Christy Shake has for nearly a decade been writing Calvin’s Story, a personal blog exploring (among other things) “motherhood, loss, disability, grief, justice, epilepsy, joy, resilience, gratitude and love.” Since starting it in 2010, she has written more than 2,000 posts and had more than one million visits to her blog.
Christy—the primary caregiver for Calvin, her and her husband’s 16-year-old son—knows something about hardship: Calvin was born with significant neurological problems, including epilepsy. Though few of us carry exactly the same responsibilities as Christy does with a severely disabled son, each of us has trials of our own—and all of us are affected by the strains of living with a life-threatening pandemic.
Christy’s wisdom is relevant for each of us: as Calvin’s mother, she has learned a thing or two about grace under pressure. Her writing reveals her to be an exemplar of self-awareness, and a model for coping with adversity.
Christy posted Bones (reproduced below with her permission) in late May—just as gardens were beginning to bloom on the heels of a world shutting down.
Every morning I wake with achy feet. Who knows why. Stretching my Achilles tendons helps. Perhaps I’m growing into my mother’s soles and toes and various other arthritic bones perhaps exacerbated by having had six kids.
When turning my head I can hear and feel the grit and grind of gears in my neck, its sinews, bones, tissue and tendons as they crackle and pop like embers, or pebbles or sand underfoot. Should this be happening at fifty-six? My inner body is stiff—so unlike it used to be when both palms could press flat against the earth, shoes on, knees locked. My outer body is looser yet less elastic than in years past. And gravity is working on it. Thankfully, my aches and pains don’t usually last; they linger a bit, then disappear and show up later in another limb or joint and, like the seasons, the cycle repeats.
To add insult, Calvin flails and grabs and stomps, his hands and fists forever flying in my face, rigid fingers clasping at the back of my neck, scratching and digging in. Changes in his loose routine are sometimes met with frenzy. Or maybe it’s that his tummy hurts or that a seizure is “due.” I wish I knew. In any case, his grousing chaps my nerves. His clawing dogs me. His restlessness never gives in. Because he does not adequately see or fear or walk or reason, I have no choice but to follow in his ceaseless steps. Daily, I ask myself how long I can keep up.
Lauren stops by to see the garden. I had invited her to come in by way of the field in back. While admiring the blooming rhododendrons and budding azaleas, she and her dog keep their distance. From under her straw hat, she notes the garden’s control and structure, each shrub and tree’s careful placement, the meticulous pruning meant to make their branches thick and sturdy, the deliberate design of limb and leaf and blossom to work in concert with each other.
“Your garden has bones,” she says.
I tell her that they hold me up.