out to you and Michael (and Calvin). Your writing is wonderful, by the way.

  2. Christy,

    You are such a gifted writer and thinker - I'm sending my hugs. I always find your blog grounds me - and helps me focus on what is truly important in this world. xoxox, Susan

  3. so grateful and humbled by this message sent to me by one of the black-clad walkers I mention in this post:

    "So moved today to meet the lovely woman we noticed driving by so often during the long winterspring of Covid
    She sweetly stopped to say hello and introduce herself and her son, Calvin and explained how driving around helps them both as he suffers from epilepsy and other disabilities
    I was struck by her dangling red earrings and a natural beauty that seemed to radiate from a place of deep knowing - hard to put into words, but I felt an immediate connection, perhaps because she cut through any pretense or superficiality so often present in first meetings
    So interesting to have an unspoken connection and familiarity simply by passing by each other, wordlessly"

    people are good.

  4. Christie I weep at this. The pandemic wax and waned... people are running around again. I think the sadness here is our kids are still the same, our mental
    And emotional prison hasn’t changed. I hear you so much about friends kids. My girl sucks and looses her pacifier all night...almost 18. Andrea

  5. Christy,
    It was so great to see you, Mike and Calvin on my brief stop-over Sunday evening. Even though Calvin wasn't feeling his best Monday morning, I was gratified to be able to spend a little time seeing how he's grown and some of the advances he has shown since I last saw him. Thank you for the little window into your world, for your flexibility putting Jasper and me up on the fly, and for the lovely hospitality. I love you guys. Andy
    BTW: I'm sure you'll find something beautiful to cultivate where the Rhody was. Your gardens are amazing.

    1. Andy, it was a fantastic impromptu visit! we loved hanging out with you and jasper. please come see us again and bring the family! love you too. and thanks for the kind sentiments. you made my day! xoxo, christy