|Me and Calvin|
I remember the day Calvin was born. My brothers, sisters, and I were all home sick with the stomach flu. Our Granmutti, my father’s mother, faithfully watched over us and nursed us back to health while our parents were away at the hospital. I remember receiving the phone call on that Sunday morning, crowding around the voice machine with my siblings, as Papa announced the arrival of Calvin Owen. “Say hi to your brothers and sisters, Calvin!” Papa held the phone up to Calvin’s mouth and we all heard the gurgling, squeaking protest of our new baby brother. Calvin was the cutest baby ever and he quickly fell into the stereotype of youngest spoiled child. Of course, with my parents, he was never completely spoiled. But sometimes it was hard to be serious with him. As a baby, he would make faces at the dinner table and entertain everyone when he didn’t want to eat. We would laugh as he rolled his eyes and pouted comically. He was even cute when he threw tantrums, pulling on his golden curls that my mother was so reluctant to cut. They grew down to his shoulders until one evening, when Calvin was throwing a tantrum and yanking on his curls, my father announced, “That’s it! Those curls are coming off!” And Calvin received his first haircut that evening.
Calvin was a special baby, not simply because he was cute and sassy—all my brothers were adorable little children with no small amount of sass. But Calvin was special because his life was never a guarantee. I remember the day Calvin got sick. My mother carried him as she frantically made ready to take him to the emergency room. Baby Calvin cried, his face red with raging fever and his lips blue. My older sisters helped me pack as we prepared to spend a few nights at a friend’s house. I asked, “Is Calvin going to die?” Calvin did not die. He and my mother were swept off to the children’s hospital in the city that week but it was not until later doctors discovered why Calvin spontaneously received raging fevers, got terribly sick, and had such a difficult time recovering. Calvin had (and still has) an immune deficiency. The human body produces three types of white blood cells. One of those types is the neutrophils and I believe these are the white blood cells that remember how to fight viruses and diseases the body has already encountered. The neutrophils are the part of the immune system Calvin’s body is missing or highly deficient in. This means that if Calvin ever gets the chicken pox, his body will not necessarily remember how to ward off the virus in the future which is why he has never been exposed to chicken pox or any vaccine and Lord willing never will be.
This also means that sometimes Calvin’s body randomly attacks itself because it mistakenly thinks it is attacking a virus when in reality, it’s just harming itself. He has had strange autoimmune reactions over the years that have resulted in symptoms of juvenile arthritis and Crohn’s disease, neither of which is very fun for a little boy. And that is about as medically technical as I am going to get on this subject. Calvin’s genetic condition is highly rare and there is a ginormous name for his specific condition that I cannot remember (will have to defer to my mother on this one). Suffice it to say that Calvin’s life has never been and never will be predictable. Thanks to modern medication and my mother’s attentiveness and care for Calvin’s well-being, my little brother has been able to compensate for his immune deficiency, for the most part. We still have to be careful but, as you can see, he has come a long way. I still find it hard to believe that years ago, this young man was a little boy with joints racked with juvenile arthritis symptoms, practically immobile. He had to use a wheelchair and then a walker, sleep with splints on at night for months before he recovered. A few years later he suffered from Crohn’s disease symptoms and had to be put on a feeding tube twice before he made any kind of real recovery.
I can’t believe how big he is today! See, Calvin is a miraculous reminder to all of us that life is never predictable or guaranteed. We can never take it for granted, even the ones of us who are fortunate enough to have good health. We must always lean on God’s grace, mercy, and sovereign will in our everyday lives. It is exciting to see how both of my youngest siblings are growing up into adults. It turns out Calvin and I have very similar personalities. We both get curious and interested in the dumbest things. Calvin loves stories and has probably read twice as many books by now than I have in my brief twenty-one years. He also loves creating stories and it’s always fun to hear him talk about the complex worlds, story-lines, and characters he creates in his head. I would not be surprised if someday he publishes a few stories of his own. Calvin and I can talk for hours on end theorizing over ridiculous ideas and plans we never intend to implement. Calvin also has an easygoing, adventurous, and helpful nature. If I ever need help with grocery errands or need someone to do odd-jobs around the apartment, he and Christa are always ready and willing to lend a hand.
There are a lot of things I love about my little bro, but perhaps what encourages me the most about his life is the way that the Gospel of Jesus Christ has transformed his heart and life into the likeness of Christ. I have seen the results of the fruit of the Spirit in this young man’s life and look forward to witnessing how God continues to work in the heart of my little brother. If there is any encouragement and advice I can to give my little brother as he looks ahead to the future it is to cling to Jesus. In everything, pursue Him first, and you will never come away empty-handed. Seek to glorify, obey, and love Him in all you do. Remember the lifestyle of a Christian is not self-righteousness and pride, but humility and repentance. Don’t be afraid to be humble and broken before your God or before others because, praise be to Jesus, He is always ready to receive us and forgive us. And don’t forget that if you ever need it, I have a hundred-some reasons why I love you. Happy birthday, Calvin!