Impulsively, but fortuitously, I signed up for a memoir writing course with Cori Howard of the Momoir Project. Our first assignment was a “new beginning” piece that was to be only a page long. Here is my contribution. By the way, a lovely group participating in that course. Do visit Cori’s site.
At eight o’clock this morning a physician put a dipstick into a cup of my fourteen year old son’s urine and told me that he had Type 1 (Juvenile) Diabetes. The beta cells of his pancreas are no longer secreting insulin, and he will need insulin therapy for the rest of his life. I can’t think straight; I can’t feel anything; I don’t know what to say to my son besides, “I love you. We will get through this.” I am lying: I feel like dying, passing out, sleeping, just stopping breathing if this is what he will have to live with. I also have no information: what is this disease whose name I know?
Philip, my husband and I are in the car; he was deemed well enough to travel to the team who will explain everything to us today; we are all bracing ourselves, armor on. He is quiet; he doesn’t want the radio or his usual music. Our talkative son is speechless. As am I. He cannot eat until we have seen the team. No matter, he feels too nauseated to eat anyway, his normally pink skin white and clammy. We park in the car lot across the street and enter the building. The team is waiting for us.
It is a bitterly cold afternoon, the roads slippery with ice and a dusting of snow. We have driven an hour to meet with the people in a small white building adjacent to the hospital. The sign says that it is the Diabetes Resource Centre. In denial, I’m still struggling with why I am here.
Two hours later, after graphs and explanations and drug descriptions, Philip is asked if he would like to test his blood himself and give himself his first insulin shot. He replies, “Yes.” His chin wobbles a little. My heart shrinks and squeezes until it hurts. Despite the numbness.
Philip, holding an Insulin Pen, dials up the appropriate amount of insulin, pulls up his shirt to expose his belly and tries to get hold of some flesh. He hasn’t any; the disease has wasted away all fat and even some muscle. Struggling with his fingers and fighting his emotions, he finally acquires a pathetic grip. He pushes in the needle and delivers the dose. His new life has begun.
Watching him do this, resisting the urge to run very far away, I breathe in and breathe out for what feels like the first time today. Suddenly I feel again, everything at once, but also such pride. So much courage our boy has. The briefest of smiles touches his lips as he sighs out his tension. I hold his bony body in my arms for the first time in months, teenage boys are so un-touchy, and hug his fierce bravery.
Motherhood is a powerful time in our lives, and, as I am learning from my own mother, it never really ends…that is the good news and the bad news. But it is nothing that any parent wouldn’t know already.
I am also particpating in a wonderful writing program called “Writing Our Way Back Home”, and I will be posting from there when I have finished this week’s assignment.
January 13, 2012