The only real change is that my boy is older and bigger. And yet, at eighteen, every day I still have to spoon food into his mouth. Change his diapers. Give him his medicines. Bathe him. Dress him. Walk him around. Get him to poop. Wipe him up. Put him to bed. Listen for him in the night. I must watch him knit his fingers, poke his eye, stare at the sun, suffer miserable side effects and seize. I have to listen to him moan and grouse and screech and feel him grab and scratch at me. Now and then my patience thins, and when Calvin stretches it to its limits, I become ugly both inside and out. Perhaps you know what I'm talking about.
Monday was one of those days. Though the weather was stellar for riding bikes, boating, fishing, hiking, swimming or going to a park, I was stuck with an out-of-sorts son making circles inside the house, in the yard, in the car. Despite the Independence Day holiday, Michael was off taking pictures, because what is there to do that is any fun for us as a family? It seems we've tried it all before and have met mostly with dismay and frustration. With Calvin in tow, beaches, restaurants, cafes and strolls are all virtually impossible. Adventures of any kind are a major undertaking and often end in disappointment since our son is incapable of sitting still or attending to any activity or subject. I wish that were hyperbole.
And so, again, I sat at home feeling sorry for myself. Perturbed, I pined for an escape—San Francisco, Seattle, New York, Paris, Lisbon, Rome. Places in which I used to live and those I've visited and roamed.
Monday morning, Calvin and I went on our daily drive—a kind of respite for me even though I'm not alone. He bitched the entire time like he used to all too often. On our way home, we drove past a friend's house. She and another gal were outside soaking in the gorgeousness of her perennial garden, lounging in the shade draped in a couple of butterfly chairs. Their sun hats seemed to float over the day lilies beginning to bloom. I felt a pang of jealousy. In waking hours, Michael and I can't take our eyes off of Calvin. We must take turns watching him, staying within arm's reach so he doesn't fall. Can't leave him unattended for a second unless he is secured in his safety bed, and even then we have to listen for him over the baby monitor. There's no escaping him. Can't find real relaxation and solitude. Can't send him anywhere on his own. In that way, we don't have much freedom unless he's with his pal Mary or at school.
In the late afternoon when Michael got home, we all drove to Pennellville to pick up our friends' farm share since they're out of town. Afterward, we drove out to nearby Simpson's Point which is a regular stop on my morning drives with Calvin. We pulled into the turn-around, parked and watched the bathers from the car. Michael spotted a friend and went to say hello. I got out of the car to take a few nearby photos while Calvin sat in the back seat gnawing his toys. Our friend's wife emerged from the waters and came to visit with me. So that I could keep an eye on Calvin, we stood next to the car catching up about our boys, our gardens, our various goings-on. Eventually, I openly lamented the monotony of my days with Calvin. Then, in what I believe was a loving and concerned attempt to level the playing field, she told me that the sameness of days is something everyone experiences, that it was that way for her at work, too. I told her, with gratitude, that I hadn't exactly thought of it in those terms before.
But late that night, after I had gotten out of bed for the third time to lay my restless boy back down, cover him up and to wrestle his bed pad which had gotten untucked and buckled under him, I had a thought: the monotony of my days is wholly different than what my friend was talking about. This was an eighty-plus degree holiday weekend, a day made for barbecues and picnics, watching parades and fireworks or taking a dip in the cove. Michael, Calvin and I were there in our street clothes. We had simply been on an errand and had taken a detour. We were not sunbathers, swimmers or waders. Our teenager was not frolicking in the water with his buddies. We were not there reclined in fold-out chairs reading our favorite novels or sipping iced drinks from a thermos. We were not resting under wide-brim hats in the shade. Those are things we never do, don't have the luxury of doing with Calvin because he can't sit still. We were doing what we always do when he's around, which is practically nothing beyond driving the back roads. And yet, we were grateful for our astoundingly serendipitous "adventure," and to get a slice or scent or taste of what others were able to immerse themselves in, some of them perhaps for hours.
After a short visit (we had to get home for Calvin's evening seizure medicines and early bedtime, otherwise we would have lingered) we said our so-longs to our friends. But before we drove off, I decided I should at least test the waters. I padded down to the boat launch past folks in bikinis and tanks, trunks and sunglasses. Before we had embarked, by a streak of luck I had slipped into my flip-flops for the first time this summer and had rolled my jeans up. I stood at the water's edge and let the gentle waves lap over my feet and ankles. It felt refreshingly cool, though not too cold for a swim. There on the point, I closed my eyes for a moment as if no one were around. Tipping my head back, I felt the sun and the salty wind kiss my face and neck as if a lover. For a split second, I let the elements take me somewhere far away and exotic.
And as I finish writing this, I realize Monday had turned out to be a day like no other.