After reading a comment from someone here on Tu-Diabetes it reminded me of my experiences of watching my dad go through the struggles of diabetes and now having it myself and watching my own kids deal with it as I did.
My dad has been a T1D for about 40 years now. He was diagnosed as a teen trying to join the army. Imagine…your father and all your brothers, strong military men…you follow in their footsteps as your 18th birthday approaches, despite the fact you are slim and sickly most of the time. The physical comes up and the results come back…" Sorry, son but you have diabetes.". “No I don’t!” " Yes, you do. Which means you cannot join the army. You should probably go to the hospital too.". A slap in the face! He was in denial for a while. Never told anyone and never went to the doc. Until he was so sick that he couldn’t decide for himself and his parents took him in.
He is so much more than a diabetic, of course. So many accomplishments in his life…career (he decided to make planes for the military instead of fly them!), a family (married for 35 years, three kids and three grandchildren now) and so many wonderful memories.
But the sad part of that is that I grew up watching him go from a strong, capable man to a blind, cripple, dependent old man. He has lost his eyesight, has neuropathy in his hands and legs, he’s been through heart attacks, strokes, by-pass surgery, put in a coma due to a common flu and so much more. We kiddingly refer to him as Frankenstein because he’s been stitched up and put back together so many times and he’s STILL ALIVE! It sounds funnier when your not telling this story, I guess. And now that I am a diabetic he is a huge inspiration to me! But at the same time I can see my own future through his experiences. Am I doomed to repeat the same history? I can remember having to wrestle him to the ground and force him orange juice when I was only a child (and he’s a big guy!). Now my own children do this for me…
(WARNING! THIS NEXT PARAGRAPH MAY MAKE YOU CRY-I DO EVERY TIME I EVEN THINK OF IT!)
In fact, my oldest boy (who is almost 10) has saved my life on many occasion. We actually saved a answering machine message of him when he was probably only 3 years old. I had just had my second baby and adjusting to the difference in insulin intake sent me into a stooper many times. One in particular after I had taken the kids to the pool (Thank God we had come inside before something worse had happened!). I felt the need to make lunch-I was starving and feeling woosy. I put the baby in the carrier and without warning, I blacked out. I woke up to my mother by my side and Jacob, my oldest son, hovering over me, a PB&J stuffed in my mouth, OJ spilled on the floor next to me. What happened? My mother explained that she had come home from the store and saw her message machine blinking. It was Jacob…" Grammy! Mommy just passed out" (his voice quivering) “I think she needs her medicine. Will you go to the pharmacy?”(although it wasn’t pronounced this way-it was more like “farmamy”). When she rushed over to rescue me, he had already made me a sandwich and was force feeding it to me. His attempts to give me orange juice had obviously failed. There was nothing more to do. Jacob had already saved my life! Later we marveled in the fact that he figured out the speed dial on the phone, that he had made a sandwich and knew exactly what to do and at 3-years-old-he was just a baby!! I thought back to my own childhood.
Here I am, only 31, and I have brittle, unstable diabetes, gastroparesis, the beginnings of retinopathy and a dependancy upon my family that I never thought I would need. It’s an interesting reality. One I know you can survive because I’ve watched my dad. But one I know is a difficult and scary struggle because I’ve watched my dad. Don’t mean to be a downer. I guess it’s just an interesting contemplation. And my greatest hope is that I can handle what life passes my way with as much grace and dignity as he has.
My dad is retiring this year from his 30-year career in military avionics.