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Posts tagged ‘memories’

Postcards from Eddie.

Sometimes the only concrete proof that diabetes hasn’t been with me forever are the cards my classmates sent.  Made from Manila paper, the kind found in abundance in elementary school, the kids in my class used their Dixon Ticonderoga No. 2 pencils and a fistful of crayons to let me know they were thinking about me.

“Dear Kerri, I heard you were sick.  We cleaned out our desks yesterday.  You left your lunch here.  The pear was all rotten.  Hope you feel better soon.  – Mike.”  This card was illustrated in pencil, showing a skeleton picking up a spoiled bag lunch from the garbage can.

“Dear Kerri, Get well soon!  Love, Megan.”  A rainbow of three colors, – pink, blue, and purple – sprawled across the sky, represented by one line.  A tree with two apples hanging enormously from its branches stood exactly the same height as the building labeled “Hospitoll”.

These cards are safely packed away, somewhere at my dad’s house, with the pee alarm and the old blue comfort pillow that I used to clutch while I sucked my thumb.  My mother always claimed that she’d give me these things before my wedding day, a promise she followed through on when my husband and I married in 2008.

Even if I never see them again, I remember the cards.  I remember snippets of those years like they were postcards from someone else’s life.

A picture of the carousel near my childhood home brings back memories of black raspberry ice creams, riding my bike into the village with that Jack of Hearts card stuck in the rear tire, and collecting the perfect, miniature shells that washed up on the shoreline after the hurricanes made their tour.  No memories of a finger stick or an injection.  But I do remember that, if I rode my bike all the way to the beach, I could have ice cream without taking a shot.

I don’t remember everything about my diagnosis.  They spoke mostly to my parents.  My dad paced the room and looked out the window.  My mom sat at the table with the endocrinologist, listening and taking notes.  Books on long and short acting insulin, a proposed diet, and a chart to log my blood sugars slid across the table.

I wasn’t paying too much attention to these attempts at education.  The 13 year old boy who shared my hospital room had been bitten by a poisonous spider and was hooked up to an IV drip bag that I found much more interesting.  The bite mark was an angry pink and the boy said it itched tremendously.  He and his IV pole and me with my Kitty sat in the children’s ward and watched television.  He introduced himself as Eddie.  I told him my name, too.

“What are you in for?”  He raked his fingers down the side of his ankle, where the bite waged war on his immune system.

“I have diabetes.”

“Oh.  I’ve got a spider bite.”

“Wow.  Can I see it?”

“Sure.”  He rolled up his pant leg and exposed the sore.  “Where’s yours?”

“I don’t have any marks on me,” I responded.  We watched TV while our parents talked to doctors.

In a box in my attic today, I found a postcard from Eddie.  We corresponded as pen pals for for several years.  I remember writing to him about cats and going to the beach, ice cream and bike rides, but never diabetes.

Diaries of a Diabetic Girl.

The last time I cracked the binding on these journals was back in 2009, when I was cleaning out the apartment I was living in at the time.  I happened upon them again last night, while searching for something in the attic.  (I never found what I was looking for up there, but I did come down with a bunch of stuff I wasn’t looking for.  Going into the attic is like going to Target.)

As I wrote a few years ago, these journals span the better part of ten years, starting from when I was about eight years old and going into my junior year of college.  They’re old, and tattered, and it’s fun to flip through them and see what was top-of-mind for a ten year old.  In the earlier journals, diabetes is rarely mentioned.  There are mentions of attending Clara Barton Camp, but nothing really specific about diabetes or insulin injections or any of the tasks I knew I was tending to at the time.  (I was busy being “just a kid” and not “a kid with diabetes,” which is the kind of childhood I was happy to have.)

But one entry, from back in 1999 when I was in college, talks exclusively about diabetes, and the period of burnout I was in.

“I have been diabetic for 13 years (this September) and I don’t know if I’ve taken the best care of myself.  I have eaten a lot of the wrong things.  I don’t exercise enough.  Even though I still test, I am reluctant to test and last week, I saw a 50 and a 350 in the same day.  Not okay.  I hate taking my insulin shot.  I’m really scared of lows, especially after the one when I couldn’t find the honey jar fast enough.  My A1C runs at levels that makes my doctor raise an eyebrow sometimes because she knows I’ve been thinking about having a baby some day.  I went to the Joslin Clinic last Thursday and they said I need to start thinking now about having babies much later.  Which is hard to think about, since I don’t even have a father for these not-yet-made babies.  Am I screwing up my chances of having a baby by having trouble controlling my diabetes?  It’s a weird place to be in, worrying about stuff that won’t happen for a really long time, but that’s how diabetes is – makes you worry about all the crap in the future that other people might not think about until it’s actually happening.  Must be interesting, not banging your head against a crystal ball all the fucking time.”

I wish I could send that girl a note, the 20-year old me who wrote with painstakingly neat handwriting (shocking, compared to the scrawled EKG graph my pen produces now), and tell her that just a decade or so later, she’d be sitting at her kitchen table and drinking coffee, having just sent her three year old daughter to school for the morning.  That even after crossing the line into “complicated,” it’s still okay.  The payoff seems irritating at times – “Work hard and the reward is … to keep having to work hard?” – but the alternative is unacceptable.  Life with diabetes often means trying, and continuing try, even when you don’t want to.

I’d also suggest that she stop cursing so much back in the day, because surely she’d kick that habit as an adult.

Surely.

Memories.

I remember being nine or ten years old, on my hands and knees, crawling up the staircase to get to the kitchen, where my mom was cooking dinner.

I remember calling out for my mom, but the words lost their form and letters fell into a heap on the staircase.

I remember my mom sitting on the kitchen floor with me, breaking graham crackers into smaller bites and putting them in my mouth, dinner burning in pans on the stove.  I remember my mom’s eyes being very wide but she wasn’t crying.  I remember a glass of juice.  I remember it was hard to chew because I was crying but I wasn’t sure why, and then there’s a sharp edit in my memory, where I don’t have any recollection of what happened next.

As quickly as it came, the low blood sugar passed.  I don’t remember what caused it.  I don’t remember recovering.  I don’t remember what my face looked like, or how empty my eyes must have been, or what I sounded like as I crawled up the stairs, calling for my mom.  I don’t remember thinking about it for days afterwards.  I don’t remember feeling affected by it for more than those few minutes.

I think about my mother, cleaning up the cracker crumbs and placing the juice glass in the sink, salvaging what was left of the dinner she was cooking, trying to forget.

[For more posts about Memories on D-Blog Week, check out these links.]

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