lost boys

I was going to write about why I haven't been writing much (instead, busy with running, some autumn gardening, taking care of a recently-sick Calvin, and doing online modules to complete my DSP (direct support provider) "training" so that I can begin being paid a little for taking care of Calvin. I was going to write about the fact that, on a moderate dose (100 mgs) of Calvin's newest drug, Xcopri (cenobamate), he's been going longer between seizures (thus having fewer), and that he didn't have a fever or a febrile seizure after last Friday's Covid booster. I was going to mention that he hasn't had any focal seizures since February, and that, overall, his behavior is better.

I was going to write about our near-perfect trip to the Cumberland County Fair yesterday where, under hazy, lavender-ish skies, Calvin did some amazing, albeit brief, stints walking by himself (too good to be true? we wondered aloud) down and back through a barn of draft horses and even a bit further. I was going to write about how straight and stable he sat at a red picnic table drinking from his sippy cup, that he enjoyed bites of warm, cinnamon-sugar donut, that all day long he signed "eat" very well, putting his finger to his mouth when he wanted more.

But, halfway through our time at the fair, when the crowds began to gather choking the pathways, and the midway rides ignited their noisy motors, and the hot sun began to filter through a bit too strong, Calvin's relative well-being seemed to go south. His intermittent walking deteriorated, so we put him back into his stroller. His skin felt hot. His face went pale. He began to perseverate, elbows crooked and waving, knitting his fingers. On the drive home, he batted and grabbed for me incessantly as if to be saved from something.

Then last night came the perfect storm—the new moon, a drop in the barometric pressure, perhaps a semi-latent affect from Friday's Covid booster, the sky opening up to unleash one of the hardest downpours I've heard since moving here—and at 2:45 this morning, Calvin had a grand mal seizure. It had been fifteen days since the last one. This time, when the fit was over, I gave Calvin twice as much of my homemade THCA cannabis oil as I usually do, hoping to prevent a second one from striking like they often do. Thankfully, it seemed to work.

As I laid in bed next to my boy in the pitch black of his room, I thought about the day's events and the looks Calvin got from strangers—some kind, others curious or suspicious, perhaps even put-off. I thought about the rides I would've liked to have taken him on, the animals I wish I knew if he saw and wish he could enjoy petting, the contests I wish he could've entered if he wanted to, the fact that, in ways, Michael and I wish we could've been at the fair without him.

As Calvin slept, at times arching, I thought about our ride home through parts of Freeport, Maine, where good neighbors and authorities were and are actively searching for a skinny fourteen-year-old boy named Theo who went missing four days ago wearing shorts and flip flops as nights dip into the forties and fifties. I wondered what happened to him. Was he snatched up by a nefarious actor? Did he fall into a hole or into frigid waters? Was he bullied into a state of anxiety, depression or some sort of submission? Did he end his own life? Was he trying to escape something or someone?

Then, I thought about the bluegrass concert given at my friends' gorgeous farm last Friday night in memory of their young and precious son, Finnegan, who died in a kayaking accident last November. So many amazing and loving people gathered together to make food, music, and memories in honor of a beautiful boy—at nearly 24, a young man, really—who was lost far too soon. I felt grateful to have been able to be there, at least long enough to give and get some hugs, to visit with beloveds a bit, and to remember my young friend, Finnegan, for the incredible human being he was.

In thinking about Theo and Finnegan, I considered the grief I feel over my own lost boy. I often wonder what would have become of Calvin—or what he would have become—if he hadn't been born missing most of the white matter in his brain. I mourn the loss of a boy who is flesh and blood sitting right in front of me—the loss of his artistic, athletic, academic, physical, philosophical, humanitarian potential. The loss of seeing him make friends and meet new people, and of us becoming their close friends, too. The loss of seeing him fall in love. The loss of the potential of having a growing relationship with our adult child. The loss of possibly having a grandchild or two to dote on.

Then, I think about my blog and memoir in progress and how I'd never have started writing them if not for my boy. Perhaps I wouldn't be quite so charmed by gardening if I didn't feel the need to shape nature since I can't control my son's regrettable disabilities and miserable afflictions. Maybe I'd never have started running (again) if not for need of an escape from a hard and restricted life of mothering an impossible infant-toddler-teen. Maybe I'd never have embarked on my pandemic back roads travels, which have bore new friendships, sparked a love for taking copious panoramic photographs, caused me to reflect so deeply on life and the mundane. These amazing endeavors I'd likely never have chanced upon if not for Calvin.

And though it's no consolation, my lost boy and what he has brought to me and to others is so worthwhile, and worth pondering. 


universal beauty, unconditional love

If my nonverbal, incontinent, legally blind, unconditionally-loving son Calvin has (unwittingly) taught me anything, it is to be grateful. That might seem counterintuitive considering our sorry situation, but I've come to understand that mindfulness and gratitude are two practices that help get me through the bruising parenting of a cognitively and physically disabled child who has a chronic condition as relentless and unforgiving as epilepsy. Gratitude and mindfulness help keep me grounded while at the same time distract me from getting stuck on the troubling aspects of life concerning my son.

Last Saturday night was a rough one for us. After a day of snotty-nosed sneezing, Calvin developed a cough and a fever of 102.6 degrees. Several hours later, I was amazed that the stubborn fever hadn't managed to break his twenty-seven-day seizure-free streak. However, despite alternate doses of acetaminophen and ibuprofen, at 1:30 in the morning a grand mal finally broke through, and a second one regrettably followed a few hours later. The kid is still sick.

Nevertheless, on Sunday, as on most days, I found things to be grateful for: Calvin didn't have a third seizure; he felt well enough to be interested in a car ride; though he didn't eat, he took in fluids; I still managed to get outside by myself to run a few miles. Practicing gratitude, however, doesn't mean I don't also lament Calvin's and our impossibly difficult and relentless situation.

Throughout the weekend, I thought about a social media post I'd seen in which its author expressed her belief in a heaven for the followers of Jesus. The specificity of her remark made me bristle a bit, understanding well that many if not most Christians are convinced that nonbelievers—no matter how virtuous—will be tormented in Hell for eternity; I've had friends and acquaintances tell me that's where I'm headed simply because I'm not Christian. Mostly, I laugh off what I regard as an absurd, fantastical, primitive invention. I went on to consider Calvin's innocent obliviousness to Jesus. I thought, too, about my many salt-of-the-earth Atheist, Jewish and Muslim friends who, though they know who Jesus was, do not claim him as their lord and savior. If there is a god, is "He" so conceited and merciless as to banish decent people to eternal damnation for their so-called indiscretion? Are we/they not God's beloved children, too? Shouldn't virtue be valued over appeasement?

I went on to recall an interview I did with a student of journalism who produced an audio profile of me during the height of the pandemic. She made a gorgeous, seven-minute piece about my life with Calvin. Her depiction is rich, though doesn't include my recorded musings on religion, Christianity, specifically. I surprised even myself when I told her that many aspects of Christianity offend me. I had never thought of it in those stark of terms before, but as I described sweet Calvin's miseries and struggles—his malformed brain, inability to adequately express his wants and needs, his helplessness and vulnerability, his seizures, the heinous transient and permanent side effects of epilepsy drugs and their withdrawal—my position crystallized. I lamented to her the "everything happens for a reason" and "God doesn't give you more than you can handle" platitudes that come my way all too often from well-meaning Christians when they learn about Calvin. To the former, I usually respond by saying I don't believe it for a second; to the latter, I counter by asking why, then, do people kill themselves?

Though raised Catholic, and despite the fact I'm fond of the presumed teachings of Jesus, I lost my religion ages ago, having first begun to doubt it with the tragic swimming pool accident of a best friend's two-year-old sister when I was fourteen. As the years have passed, I've become more awake to Christianity's patriarchy, sanctimony, power-lust, enrichment, racist and bigoted history, and the hypocrisy of some of its most ardent leaders and disciples, which doesn't negate the fact that, like all people, most Christians are good.

But, there is something else that troubles me: religion's depiction of the creator (assuming there is one) of our mind-blowingly vast and expanding universe as anthropomorphized, obstinate, immutable, callous, conceited, judgemental and unforgiving—a being, I'd argue, that seems made in man's image rather than the other way around. What exactly would be the motive for an allegedly omnipotent, merciful god to let "His" children suffer, to test them so harshly, setting up some of them—like Calvin and others who through no fault of their own are isolated and ignorant of Jesus—for certain failure? And if we puny humans are capable of forgiving each other's mistakes, shortcomings and most heinous offenses, why isn't God? What is the point of a fealty experiment, anyway? Shouldn't virtue be enough?

Knowing with the utmost conviction the answers to my own questions, I return to musing on gratitude—for the green canopy of trees, for a healthy body able to run free for miles by myself, for an adorable, affectionate child, a husband, friends and family who love me, for kind strangers and shearling slippers and smoked-chicken enchiladas and black-eyed susans and Nan's dahlias and lemon bars and Smellie dogs and cozy homes and blue ocean vistas and moody skies and screen porches and chilly mornings and warm breezes in the afternoon. Finally, I land again on imagining that wherever, whatever or whomever these gifts come from must unquestionably be free of judgement, an expansive and evolving universal beauty. And if perhaps it's a celestial energy or being, I imagine it to be no less than my pure son Calvin—a force of genuine and infinite acceptance and unconditional love.