Balancing Out The Hard Stuff

I followed my son as he ran on to the field at the football stadium. He sprinted down the same tunnel as the players, past the same motivational signs, and on to the same grass. Underneath his coat he wore the team jersey but with their dark green helmet clearly visible on his head. We stood on the field and looked at the 60,000 seats from the same perspective that the players do. The experience was very, very cool.

I was grateful to be standing on the grass with him. I smiled as I watched his face wear a combination of amazement and excitement. This wasn’t an experience that many people get, but it was one of many that my son has had. When he was in the hospital, he met athletes and superheroes. He attended movie premieres and dance recitals in the lobby. He won bingo and has appeared on the hospital’s closed-circuit TV. He was in a fashion show and a music video.

Thinking back on those experiences, I wonder how many of them we would have had if my son hadn’t had epilepsy. Not because they were at the hospital, but because I wouldn’t have taken advantage of them. Or I would have let my wife take him by herself because I wouldn’t have known how special those moments were. I would have missed how brave he was raising his hand to ask the ultimate frisbee team a question. I would have missed how special he felt seeing a movie before any of his friends. I would have missed the look on my son’s face standing on that field. I would have taken those opportunities for granted and missed out on them completely.

As grateful as I am for those opportunities, I struggle with the unfairness of it all. Why my sweet, innocent child was burdened with such an unfair, unrelenting condition. Why he walks around in a fog of medication. Why he has difficulty processing and why he is always exhausted. Most days, the scale seems very much tipped against him.

And yet, these moments make him smile. They let him be a normal kid. They also make him feel special. They’re a gift from the universe trying to balance out the hard stuff that my son goes through every day. They are also to teach me to appreciate the opportunities and to be present during them with my son.

I don’t know if the scale will ever be even. As his father, nothing can undo the memories of how bad things got for my son. But the part about being present? I’m grateful for the lesson.

Throwing It Back

We walked along the shore of Atlantic City. The beach was quiet with only a few other souls in view. The sun warmed the winter air to a comfortable temperature and cast stark shadows of the shells on the sand. The seagulls circled silently around us riding the current in the air. The waves rhythmically pushed themselves ashore. They darkened the sand to an almost black and erased the footprints that my son had left moments before.

epilepsy dad feature throwing it back

That morning along the beach, my son took to launching enormous clam shells back into the sea. The inhabitants had been the unwilling dinner guests of another sea creature or one of those circling seagulls. Now, their empty shells laid scattered along the shore. I watched as my son scurried along the sand, finding the biggest ones, and brought them up to the water’s edge. The ocean had given up the shells to the land and now my son was sending them back.

epilepsy dad awareness seizure medicine throwing

Since my son was young, he has always liked to throw things in the water. He liked to see how far he can throw something against the limitless backdrop of the ocean. There were no walls to bounce off, no cars to avoid, only infinity against which to test his strength. After he hurled an object into the sky, he would track it through the air until it reached its destination. Would it skip or would it splash? Either was acceptable, as long as it was far. On the really good ones, he’d turn to me and ask if I saw how far it went. Of course I was watching, I told him, but he was already looking for his next projectile.

As I watched him throw shell after shell, I thought about the things I’d like to throw into the sea. I’d start by taking his seizures from him. Like a piece of paper, I’d crumble them up into a ball until they held their shape. I’d grip it like a fastball and wind up with enough torque that, when I let go, the seizures would disappear over the horizon. I’d do the same with his medicine and their side effects. His learning and attention issues would be the next to go, followed by his fatigue and ataxia. Over and over, I’d crush these afflictions into dense spheres and throw them with all my strength. Whether they skipped or splashed, I only want them far away from my son, somewhere at the bottom of the sea.

epilepsy dad feature throwing it back