Monday, April 4, 2016

The Descent

- John Green, The Fault in Our Stars 

I used to watch a lot of reruns of Frasier. I still do occasionally. It's on Netflix at present, & yeah, I might have every season on DVD. It's such a well-written show. Frasier (as you should well know!) is a psychiatrist. In one episode, Frasier is talking with a woman regarding her inability to emotionally move on from a breakup. They go back & forth, & finally Frasier tells the woman that her grief doesn't stem from missing the man who is no longer a part of her life, but rather from the loss of the future she envisioned with him. She is mourning the loss of the life she thought she was going to lead.

I thought about that episode, about Frasier's words, often this past week. A perfect storm formed in my little world. My mom's been in Texas since my nephew arrived, my dad & Trey were in trial all week, & Reagan & I were released from our respective schools for Spring Break.

What "trial" means is that Trey left the house early in the morning, was at the courthouse all day, & then came home to quickly change out of his suit & head to the office, where they prepared for the next day. My dad's schedule was roughly the same. 

I saw my father & Trey at Easter lunch Sunday before last, & that was the last I saw of either of them until Thursday night. The hours in between were many. The week began ominously. I spent Easter Sunday fretting over Reagan's persistently high numbers. I'd correct her, & two or three hours later, she was still sitting upwards of 250. This meant she was either sick, about to get to sick, or she'd eaten something on the sly & thus had no insulin in her system to cover it. I highly suspected the last option. I didn't have the energy to interrogate her. I kept giving her insulin & giving her insulin, & finally, her number began to drop. Later in the week I found the candy wrappers.

I was determined to put Sunday behind us & get us out of the house at least occasionally, & my resolve was firm on Monday. We ate lunch at Chick-fil-A. Inside. The kids had ice cream & did the playground thing before we headed to the grocery store, which is the equivalent of a playground for Reagan because Brookshire's has these tiny child-size grocery carts & she loves to push one around the store. 

After unloading the groceries, the three of us hung out at the house long enough for me to drink some coffee before heading to the park. 

It was almost eight o'clock when we left the park. Henry was asleep in moments. I ordered a pizza that could be picked up through the window at a Fox's Pizza near our house. Reagan & I were both so hungry we'd each finished off a piece before we made it home. 

I expected Henry to revive when I moved him from the car, but he was out & remained so until the following morning. Reagan & I had a nice dinner alone. We both had some fruit to go with our pizza, so it wasn't as unhealthy a meal as it looks. Plus, my half of the pizza had diced tomatoes & banana peppers on it, as you can see. 

Tuesday we really began the Spring Break slide. I should've seen it coming when, at nearly midnight Monday night, the kids both sound asleep, I was in Trey's recliner eating another piece of pizza & watching The Tudors, no notion in my head of sleeping anytime soon. 

I waited up until Trey returned home early Tuesday morning around one o'clock (knowing the dog's barking would rouse me even if I attempted to sleep), & that was, I suppose, the trigger. The kids & I all slept later than usual Tuesday morning. I barely finished my second cup of morning coffee before noon. I can tell Reagan is like me in many ways. It was obvious she needed to compensate for time spent away from home on Monday by burrowing in her happy places in the house all day Tuesday. So, I burrowed too. 

I had a date with a former student of mine Tuesday night. A fellow comic Henry Cavill enthusiast, she agreed to meet me to see Superman v Batman. In lieu of stealing one of the many cardboard cutouts that dot the theater, we settled for these:

Don't be concerned. It's been several years since she was my student, during which time our relationship was highly professional. It's only after I've logged their grades that I pose for selfies with my students & cardboard Henry Cavill. 

Neither of us is well-versed in the backstories of either Superman or Batman, & so we were a bit confused about the movie's plot, but you know, I, unlike the critics, am well aware that logical plots are not the forte of these films. On a side note, I may be donning a Wonder Woman costume later this year. Maybe for Halloween. Maybe just because. 

I returned home to the kids, thanked my in-laws for allowing me the time to go see the film, & then, well you know what happened then. I got the kids to bed, made my decaf, crawled in the recliner, & turned on The Tudors. I took a few more steps down the ladder of lazy.

Given the complete descent into unstructured sloth, I was pretty proud of myself Wednesday. I got us all dressed in time to take the kids to IHOP before Bible class. Reagan wanted pancakes, but I didn't want to face the Cracker Barrel that was likely full of people, & certainly full of the minefield of toys you absolutely have to pass to make it to the dining room. 

I'm going to show you a few pictures of our IHOP venture, but understand that when I say I got us dressed, I mean I was clean. I bathed. Things sort of petered out after that. My church family loves me just as I am. 

The combination of too few structured activities & considerable time alone, thinking, into the wee hours of the morning, results in a somewhat morose Anna. Last week I wrote about voicing your thoughts, your feelings. I wrote about the power of words to help us rage, help us accept, help us heal. So that's today's exercise; I'm going to rage. I was tempted to title this "Grief Speaks," like a companion piece to last week's thoughts, but that's just too precious for my taste.

With the exception of the hours I spent at the movie Tuesday evening, I was Reagan's sole caregiver for the entirety of last week. Every finger prick, every dose of insulin, fell to me. Diabetes is constant ups & downs, both literally (numerically) & figuratively. Last week was just a mess. Reagan's numbers were a mess, which usually means I am a mess. I attribute part of this to Reagan's lack of a  schedule, which meant she wasn't always eating at regular times, & she was snacking throughout the day. Some of her highs were simply my fault for miscalculating things, & others . . . also my fault because I didn't have the willpower to again say, "No," & fight the ensuing battle. 

I took Reagan to see an orthopedic doctor last Thursday to have her arm, which was pulled hard enough at school that she didn't want to use it for about a day, checked out. I filled out all the new patient forms, checking the "Diabetes" box when asked about Reagan's health. I subsequently had a horrific, insulting exchange with a nurse who took one look at skinny, bouncing Reagan & assumed I had mistakenly checked the box.

I hate checking the Diabetes box, but I've done it before & I'm sure I'll do it again. The nurse thought I was confused & meant to indicate that a family member of Reagan's is diabetic, so not only did I check the box, I said, aloud, "No, she is diabetic." That's all I said, but it wasn't all that was running through my mind. Then we proceeded to the X-ray room, where Reagan didn't want the young, attractive man manning the X-ray machine to watch as I detached her insulin pump, which doesn't need to be exposed to radiation. Sigh. Who knew a visit to an orthopedic doc would be so diabetes-centric? 

On the way home from the doctor's office, in the continued spirit of Spring Break sloth, & perhaps in some weird attempt to defy the diabetes, I stopped & bought half a dozen cupcakes at a local cupcakery that recognizes the importance of cream cheese icing.

Reagan's selection was the one with the Oreo on top. Henry wanted a red one. You can see that four of our six selections feature cream cheese icing (two red velvet, two chocolate). The non-Oreo topped, non-cream-cheese-iced cupcake was intended for Trey when I purchased it.

Those chocolate cupcakes with the cream cheese icing are phenomenal. 

Friday morning the week's worth of wonky numbers & emotional moments culminated when I checked Reagan's number before making her breakfast. Her number was 503. FIVE-OH-THREE. I think my meltdown convinced her to immediately tell me the truth, & she admitted to eating a cupcake while I was still in the bed.

I gave her insulin & told her if she wanted to eat anything, it would be cheese & nuts until she was under 200. Cupcakes aren't much more than sugar, so there was no protein or fat in her system I was battling & she fell fairly quickly, thankfully. While her number was falling, I was drinking coffee in my bedroom & having an emotional fit.

I thought about Frasier's advice to his caller, realizing that I repeatedly grieve for Reagan's lost ability to produce her own insulin. I grieve the life I thought she would lead. I grieve my freedom. There, I said it. I grieve the freedom to sleep deeply, peacefully. I grieve the peace of mind I'll never have sending her to sleep somewhere else, whether at her grandparents' house or a friend's house. I don't know if she'll attend camp, or travel with the youth group for a weekend. I don't know. I cannot imagine these things at the moment, not without my attendance. I suppose as she ages a lot will depend on the extent to which she displays the willingness & ability to care for herself. 

I think the diabetes drain, as I call it, was exacerbated last week not only by Reagan's high numbers, or the incident with the nurse, but also because we were on break. Ah, break. What a silly concept. What I always am reminded of when I have a break from school is that school is not what drains me. It may be the only job for which I receive a paycheck, but the hardest jobs, the ones that lead to bone-weary exhaustion & guilt &, thankfully, immeasurable rewards at times, these are jobs for which you never receive a dime, & from which there is no break. 

You don't ever forget about diabetes. It's not possible. The reminders are constant. Parenting a diabetic child multiplies traditional parenting concerns by a thousand. The guilt is, at times, insurmountable. I turned the lights off in the kitchen Thursday night certain Trey would see the cupcake left for him & eat it. He did not, & so there it sat when Reagan moseyed into the kitchen Friday morning. Yes, she knows better, but I should have known better, too. I try to let her have things in an effort to make her childhood as normal as possible, & also to avoid her overindulging when she's older because she's been deprived. I try to impress upon her that she can eat what her friends eat, what Henry eats, but she has to have her medicine. 

Reagan is a child with a very adult disease. She will gradually understand more & more about her disease & learn to care for herself. Because I believe her temperament to be similar to mine, it's likely she'll experience the same low moments I do as she ages. She'll wallow in it; I am a wallower. Right now I don't want her to understand much about it. It's too much for me to handle at times, & certainly nothing with which to burden a child of five. I suppose I also grieve for her future grief, for the struggles she'll face of which she is, at present, unaware. 

Four or five years ago, I'd not have written this. No. That's not entirely true. I would've written it but decided not to publish it. It feels extremely self-indulgent. At times, writing anything feels like an exercise in vanity. Here, here is this thing I wrote. Am I a moron? Do you like it? Was it worth reading? Do you like it enough to read it & help me improve upon it & publish it? Those are the questions any writer seeking publication asks, & usually asks with her eyes closed, her head bowed, waiting for the avalanche of rejection. 

Maybe someone else in my shoes will read this & feel the exaltation that comes when you stumble across a kindred spirit. I'll be honest & say that even if no one but me feels better after this, I am okay with that today. I spent time in some low, dark valleys last week, & maybe the most disheartening part is that they are valleys to which I know I will return in the future. There are people who reside in those valleys; I know this to be true. I hope this resonates with you.

No, I am not depressed. I am slow to pick myself up at times, but I have ample reasons for doing so, & so eventually, I do.

If Mr. Green is correct in his words for Hazel, then I'm not sure what grief reveals about me. Or maybe I am sure, & I don't want to confront it. Maybe it reveals that I am weak, but self-aware? Maybe it reveals that I am strong at times, at least strong enough not to lose my mind. I guess it depends on your definitions of weak, of strong. Is it strong to simply not give up? Is it strong to give in to the grief at times? I let it consume me every now & then. I suppose it's a part of me now, always there, sometimes more prominent than others. At times it is too exhausting to continually bat it away, so I succumb until it's had its fill.

She was no longer wrestling with the grief, but could sit down with it as a lasting companion and make it a sharer in her thoughts. 

- George Eliot 

Trey was home all day Saturday, which thrilled the children. They all spent several hours outside, after which Reagan, shaking & sinking to the kitchen floor, said she was low. Her number was forty-one. 41. I see forty-one about as often as I see five hundred, thankfully. Our usual lows are in the sixties; our usual highs are in the three-hundred-something range, but the forty-one to five hundred range is the numeric equivalent of my week, emotionally.

Hi. My name is Anna & I am the mother of a diabetic child.


1 comment:

  1. I love this post! Great thoughts on grieving what we think the future *should* have been. The way you handle Reagan's diabetes is inspiring! I would have reacted the same way to that high!