March 5, 1974
March 5, 1974.
On that day, in a Bergen County, NJ hospital room, two very special people gave me a very special gift: the gift of life. Those two people, whom I grew to call Mom and Dad, likely didn’t have a clue what they were getting themselves into. Making it through the day, much less the first year, seemed like an unachievable feat. They’d brought me into the world, and I’d thanked them by spitting up in Mom’s hair and peeing in Dad’s face. (I don’t know this as fact, but from my own paternal experiences, I can be pretty confident that I did these things).
They didn’t really know how to raise a child, but with the advice of others and some lessons learned through trial-and-error, they figured it out. And they did a good job of it. They gave me a good life.
Seven years and a month or so after that, came my diagnosis of having Juvenile Diabetes, as it was then called. They didn’t really know how to raise a kid with diabetes, but with the advice of Dr. Salas and some lessons learned through trial-and-error, they figured it out. And they did a good job of it. They gave me a good life.
For the last twenty years, the responsibility has been all on my shoulders. Yes, my parents still try to guide me (although over time, it became less guidance and more meddling), but all of my decisions, my meal choices, my selection of medical professionals, and so forth has been all mine. It’s a responsibility, and a challenge, that I’ve accepted and continue to accept -albeit, begrudgingly at times.
(And thirty years, later, it’s good to see Dr. Salas is still doing what he does best – caring for kids with diabetes. I must’ve been one of his first.)
I stopped truly celebrating birthdays years ago. I don’t indulge in birthday cake or go out for drinks. To me, it’s just another sheet off of the Page-A-Day calendar. But I do appreciate life. Aside from The Big D, life has been pretty good to me. I’ve got an immediate and extended family that always cares for and looks out for one another, I’ve never been without a roof over my head or a safe place to sleep at night (in part, due to the kindness of family and friends), and I’ve always been able to afford the basic necessities of life… and a little extra. Yes, despite The Big D, my life has been blessed and I consider myself fortunate.
As I come across others with diabetes in the DOC, I re-discover the emotions that come along with the disease: anxiety, frustration, denial, bitterness, and outright defiance. (I say re-discover, because I’ve been there myself). Some of you who are reading this may be experiencing some of these feelings right now. They’re tough to overcome, and sometimes it’s easy to give up. There’ve been times when I’ve been in a, shall I say, “state of less-than good control”, finally giving in and conceding to myself, So this is it. This is how my story ends.
But I didn’t like that ending. I want to comfortably sail off into the sunset, not have a wave come ashore and pull my powerless body into the ocean. I have too much to live for. At the very least, I owe it to the family who brought me to where I am today, and to the new family that I am building and raising – trying to be as good to my kids as my parents are to me.
So today, on my thirty-eighth birthday, I’m not celebrating. I’m not celebrating because I haven’t yet reached the finish-line. I’m not done; I’m still fighting my way through this – year after year, week after week, day after day, hour after hour. This kind of life is a struggle, but it’s surely worth it.
So I will take a moment and blow out that candle.