I remember when my family visited my grandparent’s house for a family reunion in 1946. My parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts were all gathered in the living room and I was in an adjacent room playing with my cousins. The door to the living room was closed and their talking became so quiet. I pressed my ear to the door and listened. Someone asked my parents if I was going to die. None of my relatives knew anything about diabetes, but they knew it was very serious, and could lead to my death back then. My mother said she did not know what might happen to me, and that the doctor did not know either. The rest of their conversation is all a blur, but hearing that conversation left a permanent impression and a fearful memory that I will never forget. Playing with my cousins no longer interested me that day, or the next. At six or seven years of age, I knew something about death, and I was very frightened. There are many painful memories like that from my childhood, and I have revealed some of them in my blogs and my book.
I do not remember my relatives saying they were sorry for me, or asking why I couldn’t eat this or that. Relatives never talked to me about diabetes until I was much older, and even then it was just a quick “How is your diabetes?” and then the conversation changed. People we talked to, and even friends, were not told any details about my diabetes. I did not discuss it with my friends until I was in college. There was still little or no knowledge about diabetes in the general public for many years to come.
Now, in the year 2011, all the people in that living room have died, except for mother’s youngest brother. Some of my cousins, younger than me, have also died. Old man Richard is still hanging on and healthy as a horse, after 65 years of type 1. Is this all a dream, or has it really happened? In ten more years I will receive my second Joslin medal, for 75 years of living with diabetes. If it is just a dream, I don’t ever want to wake up.