This morning, I thought about Eddie. Eddie was the kid who I shared the hospital room with back when I was diagnosed with diabetes in 1986. He popped into my head after I woke up, jet-lagged and confused from traveling yesterday, and watched a spider scuttle across the ceiling of this apartment.
Eddie had been bitten by a spider; I had been bitten by my immune system, after a fashion.
* * *
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.