graduation day

Calvin would be graduating from high school today with so many of his proud, talented, smiling peers if things hadn't gone so terribly wrong from the start. For reasons we will probably never know, life with Calvin didn't turn out like we had hoped. What I thought of as the promises of parenthood did not deliver. 

While in the garden today, throwing mulch down, pruning, mowing the lawn—controlling that over which I have some semblance of control—I thought about all the ways in which the three of us have been cheated. You've probably heard it all before. We have been deprived of: seeing our child in school concerts and plays; cheering him on at athletic events while making friends with the parents of other athletes; joining family potlucks and picnics and pizza parties and movie nights; seeing our boy bring a sweetheart to prom. These are but a smattering of what we have had to forego because of Calvin's conditions, and thinking of them makes me sad second-guessing our decision not to have another child, albeit a healthy one, so we could cash in on some of parenthood's most precious experiences.

Michael and I have missed the chance for dinner conversation with our child, the chance to hang out with him at the beach, the mountains, the swimming hole, the movies, at restaurants and other venues. We have missed sharing our love of camping with him and have had to give up on that venture all together. We have missed the chance to leave him home alone so we can walk the dog or go for an impromptu anything together as a couple. We have been cheated out of seeing our boy excel in whatever he might have enjoyed, and perhaps gracefully endure defeat and failure. We have been robbed of watching him become a man. We've been cheated out of seeing him travel, study, have friends, fall in love. We'll never know the joy of having grandchildren.

While rereading this, I feel like a major whiner. So many people have it so much worse than we do, deprived of their basic freedoms, of food, shelter, water and modern conveniences, of seeing their loved ones. From where I'm sitting outside, I gaze out over a glorious garden of my making, the early-evening sun shimmering through the maples while I hear Calvin upstairs, with Michael, patting on the windowsill of our bedroom. The bell of the college chapel strikes half past four. A soft, warm wind blows a couple of wind chimes. I'm so goddamn lucky, I think to myself.

And so when I see the families of graduates tonight—some of them my friends' sons and daughters—stepping out of their cars parked in front of our house, I'll be both happy and excited, living vicariously through them as I do of other's travels. I'll also be silently heartbroken, and may shed a tear when I look into my husband's eyes tonight over a glass of wine and a lamb burger. But I'll also be full of gratitude looking out over a garden which I have shaped and sheared into a sanctuary I can appreciate as much for its beauty as for all the promises it reliably brings to me each year. Most of all, I'be be grateful for a son who, though he's not destined for college or travel or rocket science or journalism or art or marriage, still gives me what I wager every parent wants most from their child.


  1. A heavy reality...so deeply felt ...I have tried to imagine your life and have lived in a family with a special needs child as well...but, know it's beyond the truth in which you live everyday, as my sister does with her high functioning downs daughter...the missed experiences leave a hole deep in your heart...my thoughts and love