I don’t think I will ever understand or fully appreciate everything my mother has done for me unless I have a child of my own someday. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve experienced brief moments when the extent of her selflessness hits me… but I know I’ve barely brushed the surface.
When my mom fought for my right to carry my medical supplies with me and care for myself in middle school, it never occurred to me that she could have done anything otherwise, that parents existed who wouldn’t or couldn’t be as involved in their child’s care as she was. I learned to write and to fight sitting next to her in front of our old PC, typing out letters to school administrators and later to insurance companies. As a young girl who felt different and broken, it meant everything to me to know that there was one person who would never make me feel like a free and beautiful life of my own was out of reach.
I remember her sleeping body in the chair next to my bed at Children’s Hospital. It wasn’t until much later that I wondered what it must have been like for her to watch me become ill and to know that there was no way I would ever again be the carefree little girl who existed before.
“Could it be something else?” I’d heard her ask the doctor.
How difficult it must have been for her to accept the incongruity of youth and illness in one of her own children. It was a long time before I thought of my disease as anything but my own and years before I realized what it must have meant for her, the amount of mourning she must have done behind closed doors, and the amount of work she did to make sure my childhood still felt normal.
On the rare, hormonal occasion when I consider the idea of having a child of my own someday, I immediately think: no way! I would die of anxiety! I’d have to bubble wrap my child and raise it on a hippie commune. I don’t know. What do people do these days? I can’t imagine how much more intense that worry about protecting a child becomes when illness enters the picture, when all of life’s precariousness becomes so painfully real. My mother managed it somehow, though, and I could not have asked for a better teacher.
We didn’t always see eye to eye, of course. I was a teenager once. Sometimes I still am. I wasn’t always the happy-go-lucky, accepting person that I am today when it came to diabetes. It took a lot of work to get here and I’m afraid it would have taken a lot more were it not for the gifts my mother gave me very early on: independence, the tools and knowledge I needed to take care of myself, and the freedom to find my own way.
To my Mom, to all D-Moms and to Dads and Caretakers by Other Names, I don’t know how you do it. But thank you. Thank you for all the work you put in behind the scenes and thank you, especially, for trusting us enough to let go.