one night away

It was just one night away. Up the coast a bit. Out to an island linked to the mainland by a tiny bridge. Side by side, the house and cottage sprouted up from a granite shelf. Below us, the gaping mouth of the tidal river raged and swelled. It was as if we were on the banks of the ocean itself. The waves breaking on the rugged shore. The surf's rhythmic hushing, as if earth's lungs letting breaths out, could've rocked me to sleep standing up.

We were guests of beloveds who have a son a lot like ours. Before gathering, we each did a Covid rapid test; all of them came back negative. It was a year ago October when we had last vacationed together in adjacent lakeside cabins. Back then, because of the damn pandemic, we had worn masks and dined with wide-open doors and windows despite the frigid night. We sat on the porch and watched leaden clouds roll across the lake and release their burden upon us. We spotted jagged lightning bolts. Heard the sky split and crack and snarl above us. Listened to the rain pelt the cabin roofs. That night, Calvin seized.

Last Saturday, the weather felt reminiscent. A break in the rain let me escape to a nearby beach revealed by receding waters. I sunk my sneakers into piles of shells and pebbles, jumped and slipped like a kid from rock to kelp, luxuriating in my ten minutes of freedom. Smellie surveyed and sniffed her new surroundings. When it began to sprinkle, I bounded up the steep path and made it to the cottage just as the sky opened up surrendering its liquid treasure.

Soon after, Calvin got his evening meds. We laid him on the bottom bunk, shoved a couch against it and padded its wooden back with cushions so he wouldn't fall out and hurt himself. I was reminded of the indoor forts I made as a kid—for fun. It took him awhile to settle in the strange and darkened space. I wondered what he made of it.

Thankfully, the baby monitor's range was good enough to reach the main house, which meant the four of us could dine together. Michael went to check on our restless child twice. Laid him back down. Covered him back up. Finally, Calvin quieted. The table set, we devoured mouthfuls of roasted potatoes, fat lamb burgers and salad, raised and clinked our glasses of beer and red wine in tumblers. We celebrated anniversaries, mini vacations and simply being together. Just as we were contemplating dessert, I heard Calvin shriek and shudder. 

"It's the fucking seizure!" I said, as I flew from the table, darted out the back door and down the stone path to the cottage. It took a minute to reach my boy, having had to tug the couch away from the bed. When I did, his poor feet were kicking the paneling. As the spasms slackened, he had great trouble catching his breath. His soft tissue and or fluids fitfully blocked his airway. I did my best to keep him on his side so he wouldn't aspirate. His mouth had bled again. As always, it was upsetting.

It took the two of us. Michael and I clumsily lugged our toneless son to our big bed. We tucked a quilted bed pad under him. Shifted his body until he was centered with his head on the pillow. I crawled in next to him. With my hand on his heart, I fell asleep looking at a panorama including nearby silhouettes of four large evergreens. A shroud of mist had wrapped itself around their blackness. It was as if they were sentries watching over us. Soon after came the deluge. It lasted through the night, shifting in intensity. It was powerful, deafening, cleansing. Its magnitude dwarfed my son's fit and reminded me of nature's awesome indifference, its absence of judgement or discrimination. In that way it was comforting, helped me feel somehow grounded and hopeful, even amid the sorrow I felt for me and my kid.

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