other side of darkness

This side of the winter solstice (the other side of darkness) I start counting the days until spring. Until the snow melts and the ground thaws. Until I can begin spreading mulch and picking up broken limbs. Until I might see the green tips of crocuses pushing up through the soil. Until I can walk again with my son around a soft grassy yard. For much of spring it'll still look like November, but at least I'll be able to hear the cardinals, finches and catbirds singing. To me, that is the sound of hope and of new beginnings.

Come this spring, I won't just be Calvin's mother, I'll be his legal guardian when he turns eighteen. It's because he can't do anything by himself or make any decisions. This year, Calvin would have been a high school senior if things hadn't gone so miserably wrong at the start. Next fall, he likely would have been college-bound along with so many of his peers. Instead, he'll stay in high school for another four years. I have no idea what kind of arrangements we'll make when he turns twenty-two. The notion of him living in a group home is as sad as it is incomprehensible—who would love him and hug and kiss him and sleep with him and know his idiosyncrasies, preferences and gestures? But the thought of taking care of him another dozen years, much less into our seventies and beyond, is just as daunting and laced with its own nagging questions, angst and complexities; It's hard to go there.

The other night, Michael and I were discussing misfortune—ours and others'. We realized that Calvin's mishap—for lack of a better word—is an unthinkable tragedy, what with his brain's missing white matter, his profound visual deficits, wordlessness, relentless seizures and other impairments. And though we'd give anything for Calvin to be healthy and "normal," we feel fortunate in so many ways, feel we have perhaps a richer life because of him, strange as that may sound especially considering my frequent complaints. Strange, too, is how in some ways we have adapted to our tragedy, while having not gotten used to it at all—the loss, the grief, the hurt, anger, deprivation, resentment, frustration, exhaustion, the relentlessness of it all. Daily, we live with the reminders of the losses our son embodies, a boy who might have been charming and athletic and smart and accomplished as some of yours, had things not gone so wrong. And, it's as if it happened overnight—having one day hoped for and expected a healthy child, and the next day finding out a portion of his brain was gone, then being told he might never crawl or walk or talk. Even so, we continue to survive and, in some ways, thrive because of the rare experiences and remarkable people we've encountered along the way and how, because of Calvin, we see the world differently.

Yes, on the other side of darkness, life goes on. I suppose what lightens the gravity and blackness of catastrophe are time and warmth, light and love—like spring—all of which help things mellow and grow. That kind of sustenance seeps into the cracks and craters left in the wake of disaster, and while it doesn't necessarily make misfortunes right or broken lives whole, it softens the edges of hardship like rivers polish ragged stones. In that way, disaster can give rise to a life all together different—though not wholly unrecognizable—from what it was before. I think of grief and loss as if rivers coursing through my being; they have undoubtedly shaped something new in me. Made me softer and at the same time steelier. Perhaps a deeper thinker and feeler, even, and brought me to breathtaking places I would have never gone, or dared to go, before.


  1. Thank you for sharing your hard-earned wisdom. Your closing paragraph really helped me in healing from my own recent loss. You and your family are good people...

    1. dear douglas, i am very sorry to hear of your recent loss. I am glad in my writing you find succor. that is what I hope for—for us not to feel alone. I wonder who you are and how you found my blog. I'm glad you did. and thank you for the kind words. take good care.