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.