hell and angels

i don't believe in religion or in its hell or angels. to me, that hell is an absurd, fantastical, primitive invention, a relic of the dark ages. but hell on earth is real. i know, because it exists in the misery of my kid, in the pain and panic attacks he has that sometimes last for hours and deprive everyone of sleep. it's in the way he thrashes, cries and writhes in bed. it's in the agony and sadness etched into his soft forehead. it's in the way that so few things help my sweet kid when he's like this. 

my perdition is in witnessing, in my helplessness and incomprehension, my inability to exactly understand the nature of his hurting, the meaning of his expressions. he has no words, only coos or hums. at hellish times, he shrieks and moans. it's this mother's agony to observe.

so, too, i feel the punishment of eighteen and a half years of "raising" an infant-toddler-teen. it's a job that doesn't come with vacations or weekends. all too often it is tedious and grueling. it requires i be on duty, or on call, around the clock every day of every month of every year. to keep him safe and warm and clothed, clean and dry and fed and loved. to keep him out of harm's way like any parent would. to comfort him when he's out of sorts. to give him medicine even when i can't know for sure his misery's source.

while running the other day, i heard a car skid to a stop. my heart skipped a beat thinking it was my kid—the rubber squealed as if it were his seizure-shriek. but it was just the sounds of the street. years ago, when we often called 911 for calvin's stubborn fits—one so long we thought his body would give out—i used to run after ambulances. while walking the dog on campus, i'd sometimes hear sirens screaming past. i feared they were headed to our house for my boy. i'd chase them till they'd turn down different streets. it was a godawful—hellish—frightening, worrying feeling.

no amount of writing can sufficiently describe how heart-wrenchingly difficult this kind of caregiving is. this witnessing of my child's suffering. the feelings of guilt rising from punishing frustrations born from lack of sleep, getting smacked by his errant fingers and fists, listening to his tiresome and irritating bleating, coping with his poopy diapers and sopping bibs, watching him repeatedly seize. the hell i feel is in the most of it. what's the worst, though, is his frequent misery. a kind of hades i really hate, and from which it seems there's no escape.

and so, no, i don't believe in god's hell or angels. but if there were angels, my precious calvin—with his impish grin, little muscles, strong embraces, smooth skin, huge eyes, cute dimples, ecstatic smile when we kiss him, his deep-down goodness and sweet disposition (when he's feeling well)—would hands down take the cake. 



Today marks the twelfth anniversary of my first blog post. In twelve years, and over 1,747,526 hits later (no doubt some of them from bots), scores of lovely people have joined in helping to fuel my journey, recharge my battery, and validate my innermost feelings about what it is to raise a disabled child who suffers from intractable epilepsy. Those wonderful people are you:

all kinds of mothers, fathers, doctors, nurses, restaurateurs, therapists, ice cream scoopers, bloggers, children, ed-techs, in-laws, sales reps, grocery store clerks, photographers, chefs, brothers, teachers, flight attendants, runners, city councilors, dietitians, case managers, receptionists, kindred spirits, painters, octogenarians, presidents, ed-techs, bar tenders, cooks, bus drivers, radio talk show hosts, chaplains, lawyers, actors, neuro-ophthalmologists, contractors, professors, nurse practitioners, marathoners, deans, physical therapists, grandmas, grandpas, farmers, farmhands, coaches, nieces, nephews, priests, college friends and their spouses, athletes, bowl-turners, aunts, uncles, cousins, principles, headmasters, musicians, retirees, servers, brewers, hair stylists, writers,s founders, weeders, orthotists, superintendents, directors, students, ex-students, curators, sisters, poets, producers, carpenters, baristas, CNAs, actresses, technicians, former coworkers, contractors, designers, business owners, candidates, librarians, congresswomen, critics, high school buddies, neighbors, longtime friends of the family, occupational therapists, speech and language pathologists, pharmacists and their staff, hospital staff, phlebotomists, neurobiologists, film makers, celebrities, readers and kind strangers.

Thank you for reading and sharing and connecting and caring. You’ve all done something—whether unwittingly or not—to make our lives richer, more comfortable, happier, better, and for that I owe you each a debt of gratitude.


blind luck

The sound Calvin makes when he has a grand mal seizure is no sound a parent wants to hear coming from their child, nor anyone for that matter. It's blood-curdling. Sometimes it's strident, a bit like a barking dog or seal, and at others it sounds like someone being murdered. The screech that ripped me out of sleep Wednesday morning was doubly loud, long and alarming for some reason. To add insult to injury, it came on the heels of last Monday morning's grand mal.

It's a sinking feeling watching your child seize, especially when there's really not much to do save administering emergency medications, which have their own slew of troubling side effects, though luckily aren't usually necessary for Calvin since for years his seizures have stopped on their own. The clusters, however, are harder to control.

And so, to avoid subsequent seizures, when the seizure was over I incrementally syringed two milliliters of my homemade THCA cannabis oil into the pocket of Calvin's cheek and watched him drift back to sleep. Then, to monitor his breathing, I crawled in next to him—head to toe now that he's bigger—held his little foot in my hand, and my brain went to work on the days' events.

I thought about how last Tuesday authorities found the body of fourteen-year-old Theo Ferrara, the boy who went missing in the next town over nearly two weeks ago, and about whom I mentioned in my last post. His body was found in the waters of Maquoit Bay near Bunganuc Point not far from where I drive with frequency, and just downstream from where I took this photo.

Considering the lightweight clothing Theo had been wearing when he was last seen—a windbreaker, t-shirt, shorts and flip-flops—the chilly nights dipping into the forties had added to my worry. Since his disappearance, I'd been going to bed thinking of him and hoping he'd turn up safe and sound somewhere. The news is tragic, and authorities won't know the circumstances of his death for weeks.

To aggravate the tragedy of Theo's death, on social media earlier last week parents were posting pictures of their children in celebration of National Daughters and Sons days. While I love, am grateful for, and am proud of my sweet boy Calvin, the feelings the photographs evoked are bittersweet because too many of my friends' precious children—Lily, Rose, Rainier, Jennifer, Will, Tyler, August, Kelli, Martin, Mikki, Mike, Kevin, Ronan, Charlotte, Arnd, Michael, Elisif, Melissa, Matt, Cyndimae, Katie, Christina Taylor, Finnegan—left this earth far too soon. Still others may have tried to have had children but couldn't.

And so, as I lavish attention on my own child, and despite Calvin's challenges and afflictions which send me reeling and into dark places, I try not to forget our blind luck. I try to hold in my heart others who have suffered the greatest loss any parent could know. And, in moments when I complain and feel deeply the frustrations of raising my enigmatic, impossible child, I'll try my best to hold him a little more often, a little closer, and a little longer than when otherwise I might be apt to ignore.