“United States, Canada, Mexico, Panama, Haiti, Jamaica, Peru,
Republic Dominican, Cuba, Caribbean, Greenland, El Salvador too
”, Preston chants.

We are seated at the dinner table and though I have understood what he’s said I have no idea what it means or where he’s gotten it from. He loves memes. He reads through hundreds of them every day. So I ask him if he’s quoting another meme. (Meme quoting is a graduation from quoting commercials. At three years old we’d mention ordering pizza and he’d say, “Hot and ready!” Or his dad would bring home Subway and he’d shout, “Subway, Eat Fresh!”)

It’s a song from the show Animaniacs. You should know them. They were around in your day,” he responds.

It fascinates him that his parents used to be children too and that some of the things he likes (Mario bros. Nintendo, and cartoons like the Animaniacs) were things we also enjoyed . I recognize the song now. I did watch the Animaniacs as a child. The wonders of Youtube never cease.

Preston’s unique quirks don’t end at quotes. He is also a child who relies on facts. He hates fiction that masquerades as truth. He explains, “I don’t see the point in reading a fictional book. It’s stupid.” The real world is enough of a mystery for him to feel contented in uncovering its secrets.

He is extremely intelligent. His Wechsler IQ test proves that he’s “off the charts intelligent”. The psychologist’s words – not mine. He’s been reading since he was two. And reads far above grade level, even now. His broad and advanced vocabulary is often commented on by strangers. He is very articulate.

I have learned so much from him. The way he sees the world is different and unique. My whole life I’ve perceived the world from ground level – now I get glimpses of it from his perspective – a bird’s eye view so to speak. And it’s impressive.

He thinks everything through – too much. It gives him extreme anxiety which often or not results in meltdowns. Pressure. It’s the only thing that calms him down. I bear hug him. I can feel his heart beating like he’s run a marathon. His breath hitches in gasps and gulps. When my arms don’t work we use a weighted blanket.

His small talk and back and forth conversational skills challenge him. He tends to talk at a person and doesn’t respond “neurotypically” to other people’s revelations about themselves; although, I’d argue he responds honestly. His speech therapist once asked him about his siblings. He gave a rambling answer starting with their names and ending with video games. She smiled and told him a little about her siblings. When she was finished he stated, “Okay”.

So, he doesn’t learn the nuances of socialization naturally and doesn’t understand why people feign interest in others if they aren’t interested. It will have to be taught because…

Preston is autistic.

He. Is. Autistic.

What does that mean? It means he was born this way. It’s genetic. It means he has gifts and it means he has challenges. It means the two (Preston/Autism) aren’t distinguishable from each other. When people speak about Autism needing a cure or preventative measures or how it’s caused by vaccines it translates to: You’re son is an abomination that needs to be fixed.

Go fuck yourself.

He wasn’t afflicted with Autism. He wasn’t “normal” one day and then suddenly woke up autistic. This is how he was born and it’s insulting that people act like his existence is an unfortunate accident caused by vaccines or any other number of dumb things I have heard since he was diagnosed.

My son is more than your definition of what normal should look like.

And you’d be blessed to know him.

I am.


Denial is powerfully immersive – I stood in it’s quicksand and sank slowly, waving to passerby’s.


I ignored the symptoms. Explained them away.

He couldn’t stand the sound of the vacuum or the toilet. He covered his ears and screamed every time we sang. We couldn’t go out to dinner, to the mall, or out to family get together’s without meltdowns so severe we’d just pick up and leave. He was sensitive to noise. So? You’d be too if you’d spent the first year of your life in heart failure and the following two in and out of the Children’s Hospital.  I fought three long years to hear the cardiologist say – he’s healthy – I sure as shit wasn’t letting that go for a sensitivity to noise.

He could read by the age of two and had a vocabulary that exceeded most adults by the time he was five. I was amazed. He was clearly a genius. Isn’t that every parents dream? I googled for answers. The official term for this unique “condition” is called, “hyperlexia” and is often a splinter skill common in Asperger kids – Autism.  But not always. Sometimes it happens in neurotypical kids who’ve been exposed from an early age to reading. I read to my kids every night.

He had troubles playing with other kids. Rules. They had to play by his rules. Often rules he didn’t express out loud. Rules he assumed other children knew. But he was young. Young children often have trouble understanding others perspectives. He’d grow into it, I thought. Even as he screamed until his voice broke, repeating over and over in an accusatory tone, “They’re not playing right. They’re not playing right!” 

He’s context blind which is common in children with autism. Single-minded. He can stand up in front of the entire school and sing a rendition of ‘Light em Up’ by Fallout Boys without flinching because he’s focused on the lyrics/melody/tone. Not on what the audiences facial expressions say. Not what the snickers in the front row mean. He doesn’t even notice when the audience begins to sing with him. He’s courageous.

He’s a noise sensitive, hyperlexic, rule bound, single-minded, courageous kid.

He’s a little further behind with fine and gross motor skills than most kids his age. He’s not clumsy – he’s just not coordinated. He didn’t ride a bike until he was 7 years old. He didn’t tie his shoes until he was 8. He still struggles with buttons. He refuses to eat with utensils. He hates writing. He hates every sport he’s ever attempted.

Autism? Personality.

He jumps and flaps his hands. He’s excited.

He has no friends. He’s always enjoyed playing by himself.

“He’s lonely mom.”

“Have you ever noticed that your son stims?”

“Preston got frustrated in class and began to punch himself in the head”

I could no longer afford to ignore his quirks. I called a friend – Dot.

“Get him assessed.”

“But the label…”

“Will help you to get the services he needs”.

I got him assessed. He has autism. This disorder has made him a noise sensitive, hyperlexic, rule bound, single-minded, courageous kid with an IQ that’s “off the charts”.

He’s also lonely, anxious, and overwhelmed by a world he doesn’t understand in all its social intricacies, customs, and subtleties.

And now…

I don’t know. I’m terrified. There’s no answers or direction like there was with his heart defect. Immediately after that diagnosis I was told what to do. What medicine to give. What doctors to see. All I was given this time was a place on a wait list for public services.

I’ve moved away from my own denial only to find myself immersed in a system that’s all about denial. Denial of services, support, and funding.

Is this the best we can do?









Zombie Park

zombie PrestonThe sky darkened overhead as storm clouds rolled like waves and crashed against the blue sky, drowning out the sun. The smell of ozone hung damply in the air, and the wind carried intel to me while it  teased the fabric of my dress. The dead were near. I could smell them. Decaying flesh has a unique odor, one that clings like Velcro and hooks painfully to the gag reflex in the back of the throat. I placed a hand over my nose and tried to breathe through my mouth. Ick, I could taste them on the breeze. I trembled on my perch high above the earth and scoured the land for signs that the fetid things had found us. My son, Preston, only five years old, swung his knife knowingly. He could sense them too. His eyes peered over the red metal railing of the children’s play structure we were stationed on.

“Ova der (over there), Mom” he whispered.

I followed his pointed finger and saw a woman, no older than me, stumble into the fence that lined the park. Pieces of flesh hung off her cheek where she’d recently been bitten. Blood still oozed from her wound, the injury was no more than a few hours old. The virus worked fast. Her teeth chattered loudly, gnashing incisors sought the living. I knew that she smelled us too. Her head moved side to side as she caught our scent on the wind. Neither Preston or I bothered to kneel down. She couldn’t see very well. Her eyes had begun to cloud over, and in response her other senses had heightened preternaturally. It wouldn’t last long. Eventually she’d slow down as her body began to rot, but for now rigor mortis hadn’t fully set in and so she’d be fast, alarmingly fast. We’d have to maintain the high ground.

She scaled the fence easily enough and we watched her sprint into the field. She paused briefly when grass gave way to the cement of the basketball court. She turned in slow circles before stopping abruptly. She raised her face and despite her clouded vision I would swear she’d seen us. The previously beautiful woman squatted low and hopped forward with fists pounding the pavement. Her legs like an afterthought swung between her arms mimicking our distant relative the Gorilla. Perhaps, I thought, the next step in evolution looks a lot like de-evolution. With a sudden burst of speed she flew towards us.

“Get behind me” Preston demanded. I obeyed. He was good with the knife.

Bloodied sneakers bit into the slide, one step, two three four, and she was on the platform below us. Her throat trembled in anticipation of our soft, pliant flesh. Preston screamed for me.

“She’s a pawpal (purple) so she’s supa stwong (super strong)! I need help. Use yowa (your) special attack” he cried out.

I pushed him aside and screamed in her direction. The force of my voice drove her backwards and she covered her ears in agony. Preston didn’t hesitate, he swung his knife and pinned her hand to her skull, driving the blade into her brain. Her clouded eyes rolled backwards as he jerked it out again. Her body fell limply back down the slide, her windbreaker made a “shushing” sound as she slid unimpeded towards the sand. Her body crumpled up awkwardly at the bottom, and she looked like she was doing some sort of bizarre yoga pose.

“Preston” I whimpered.

He glanced back and noticed that I held my side.

“You caught me with your knife” I said. His eyes widened.

“It’s okay” he said quickly, “I’m a level two heala (healer)”. He held up his hands to my wound and hummed. I felt the muscle knit itself together and the skin begin to close.

“All betta (better)?” he wondered.

“Completely” I said.

We climbed down the plastic rock wall together and he ran for his bike.

“Hey Mom” he said.

“Yes?” I responded.

“Do you want to go home and eat popcown?”

“Sure” I laughed.

We left the park and our imaginary play behind, but we’d be back soon and the zombies wouldn’t stand a chance.





I knew Preston was sick before anyone else. I can’t explain it. I just knew that there was something wrong with my child. Before the first trimester was even over this feeling of dread sank deep into my chest and rooted itself there. And that awful feeling dogged me everyday until his diagnosis of a heart defect. After his diagnosis a new kind of dread took over. I can’t really explain the intensity of fear I felt except to say that it might be similar to sitting in a plane that’s in a nosedive. You’re strapped to this seat but you don’t feel safe, instead you are painfully aware that the fabric wrapped around your lap can’t save you. If you hit the ground at these tremendous speeds you’ll shatter into a thousand separate pieces so that you’re never whole again. To be a parent of a sick child – it’s like being in a plane that never stops plummeting towards the ground.

When my life levelled out I was too exhausted to be relieved and it took me a while to stop flinching at every minor childhood injury or virus. It’s been two years since Preston needed a cardiologist. Two years since I unbuckled myself from that assigned seat. It’s been two years since I realized that the love I have for my children (this intensely joyful celebration of everything that’s good) – has a flipside where the word ‘grief’ is an understatement.

I haven’t had any premonitions since. Nothing to indicate that I was back on the plane.

It started off as headaches. Constant, relentless headaches. We’d had his eyes checked and his vision was 20/20 so we took Gabriel to the doctor.  They did a routine blood test and it revealed an oddity. So they repeated his blood work a few months later. The oddity has become a trend. Gabriel has a low white blood cell count – and a low red blood cell count, and a low hematocrit, and his absolute neutrophil count is also low. So he’s been referred to a pediatrician where more intensive tests will be conducted. I don’t know what tests they will be performing or what they will reveal, I only know that I’m staring out at the clouds as the plane lurches under me…







Playground Altercation

Gabriel 8The phone rang and I picked it up without recognizing the number on the call display.

“Hello, is this Carrie?”

“Yes” I replied. I pushed the mop across the floor, my chin holding the phone in place.

“This is the Principal at your son’s school. I’m phoning because of an incident that occurred during the second recess. Your son, Gabriel, was involved in an altercation with another student.”

I paused and straightened up. I knew that you weren’t the kind of kid to cause any problems. Still, I suppose there’s always extenuating circumstances. Your principal went on to describe how a boy in your class got angry during a game of tag. He didn’t like being “it” and the first person he caught (you) he tackled and repeatedly punched in the face.

A deep rage began to stir in my belly and I imagined what it might feel like to corner this kid and offer him a glimpse of the beast that was now straining at my carefully designed, iron bars of patience.  Despite my instinct to scare the living daylights out of this kid, I knew that wasn’t the kind of example I needed to be for you. So I let the school handle the situation.

When you came home you told me what had happened. You weren’t hurt by the beating you had taken. You were upset that you had befriended this boy; a kid who didn’t have any friends, one who had a reputation for being mean to the other students, and he had betrayed your trust. My heart went out to you. Not everyone we meet is ready to be a friend. But you’ve always been a kid to seek the good in people and more than that you see their potential. Your teachers have described you as being “the most empathetic child they have ever had the pleasure of teaching”. You don’t discriminate. Everyone is worthy of your attention. Any child regardless of race, sex, or ability deserves a chance to be your friend.

Still, this event shook you. You’ve never encountered this level of violence before and I could see you were second guessing the kindness that comes so easily to you. I wasn’t sure how to respond, how to reassure you that most children are worthy of your attention. I asked how the boy who hurt you was caught. Had you told the teacher? You shook your head. No. The adults hadn’t come to the rescue. Other children had. These kids who had actively avoided confrontation with this boy. The kids who had been afraid of him and his violent outbursts chased him down and literally dragged him by his ankles (while he kicked, screamed and tried to bite them) to one of the recess monitors.

I smiled.

“Do you know what that means, buddy”?

You shook your head, tears spilling from your eyes. I brushed one away and ran my fingers through your hair.

“It means that you inspired them to act in a moment that frightened them. Not because they wanted rewards or accolades but because they saw the injustice of your situation. They didn’t have to chase him down. They didn’t have to risk their own well-being for you. No one told them to do that. They did that because they respect you. They did it because you are such a good person that fear couldn’t prevent them from doing what was right. You aren’t old enough to understand how beautiful that is. How it’s easier to be a bystander than it is to be someone who acts.”

You digested that for a few moments before smiling back at me.

“I have good friends” you said.

“Yes you do” I agreed.

You have good friends because you are a good friend. I am so proud of you. You are an amazing human being and I am honored to be your mother.

Happy birthday Gabriel. Never be afraid to be who you are because who you are is an inspiration.


Mom and Dad.


Star light

“I want to be older so I can have friends! It’s never going to happen. Never!” Preston wailed. His five year old body trembled in my arms as pathetic sobs wracked his body. His sister, Eden, sat cross legged on the floor, her tears falling silently onto her pants. She wasn’t angry about her age like Preston, she was upset because she’d been rejected. Her brother, Gabe and his friend didn’t want tagalongs during their sleepover.

“No one wants to be my friend” she said to me, her voice breaking. I reached out for her and she fell into me. I pulled them both close and tried to make my arms big enough to absorb the hurt and frustration. Sometimes though, hugs just aren’t enough.

“Well you guys can have a sleepover too” I said hastily.

They were doubtful at first. They share a room and sleep together every night so my variation better be good. I painted the idea with my words. Sleeping bags, and mattresses on the floor, a camping trip in their own bedroom. Eden quietly mulled over the suggestion while Preston bounced on my lap. He was sold at “sleeping bags”. I looked down at my daughter who was still hidden in my ribs. She was always the hard sell and as usual she had an amendment she wished to add.

“Sleep with us” she requested her voice muffled in my shirt. I hesitated, their bedtime is my alone time. “Please” she added, “You can be my best friend.”

I groaned inwardly. There was no way I could turn down a request as innocent and sweet as that – I didn’t think she’d understand my Downton Abbey addiction. I agreed, but clarified that I’d only stay for as long as it took them to fall asleep. They accepted my terms and the bargain was struck. My husband, Scott, helped me pull the mattresses off the beds and Preston eagerly passed me the sleeping bags. I unfolded them and both kids slipped inside. My husband said good-bye and I shut the bedroom door behind him. I turned off the light and moved towards their excited chatter. I stepped gingerly between them, careful not to crush little limbs under my size eight feet and laid down. My daughter giggled in delight. She draped her arm across my stomach and sighed.

I stared out the window and spied one lone star.

“Star light, star bright. First star I see tonight. I wish I may, I wish I might. Have the wish, I wish tonight. I wish that my children are always healthy and happy” I stated. Preston rubbed his nose against my cheek and whispered that he loved me. Eden asked me to repeat the poem and so I led them in their wishes for the next half an hour. Over and over again they made demands on that twinkling ball of plasma.

“I wish I could fly” Eden said.

“I wish that a cotton candy store and a popcorn store opens across the street!” Preston cried enthusiastically.

“I wish that mommy gets to live forever” Eden murmured in my ear.

“I wish that in two days I get to watch a movie at the movie theatre!” Preston shouted.

“I wish no bad guy comes and hurts us because I want us to be together forever” Eden stated solemnly.

Preston nodded, “Yeah. That’s a good one”.

We laid side by side sharing stories and wishes. We watched as a satellite passed our special star and a plane soared over head. We spoke about the moon and black holes and alternate universes. The kids laughed imagining themselves in different lives – Eden as a boy and Preston as an only child! They wondered how long it would take to get to Mars (only 8 months or so) and if the moon was as small as it looked from here. We shuffled to the ends of the mattresses so we could see more of the night sky and I showed them the Big Dipper constellation – Preston said it looked like a spoon and wondered if we could find a constellation that looked like him. Eden fell asleep first, her face turned towards mine, her gentle breath in my ear. Preston played beside me, making gun noises and animal sounds until he finally petered out. I tiptoed from their room and stood outside the door wondering why I’d never done this before. I felt grateful that I spent this quality time with my kids where set routines and roles were put aside and for a moment I wasn’t just a mom but also a best friend…


How to be the Perfect Parent?

Youth is opinion without experience. When I had my first child I was 24 years old. Being someone who is very clinical in their approach to new experiences I held a lot of beliefs based on “expert” opinions that I had read in books and articles. I was so naive to what being a parent was all about that I thought I had it covered because I had purchased glass baby bottles and was never going to let my kid watch TV. I am not ashamed to admit, I was an idiot.

If parenthood isn’t about defining your parenting theories and implementing them in a strict scientific lab study then what is it about? In a word…


I walked into parenthood hoping that my kid was going to hit every milestone on time (or maybe earlier)! I assumed my child would excel in ways others did not and I became very competitive (silently of course). I wanted my kid to beat yours. I wanted my son to be smarter, faster, more charming, better behaved and not for his benefit, but for my own. As a young mother, I was still pretty self-centered. And I believed that my son’s future success in life wouldn’t really reflect his achievements but my own as his mother.

Imagine my horror when at two years old, the brilliant child that was going to trump all others, still wasn’t talking. He didn’t point, or clap, or gesture in any meaningful way. When he tried to talk his words came out jumbled and indecipherable. It only takes one doctor to agree that there’s something wrong with your perfect baby before every book you ever read, every article you ever studied, and every parent you had ever thumbed your nose at, punches you in your hubris filled ovaries.

There is no book out there that transforms you into being an advocate for your child. There is no sage advice for parents who find themselves floundering in a sea of labels and diagnoses. There is no adequate theory that teaches you how to be a mom. And I say that because there are a ton of books and articles on how to be the perfect parent, but none that show you how to stay afloat when “normal” disappears.

So what did I do? I adapted. I adapted by putting aside preconceived ideas of what it means to have the perfect child. And I did what I had to do to help my son.

My son had a speech delay. It wasn’t the end of the world. It wasn’t even the end of my pride in him. But it was the end of my belief that my child needed to be better than yours. It was the end of my silent competition. And it was a lesson I needed in humility.

My child isn’t perfect and Thank God for that because I’m a better parent for it.

BACK UP 1 263

Parenting Dance

For six years I have done the most important job on the planet. I have attempted to raise brand new, never been used, straight from my box, innocent little people. I would like to emphasize the word “attempted” because after six years I still have no idea what I’m doing. I read articles about “helicopter parenting”, “free range parenting” and “attachment style parenting” and I think that I’m neither of those – and possibly all of those. I can tiptoe the ballet of the helicopter parent, and sway in the modern dance of the free range parent, and I have performed the suffocation salsa of the attachment parent. I’ve done it all. But I think if I were to take a step back and watch this parenting dance I performed, I would look less like a professional and more like Elaine from Seinfeld.

I must not be the only mother who feels this way. It seems no matter what decision I make – it’s both right and wrong.

For example:

When my daughter looks up at me with those beseeching sky blue eyes, and asks for a chocolate bar after our grocery shop is over, my brain veers through the backed up traffic of parenting advice that I’ve collected in my head over the years and I can spend more time making that decision then I would in choosing my next house. Why? Because as a parent there is no simple question that has a simple answer. Every decision comes with a warning label – and that warning label is typed in impossibly small font and loaded with words that are only used by corporate lawyers.

So she wants a chocolate bar. If I say yes, am I establishing a precedent that would lead to a kid who has no restraint, one who can’t delay gratification and constantly asks for chocolate bars every time we go out? But maybe we have delayed gratification – she did go the whole shop without asking for one. But if you look at the back of one of these bars the calorie content alone is alarming – not to mention the ingredients I can’t pronounce. How am I supposed to encourage her to eat healthy if I buy junk as a reward? Obesity is a rising trend. But incentives – especially positive ones – encourage good behavior. And teaching a child to enjoy life within moderation is a positive lesson. But am I spoiling her? Does a child need to be rewarded for behavior that should be expected? And then there’s the mother behind me – what is she going to think if I buy my kid a chocolate bar?

And so I’ve danced this perilous break dance in my head and as the time slips by and my kids question becomes more insistent and whiny, I panic. I slip the chocolate bar onto the conveyor belt just to keep her quiet and tell her she can eat it after dinner. When she inevitably forgets, I eat it despite knowing she’ll freak out about it later. This is probably because my mother never taught me to delay gratification. And as I swallow the last bite, I wonder what her parenting dance looked like?



Elaine Dance photo ElaineDance.gif

To Serve

Cop killers bullets, armor piercing ammo, Teflon coated pieces of metal designed for the sole purpose of ending life, designed to rip through the vest that officers like my husband strap to their chest every shift, fulfilled their devastating purpose one week ago in Moncton, New Brunswick. My children had no idea why I sobbed that day. They didn’t understand why we wore red on the day of those officers funerals, and they certainly don’t realize how dangerous their father’s job is. Death is still an abstract idea to my kids, the oldest of which is six years old, and murder is a concept that is difficult for anyone to grasp. Still, it’s a reality I live with every time my husband dons his uniform, one I’ve experienced first hand.

I was six weeks pregnant with my first child. I was 24 years old, and I was preparing to become a mother. My fiance had been at work for over 12 hours already and I was beginning to get nervous. I know his job entails overtime more often than not; to Serve and Protect is a promise to strangers, a promise that consistently means I eat dinner alone so that others – so that you – can eat yours safely with your loved ones. So I waited.

When the phone rang relief washed over me. Maybe he’d been held up at a car crash, or a domestic dispute, or maybe he was catching up on paperwork. “Private Number” the call display read. I picked it up and cheerily answered, “Hi babe!” There was a pause on the other end, a sharp intake of breath.

“Is this Carrie”? the voice asked. My stomach slid into my throat.
“Yes” I whispered.
“This is Acting Corporal (Redacted) with the RCMP. I’m phoning to inform you that Constable ‘Scott’ has been involved in a shooting”

My heart beat furiously, the roar of its rising pulse filled my ears and I fought off a wave of nausea.

“oh” was all I managed to say.

“From the information I have gathered your fiance wasn’t injured, but he has volunteered to stay out there until the perpetrator is caught. I’ll contact you with any new developments”.

And just like that I knew. I knew that I was marrying a man whose job was a calling he would always answer, no matter the consequences.

I could give you the details. I could tell you that a stolen car was merely a prelude to the attempted murder of two officers. I could tell you that he dodged the bullets meant to kill him because body armor isn’t meant to save but merely assist in the possibility of survival. I could tell you how he hurt his knee diving into a ditch as a madman tried in vain to make me a widow before I was married and to make my son fatherless before his heart was even developed enough to feel it. Instead, I’ll tell you that he volunteered to serve and protect after his shift was over. I’ll tell you that he’d do it again.

I cried that day those officers were gunned down. I cried for days afterwards as well. I cried for the women made widows and the children made orphaned from their father. I cried out of relief that it hadn’t been his call to take and I cried because one day it might.


Your face had taken on an angular shape and stubble now marred your otherwise smooth skin. A deep and resonant voice had replaced the high pitch squeak I’d grown accustomed to, and sometimes my tired brain hears your father. I miss him. I wish he was here to hold my hand as I hold yours. I brush a curled lock from your forehead. My fingers disturb the sweat that beads across your brow and a few salty drops roll down the bridge of your nose and across your fevered cheeks. I sit quietly by your bedside and marvel at your perfection. It seemed that overnight you had become a man.

“Hey Kiddo” I whispered, “Just hold on a little longer. Just give me a little more time”.

“No Mom. Please. Let me go.”

I had to remove my hand from yours. I was shaking too badly and the vibrations were traveling through your sickened body making you wince. I stood quietly and walked to the opening of the cave. I stared at the expanse beyond. The whole world had gone brown. Not one tree stood untouched, most were crumbling from the inside out and the rest didn’t have long. There was very little sound in the world anymore. Even the bugs had ceased to buzz. I strained to hear life, anything to give me hope but was met with emptiness. A hollow world had been the answer to our once hollow lives.

A gentle wind brushed past the trees. Branches cracked and disintegrated. Their ash settled over our world but would never infuse it with life again. If trees could scream this is what it would sound like. I slid to my knees. I felt tears wet my face and was surprised that I wasn’t as dry as everything else. Nothing was left.  Not one bird to sing a mournful song for me. Not one ounce of hope to keep from my task.

I took a deep breath. It hurt. My lungs burned in protest. It seemed that everything in this world was so dry it would crumble at the slightest touch, except the air. The atmosphere was so humid that it was like trying to breathe in a sauna. A sauna with no temperature control unless you were eager for the heat to rise a little more.

I’m not sure how long I crouched at the entrance to our makeshift home. But when I stood again I was struck by the cruelty of it all. I could still remember a time when life flourished. When even death could be delayed and fate could be sidestepped. Medical advances could prolong even the most sickened life; we called it miraculous, brilliant, a scientific marvel. We’d become too self assured and prideful. We’d become Gods in our own minds, and Gods need not apologize for anything…

Today is your fifteenth birthday and the last you will ever have. The only thing I can give you is the comfort of my arms and a reprieve from your suffering. I saved the horse chest nuts we found a few autumns ago. It was surprising to both of us that any tree still managed to bring forth seeds, that life wasn’t fully gone from this earth. So I picked up the nuts and squirreled them away.

“For hope” I told you.

“For death” I thought. Horse chestnuts are extremely poisonous if consumed raw.

You first fell ill a month ago with a hacking cough that would not let up. Who knows the cause; infection, disease? Last night you spiked a fever, one that should have taken your life. Somehow you’ve survived the night but I know it’s only a matter of time. You are going to die. You are already suffering. Hyperthermia has taken hold. The fever has made it so that you can no longer thermoregulate in this heat. The humidity ensures that the sweat your body creates cannot cool you down. It pools upon your skin, but it does not evaporate. Like a child trapped inside a vehicle during a heat wave, you too are cooking from the inside out. It won’t be a pleasant death. So I retrieve the hidden chestnuts and proceed to crush them. I feed them to you by hand. You cough and sputter on their bitter taste but swallow every last piece I give you.

I pass you some water and you look at me gratefully. I shy away from your stare, ashamed. Your chapped lips crack a little more as they form a seal over the cups edge and greedily gulp the liquid. My heart screams. I hyperventilate. Am I really doing this? I pull my knees to my chest and tightly grasp their bony form. My grief trickles out of me and a prolonged groan escapes my lungs as I slowly rock back and forth beside you. This is my fault, at least partially.

Over the years I have tried to explain to you how it had all gone so wrong; how the climate had changed so brutally. I talked endlessly about the follies of the industrial revolution, the unwavering belief in the infallibility of technology – of economy. How do you describe economy to a person who’s never lived in one? Ours had collapsed before you were seven years old; money, profits, livelihoods, and keeping up with the Jones’” – none of it was real to you; certainly none of it was worth it.

By the time you were ten we were nomads. We walked for weeks at a time trying desperately to find food in a dying world, to acquire clean water, and maybe if we were lucky, a home once more to call our own. When your dad died last year we gave up. There is no place left. Searching for those simple comforts we once took for granted was cruel. Hope no longer exists and I can no longer pretend I hold any.

I should have been more prepared. I was neither blind nor ignorant to the issues. The technological world I grew up in passed information faster than any other. Blogs, online scientific journals, forums, all of it held the dire truth. We read it every day. It was in the News. It was on our minds. It was debated and declared desperate or alarmist. Whatever side you fell on – you knew the concern. It was never hidden. The word unprecedented was used a lot. Unprecedented floods, unprecedented droughts, unprecedented heat waves, unprecedented cold snaps, unprecedented acidification of the oceans, unprecedented CO2 levels, unprecedented methane releases, unprecedented glacier and arctic melts… Unprecedented…

And yet I continued on as though everything was normal. I noticed the plants flowering earlier, the leaves changing color later. I suffered through the heat waves and water restrictions. I stood witness as farmers lost crops and had to feed their livestock candy. I watched as grocery store raised their prices because crop yields grew smaller or were destroyed outright by that dastardly unprecedented new precedence.

And with all the evidence before me I didn’t take up a cause. I didn’t rally for new laws. I didn’t live more simply. Instead I continued to purchase and pollute with all those products made from non-renewable resources. Everything made for me was stolen from you.

I don’t know the exact date or moment when all our lies unraveled, when denial was no longer in fashion. In the beginning blame was passed around. The fault was laid at the doorstep of CEO’s, those whose corporations and greedy corruption had put life second to profits. But didn’t I put consumerism ahead of morality and ahead of your future. Wasn’t I just as guilty?

I glance down at my hands. They are covered in chestnuts crumbs. I wipe them hastily on my jeans and tried to reason that I’ve set you free; that I haven’t murdered you. But the truth is, this isn’t the first time I’ve poisoned you… haven’t I been doing it since the day you were born?

I wrote this story after the new IPCC report came out. I’ve been trying to comprehend the damage we’ve caused to the planet. I’ve been reading many different scientific conclusions, made by many different scientific minds, but I have not read about what it means to me, a mother. I needed to imagine it. Some argue this is our future in a 100 years, some argue in 50, and still others argue it could be as soon as a decade… when my oldest son is 15 years old. Being that no one can predict the future, this story is obviously fiction. But I hope the scientific undertones generates the same shock in you as it did in me. Let’s stop poisoning our future.