Twenty-Two

Twenty-two.

That’s how many years it’s been. That’s how many there are.

Twenty …two.

22

That’s how old he’ll be.

Christmas always makes me wistful for the past, nostalgic even — for the days of sweet little voices clamoring to put the first ornament on the tree and arguing over who gets to put the star on top.  Some ornaments in particular are what have me a bit melancholy this year as well. You see Sonny Boy got engaged this past August. His Girl is a sweet girl (woman, really — but they’re young, and I digress…) whom we adore and look forward to embracing into the family August next at their wedding.

Twenty-two years are the number of Christmases I’ve had with him. Twenty-two ornaments received as gifts from his grandparents over the years.   The first few were candy caned numbers with cute little animals clinging to them to mark how many Christmases he’s celebrated 1 ..2 ..3 ..4 ..5.

As he grew the ornaments changed as his interests changed: assorted baseball themes, a pet turtle, cars and driving.  I’ve saved every box they came in; wrote on the bottom each year it was given.   Each year he would dig his out of the Rubbermaid storage tub, unwrap them from tissue or bubble wrap and hang them all in a line across/around the tree.  The empty boxes would get passed off to us and we’d stuff the tissue or half-popped bubble wrap back inside and stack the empty little boxes back into the Rubbermaid tub. There was always so much laughter! and stories of “do you remember this one?” — even during the tense mid-teen years. There would always be a fire in the grate, and hot chocolate, made-from-scratch in recent years, with lots of whipped cream.

We put the tree up a few days ago.  It wasn’t the same, and my Mother’s Heart was feeling a little empty. Two of the three kids have moved out (and amazingly back in with each other, but that’s another story) so it was just Sugar Bug, the Husband and me. Sugar Bug spent most of her time taking Snapchats and wrapping herself in the red string beads instead of the tree, entertaining herself while we hung ornaments.  There was still laughter, but not as much nor as loud. There was still homemade hot chocolate, just a smaller pot.  The whipped cream was overflowing!  My heart realized that Christmas in Our Home will never be the sort that all these memories have been made of. My head has known this day would come but it was always “some day” and seemed so far off in the future.

I’m trying to not let the longing for nostalgia and the memories overwhelm the joy that we will be celebrating this Christmas season.  I’m trying really, really hard.  I catch myself staring into …nothing… and realize my thoughts have drifted and my eyes have wandered over to our semi-barren Christmas tree, where twenty-two additional ornaments used to hang.  These same little boxes in their own little tub waiting to go to their new home.

Twenty-two.

That’s how old I was when I had him.  That’s how old Sonny Boy will be when he takes His Girl as his wife.

And they will start collecting special ornaments with special memories of their life together for their own Christmas tree.

And suddenly this Mother’s eyes are puddling up. Not with the longing for the past, but with the anticipation of the future.

 

One Loaded Little Word

(Original draft 09 April, 2007)

Yesterday was Easter Sunday, and millions of Christians, quasi-believers and the guilt ridden filed into churches world-wide to celebrate a Risen Savior, or to at least purge themselves of another years’ worth of sin.

Sin is a funny word: three letters, not phonetically challenging in the least and filled with so much. In our age of relativity, and accepted lack of absolutes, sin is a dirty word, and I don’t mean what it does to ones soul. It’s dirty like swearing used to be. I can say almost any word/phrase I choose (in public or private) and it won’t get the same reaction as saying “That’s a sin”. I can condemn anyone by stating: go to hell. Depending on the volume I use few would give me a second look if I said that anywhere. But, why is it I am condemned by stating the obvious: you sinned? I know it’s a rhetorical question. But for the sake of people who believe relativity is a valid way of spiritual living and that there are no absolutes, I’ll argue their case.

When I condemn, by saying ‘go to hell’, I’m telling them “You are wrong; I am right. You are weak; I am strong.” But because I am here, next to you, on this corporal plain called life on earth, it doesn’t matter to you, because you can easily return the *favor* later, and condemn me to hell, and we are still equal; well all things being relative that is. You and I aren’t mass murders, after all, just maybe recovering shoplifters, or at worst fudge a little on our tax returns. We aren’t Hitler, Idi Amin, Saddam Hussein or Genghis Khan. We’re both pretty good, most of the time, right?

So I say to you later: you sinned. I am, in effect, saying “You are wrong; you are weak; you are worthy to be condemned.” But now, I am not the Judge, just the messenger, stating a flaw — your flaw. Nowhere in that do I say I am stronger or right, but that’s what gets read into my message because we hate to be wrong and weak. Now I have brought into the mix a notion that life is not *relative* and that there are absolutes, and of course that is a very disagreeable notion because now there is no *favor* to return (but you will try, by pointing out all of my flaws, in such a delicate and gracious way, won’t you? hhmm) You must answer to a Judge, who is also Jury. Saying SIN means that God is involved, and it’s easier to just not think about Him, as He is old, ancient, out-dated and irrelevant.

Is there really much difference between the two? The end result of both phrases will get you to the same place, won’t it? I can tell someone to go to hell, or tell them they are going to go to hell. The wages of sin is death, you are going to go to hell. What if I had the power in my words to actually send you to this place that is name-dropped so flippantly? Suppose I said, “Go – to – Hell” and in the next instant you were actually there?

“Wait!,” you object loudly, “Hell isn’t even real, is it? I mean, it’s just a phrase, right? There can’t really be lakes filled with burning sulfur fires, and Satan and demons, and stuff, right? ‘Cuz that would, be like, so… unfair.”

Yup, unfair, indeed, because I am the one sending you there- because we are both nearly equally good people. But God never said He was FAIR, only JUST. Justice isn’t about fairness, it is this: “merited reward or punishment; that which is due to one’s conduct or motives”. (Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary, 1913**) Justice is doing what is right, even if the the end result is unpopular, or makes you unpopular. God’s justice has made Him very unpopular, throughout all of history.

The wages of sin is death. That’s not my law, I didn’t write it. I’m just the messenger, remember?

~~~ ~~~ ~~ ~~ ~~ ~

**Why so old a definition? the same reason if you looked up gay, it’s doesn’t mean just happy, delightful anymore. Contemporary dictionaries have equated fairness to justice today, but they are not the same thing. Definitions are swayed by popular culture, and a word becomes redefined to suit popular demands, which can be a disservice to it’s true intent.

Checkered Flags and Finish Line Ahead!

We get settled back into our little cold room and another Sally comes in. She is a Diabetes Nurse Educator and her job is to cram as much information into my blurring whirling brain about diabetes as possible so I can go home later and take care of my little girl. I think again “I’m tired of thinking about this. There’s just too much to think about. God, if we give her this for a couple of days can you just ‘fix’ it and make a miracle happen so we don’t have to do this forever?”

Sugar Bug has had just about enough for one day, and she reminds me again that we haven’t eaten anything since 9:30 that morning. We snuggle up close and I whisper in her ear “I’m really hungry too.”

It’s now about 2:30. It seems my phone keeps ringing today, too. I’m glad to have it so I can keep people informed with what’s going on. At the same time the realization the many interruptions from it are keeping us in the office longer and delaying our exit. Sally is very patient with these interruptions, especially after I explain that my two older kids are home, and babysitting Peaky when I should have been. She quietly reminds me that phones are supposed to be turned off in the office, but says she understands given the circumstances.

We take a break while Sally gets some more results or papers or supplies– or something. I try to call my mother. I need her to pick up Sweet Pea for basketball practice. She’s not home, and I leave a message to have her call me back. My brain is reeling, and I can’t remember if she was supposed to go for her next chemo treatment today or not. I try my sister to find out if she knows where Mum is; she’s out to lunch with one of my aunts. Now I have to track down my aunt because Mum doesn’t have a cell phone. “Who knows her number? Who knows her number? Grandma and Grandpa!”

I love them. I love to talk with them; but they are 86 years old and Grandpa can’t hear much so I’d have to speak up to be heard. I’m breaking the phone rules already, and now I have to raise my voice and everyone within a three room radius will know. I don’t want to call, too, because I know it can’t be a long call, and I’d rather spend half an hour chatting up their routine and doctors appointments and who came to visit last night. That, and I don’t want to lie if they ask if anything is new or if they ask after the kids and family or how things are going. All this races through my mind in about 2 seconds, and I call them and hope for the best.

The call was brief, they didn’t ask a lot of questions and I apologize for not being able to stay on the line and chat, and explain what I need and why I called. I have my aunt’s cell number. I call her next, and she answers with an expected ‘how did you get this number?’ tone. I fill her in with the details of how I got her number, ask after Mum’s whereabouts and find out she’s been dropped off to home already. SIGH, I just missed her.

My attention goes back to Sally, who’s now back. She has a tackle box of stuff with her–really, it’s a tackle box. She opened it up and started laying things on the examination table. I knew all of these things would be part of our daily lives, but there was so much of it and I tell myself to ignore my empty stomach and focus my attention on what’s going to happen next because my daughter’s health depended on it. She begins with the testing meter and a brief overview of how it works: bottle codes must match, “piano keys” side of test strip goes in, lancet goes here and this is how to change them. Sugar Bug starts to cry again. (This needle fear is going to get very tiresome and exasperating very soon. She’s just going to have to get used to it.) We get another finger poke done and her results are over 340 mg/dL.

My phone rings; it’s Mum. We talk for just over 2 minutes. In that time I skirt the details of where I am and what’s going on, and only say we’re going to be here for a bit yet and wonder if she can go pick up Sweet Pea for practice. She says she’s feeling really quite good today, which is why she went to lunch and would be able to help out. I give the details of ‘when and where’, thank her and hope she doesn’t hear the weariness in my voice and start to worry. She knows me so well, I’d have a hard time trying to hide it from her. I am so grateful she doesn’t press for more answers.

I make a quick call to Sonny Boy to let him know that his Grandma was coming to pick up his sister for practice and ask that he not say anything about what is going on because I hadn’t told her anything yet. He asks how much longer we’re going to be at the doctor’s. I repeat his question out loud so Sally can hear, and glance up to her so she knew I was asking her as well. “Another hour, hour and a half,” she says. I relay that to my son. Holy cow! is what we’re both thinking. That call is done, and hopefully we can finish without anymore interruptions.

I can now turn my attention back to Sally. It’s now 2:45 PM.

Sugar Bug learns she must now have her first insulin shot in the office and she panics. Sally tries to intervene and convince her to be brave and get it over with. I know my daughter, and no amount of talking is going to get her to cooperate right now. She’s terrified and it shows. Then I remember what it was like when I was facing surgery at 16 and the doctor says there’s a slim chance my thyroid goiters could be cancerous. I tried not to panic back then, be remember feeling like I could be dying and he’s just so casual about all this. I gather her up in my arms, hold a hand up to stop Sally mid-sentence and ask “Do you think you’re going to die?” Her sobs are louder, and I know the answer before she nods her head. My heart breaks, and I start to cry with her.

We recover, dry our eyes and noses and move to the insulin injection. She panics again–remember the needle phobia–starts to cry and refuses to take the injection. I make some attempts to reason with her, get her to decide to do this on her own. I don’t want to get heavy-handed and force her; that would just make tomorrow even harder for both of us to endure because her memories would be filled with anxiety and fear. I’m aiming for her memories of this as more in the ‘it’s not a big deal’ range. I don’t know how long this takes, but even Sally is losing her patience with us. She wants this done and over with so we can move on, this I can tell by the look on her face. I am forced to pull Mean Mommy out and threaten her with no computer or TV if she doesn’t just sit still and do this. She tries to push the envelope, but soon realizes I am not going to budge and relents. She is still in tears, but clutches her new bear, ‘Rufus, the Bear with Diabetes’, and lets me do this first one. I hug her tight and wipe her eyes. SIGH

We are able to get through the rest of this bit of diabetes education and learn there is still more to come. Sally wants to know if my husband is able to come the next day for us to be able to finish up. I said I’d have to call him to find out, and explain about changes in his job and say I’m not sure he could get away. The day is almost over, and I am very ready to get home. I make the call and his reply is ‘tell me where and when, and I’ll be there.’ The time: 4:07. It’s set for us to return at 9 AM for more diabetes education. This time it should only be about 2 hours. (ONLY, she says. He got off easy.)

Kristi, a Medical Social Worker, comes in next. It is her job to answer any questions we may have about how to deal with testing and what happens at school and how we make adjustments to our life in general. She uses the word normalize a lot, almost too much. “I want to help you normalize this for [Sugar Bug],” that sort of thing. She mentions a supplementary insurance program through the state. We’ll get more details the next day. She talks about the importance of communication– in our family, with the office, our diabetes team and the doctors. I’m trying to pay attention but my empty stomach is making itself known out loud now, and Sugar Bug is visibly tired. We are both spent.

Kristi doesn’t say anything else I haven’t already heard from the social workers we had to deal with during my late mother-in-law’s final weeks; except that she a big advocate of crying: “Having a really good cry can be very good for you.” This I knew, I didn’t need a social worker to tell me that. She’s very empathetic and that could be a downfall for her in her field of work. Social workers want to ‘save and help’ and sometimes people just don’t want to be saved or helped. We end up talking for just over an hour.

The second Sally comes back and starts packing things away. She double checks on my confidence level with finger pokes, testing, and calculating Sugar Bug’s carb-to-insulin ratio. I’m not feeling especially proficient, but I’ll manage. We pack up a back pack from the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, her complimentary insulin/testing kit bag, our binder with a log book and calculation/conversion chart. We get instructions to call the on-call doctor at bedtime with ‘her numbers’, wake her at 2AM to do a blood sugar test, reminders about what do if this-or-that happens. We gather our things and Sally says good-bye. The lights are off behind the reception area, and most everyone has gone home already.

HOME, it sounds wonderful. Take-out is what I want for dinner. Can’t do take-out because 1) I have no money and 2) I have no clue about how to convert that into insulin units and 3) I don’t even want to try to do an injection away from home. Drat, that means I have to cook and I don’t want to because I’m so tired and hungry.

I can’t go home yet. I have one more stop to make. I look at the time on my phone and realize we have to fly to go pick up Sweet Pea from her basketball practice. It’s 5:40 PM as we pull out of the parking lot at the clinic.

We arrive at the school where practice is held and I collect my middle child. As we are walking out the doors we see it’s raining quite hard, which it wasn’t doing just a few minutes before. I take this opportunity to break the news to her and tell her that her sister has diabetes. Sweet Pea’s jaw drops in shock. I fill her in with bits of our day, and then the rain stopped as quickly as it started. We climb back into the car and head for home.

DD-Day (Diabetes Diagnosis) Drags On

We get to the Pediatric Endocrinology Clinic (it’s referred to as the Diabetes Clinic), and I’m still promising lunch when we get done. How long can this possibly take?

I fill out forms and questionnaires; we sit in an overly warm waiting room. She’s nervous, I can tell. Her coat is zipped all the way to the top and her cheeks are starting to flush and she refuses to take it off. She obliges me by unzipping it. I hang mine on the crowded coat rack.

We are taken to the back for the usual height, weight and blood pressure checks. We are introduced to a nurse, Sally, who’s farther into middle-age than me and wearing a fuzzy pink sweater with a square, crystal or cubic zirconia pin attached to her sweater’s neckline at her collar bone. It’s set so it’s lines follow the ones of her sweater’s seam, so it looks like it’s cocked on it’s point, but it’s not really. She seems very cheerful and smiles at us like we are old friends. It was a real smile, not the nervous or tight lipped ones from the pediatrician’s off ice or the ladies at the reception desk here. I like her already, and can’t say why. The nurse taking Sugar Bug’s vitals says we’ll be going back to see her in one of the rooms once we get called back from the waiting room.

Our wait is not very long and we are soon ushered into a room with a view of the parking lot. It’s an unusually warm day for early January, in the mid 50’s, and it’s raining steadily. It is very cold in this room and I wish I had my coat with me. I hate breaking out in a cold sweat, especially in situations like these, where uncertainty and tension reign.

Nurse Sally talks about diabetes a bit and asks questions: how long have we noticed symptoms, any ______ (about medical history)? Did you have _____ done? Most of this means very little to me. I explain we were at her doctor’s earlier, and then sent straight here and have no idea about much of anything. Sally says we need to do a couple of quick blood tests and Sugar Bug starts to cry. (Did I mention how much she hates needles?) Nurse Sally reassures us these do not require large needles, only a quick poke on her finger to collect just a couple of drops, and that’s all. She calms down a little, but the tears come back after getting her finger poked. They draw up enough for about three drops. One test showed her blood sugar at that moment; another was going to show her sugar levels over the past three months. I don’t even know what the third one was. I mentally chide myself for not asking, but figure it wouldn’t be done if it weren’t necessary. At this point I’m very grateful we have health insurance.

We talk with Nurse Sally some more and soon Diabetes Doctor comes in to talk with us. It’s now past 1:30 PM, and now we are both very hungry. This is taking much longer than I had thought. Of course, no one told us how much time this would take either. I thought about asking, but figured it would be pointless since the fatal flaw in all of my best laid plans was always me, and if I planned to be home in another hour, well, let’s just say I knew that plan would fall apart before it ever got made. Diabetes Dr says we need to go for blood tests at the lab. He points vaguely out the window toward what must have been a door in the adjacent building and says we can just walk over there and come back when it was done.

Off we go.

We sign in and the clock in the lab says 2:03 PM. My phone starts to vibrate in my coat pocket. I see it’s Sonny Boy, and tell Sugar Bug that I’m going to step back into the hallway to talk to him. He asks how much longer we were going to be. “I have no idea. We’re at the lab to get blood tests done, then we have to go back to the doctor’s office and then I’m not sure what will happen. It’s going to be at least another hour or so for sure.”

“Oh, well I was just wondering what was for lunch.”

(Good grief, of all the things to call about, you had to ask about lunch. You are 15, you can figure out your own lunch.) That’s what runs through my head, but he has no idea what kind of day his sister and I are having, or what we’re actually facing as far as major changes for our family. I hope my “kind voice” is the one he hears because that’s the one I’m trying to use. I give him some ideas. He then says that the SD card he bought on e-Bay came, but it’s not the one in the description. He wants to know how to handle taking care of getting a refund, or exchange or something. He chatters on about the description, and pictures in the listing and how they were different… I mentally remind myself that I can’t ignore what he needs, and keep looking through the glass door to watch for any change in Sugar Bug’s face in case they called her name. I can see by the look that they hadn’t, and I have some time to deal with this. “Contact the seller, and find out…” I give my advice and he seems happy enough with that for the time being. Silently I’m hoping he hasn’t gotten sheisted and lost his $14.00.

In the in-between times I’ve also called the Hubby to keep him as informed as possible. I could hear in his voice he was very surprised his little girl has diabetes. I could hear he’s catching a cold, and also apprehension and a touch of fear. If he could have, he would have dropped everything and sped across town to come join us. It crosses my mind to call him again, but with no new news to report I decide to wait.

We get called to come back and have the blood draw done. I was relieved to see how they do the draw in this lab—not the usual vacuum tube, but with a manual syringe attached to a small line—you can tell they work with a lot of kids. Sugar Bug does okay for the draw, and we stand and chat with the phlebotomist while she transfers the syringes to the vacuum tubes and she says her head hurts really bad. Shame on me for thinking she was making it up, for whatever reason she may have had. Next thing I know her half-hug goes limp and she’s dropping to the floor.

Faster than I can write this they had a snap-tube of smelling salts under her nose and an ice pack on her head. We get her coat off her—it took passing out to finally get it off—and wait for her to come around. She’s looking at me, well at least her eyes are pointed at mine, but she’s not ‘seeing’ anything yet. I feel so bad for her. She’s tired, hungry, hot and seeing all those tubes of her own blood must have just pushed her over the edge. They help her up and onto a table into a little room off this one and she’s aware enough to decide she’d prefer some apple juice. “What happened?” is all she could muster. I call Hubby and give him an update, and let him know she’s just passed out, but doing fine now. Again, the tone in his voice tells me he’s more worried than the words are saying. He says he’d like her to call him later, when she has a chance.

As we walk back to the Diabetes Clinic I’m already tired of thinking about living with diabetes, and it’s just been a couple of hours. ‘Good grief, what’s the rest of her life going to be like?’ I also make another mental note to remember that not everyone thinks it’s as cool as I do to see vials and vials of blood lying on a counter top. It’s now painfully obvious Sugar Bug would vote NOT COOL when it comes to seeing blood, especially her own.

Just Another (Manic) Monday

I worked the night before and was reminded several times over the weekend by Sugar Bug that we had to leave at 10:15 to be to the doctor’s on time. It was now almost 8:30 AM. I was awake, but not out of bed yet; Peakie would be coming soon. She was coming four days this week while her mom finished a project that had a deadline for next week. I didn’t want to get out of bed; it was going to be a long day. I had no idea how right I was.

We make it to the doctor’s about 5 minutes late—not bad for me, for a Monday morning. I made the appointment because we wanted a doctors opinion on how to help a 10 year-old manager her weight. Actually, I wanted the doctor to be the “bad guy” who had to say the usual things like: less sugars, more fruit and veggies, more exercise and play outside. She asked about losing weight, so this wasn’t my idea. I have to clarify this right now. She’s not overweight, really, just carrying extra baby fat still, and has a very solid frame just like her Dad. She’s also taller than most girls her age and is becoming more aware physical appearance thanks to her 13 year-old sister, Sweet Pea.

What I deliberately failed—avoided actually— telling her was that I was also a little worried something might be wrong. I didn’t want to scare her for no reason, as she tends to over react and become hysterical with little effort. I told the scheduler I was a little worried about her blood sugar: she was drinking a lot of water and went to the bathroom a lot. I didn’t tell them she had lost about 10 pounds since Thanksgiving. Something else I learned later that day that I should have been paying attention to: the frequent stomach aches and vomiting for no apparent reason; as in she had no other tell-tale signs of illness, flu or food poisoning.

Our Pediatrician asked for a routine urine sample. They do a dip analysis to test for sugar levels. They must have been off the chart because Dr. was back in the exam room in no time flat. Sugar Bug hears the word DIABETES and tunes out most of the rest, I’m sure. I heard it and my first thoughts were: O Lord, she’s only 10, and this is the rest of her life we’re talking about.

The exam is finished, she gets a flu shot because some doctor she’s never met said it would be best to do that right away, and Dr calls a Pediatric Endocrinologist to make a referral. We get to go there next, as in leave this office and go straight there. Sugar Bug is in tears. She’s confused, scared and sore from the shot. I have not yet mentioned that she hates—HATES—needles. “Go to JAIL, go directly to jail. Do not pass GO; do not collect $200.”

I called home to say we were going to go to another doctor’s office, but didn’t say exactly why. I mean, how do you tell your teenage son that his little sister went in for a routine exam and left with a life-altering disease? And do it on your cell phone? I said we’d be gone until after lunch for sure. I promise her we’ll get McDonald’s after we were done over there. It was 11:58 AM. We should have stopped for food on the way.