Monday, November 14, 2011

The Very Model of a Modern Diabetic

I wanted to post this yesterday, but college apps got in the way. [Apologies to any expecting more poetic wit--post-app brain fry varies in duration, and renders the writer prosaic.]

My grandmother was a diabetic, and as a young child I was fascinated by the whole thing, from her reusable glass syringe, to the little bottles of insulin, to the process of injection.    I also learned that she had a special diet, from which she never deviated.  Nonetheless, she sometimes fell ill, and would have to be taken to the hospital.  It even happened on vacation once, and it was sometimes frightening.

Grammy, 1988 (such a tan for an Irishwoman!)
I know that Grammy was diagnosed with type 1 Diabetes as a young woman.  She told me that one day she did not have the energy to climb the stairs of her church, even trying on her hands and knees.  Doctors quickly discovered the problem, but insulin therapy was experimental, and only crude animal derived insulin was available then, and for much of her life, until synthetics became easy to manufacture.  Despite following every protocol and instruction to the letter, her blood sugar was erratic.  But because she did exactly as she was told, she became a great resource for those researching pancreatic function and insulin reactions.  I understand she has been cited in numerous papers (anonymously).  Pretty cool.

Despite these ups and downs, she lived into her nineties, with all her extremities intact, though she did lose sight in one eye.  She was a daily communicant, and knew everyone in her parish.  She sat in the front pew, sang boldly out of tune, and always wore a hat.  She worked in a yard-goods shop, made all our clothes when we were little, always knit argyle socks for my grandfather, and quit smoking her Lucky Strikes cold turkey.  A glass of wine before her nap, and a cup of black coffee after dinner were the only things I remember her drinking.  She kept a glorious flower garden, which had a swing entwined with morning glories.  And she made great apple pie and blueberry pancakes.

Grammy never complained about her diet or injections.  But one day, when we were at the mall, she saw the candy counter and paused.  She pointed to a particular candy, and said, "Those are my favorite, but I can't have them."  It wasn't a mournful, but a thoughtful comment.  She smiled.  "But," she continued, "I know what they taste like.  I feel sorry for anyone who has never tried one."  (I tried one, and didn't like it at all!)  One does wonder how much of health is attitude, eh?

1 comment:

Chari said...

Really sweet memories, MacBeth. What a blessing she was to others.