Oct 19, 2016

Blessings in Disguise

“Sweet are the uses of adversity…” Which Shakespeare play was that? I think it’s As You Like It, and it’s followed by something about a frog with a jewel in its head. Wise words from the Bard, though a tad incomprehensible.  And true: there are some blessings you can only get from passing through the fire, or by finding a bejeweled amphibian.

This week our youngest was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. Weirdly, I had known it was coming. It runs -- practically gallops, as Cary Grant would say -- on my Dad’s side of the family. Both of his brothers were Type 1, and some of my male cousins are, too.

I won’t say there haven’t been some tears, at least on my part; but there hasn’t been shock, for some reason. In retrospect it seems God has been preparing us for this for many years, beginning with our other son’s Celiac diagnosis, and some other autoimmune struggles in our family.  I take after my Dad’s side of the family, and we have a love/hate relationship with carbohydrates: we love them, they kinda hate us.  So counting carbs is old hat to me.  I am familiar with the signs, and when Little Guy began drinking constantly ten days ago, I knew.

So once again our kids were called on to handle the home front while we were in the hospital, a drill that I know is all too familiar to too many families.  Thankfully we have a couple of adult kids at home, and that has been an inestimable gift.

So when my husband said that all this would turn out to be a blessing, I knew what he meant.  Sure, a lifelong chronic illness with potentially devastating sequellae is not what one would wish for one’s child. One is also not enthralled with the reality of harnessing one’s sanguine wagon to the very melancholic star of measuring and recording everything that passes the child’s lips, then sticking and poking him umpteen times a day. No, one most assuredly is not.

But... the challenges and losses that have been cropping up for a long time now have forced me to make decisions which ultimately have been a boon to our family peace and holiness.  My loss of health and mobility has drawn me back into my home, having to abandon the effort to help pay the mounting bills.

Being unable to pay the bills has led to a reevaluation of why we began homeschooling in the first place, and has led to the necessary withdrawing of our younger kids from a beloved co-op community.  The massive relief I feel at not having to be separated from my son at all while he adjusts and learns about his new normal is worth the price of admission by itself.  But something else has begin to re-enter our lives that has been missing for quite awhile now. Peace.

I used to laugh a bitter little laugh at the thought of ever having peace again. Who, I thought Martha-esquely, would get these kids educated? How would we get them through college? They need to play baseball and do ballet, don’t they? They’ve got to have a whole troupe of friends or they’ll have lonely childhoods, won’t they? Well then. Ha, God. There can be no peace in our time, no matter how much You want it for us, and promise it to us.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t currently sit here like a placid Buddha mysteriously smiling at all the busy bees, wishing they could have my nirvana. There’s lots to do, and a good percentage of it we mess up. The key is that God has herded us toward the right things for our family; things that are nourishing our unity and our contentment in one another.

I feel like this diagnosis is the final (please let it be the final!!) piece of our puzzle. We are so ready to step into this new life; it has been an almost seamless transition.  Beautiful friends are bringing meals and insights into managing diabetes; I am free to focus on doctor visits and redmond clay baths and measuring insulin.  Unstressed sibs are ready to play and cheer.  And best of all, my happy little boy loves having his mama around all the time. He knows that he and his brothers and sisters are top priority. They always were, of course; but it was harder for a child to appreciate when time was so limited and straitened.

The very best part about this blessing in disguise has been the discovery of our son’s remarkable courage and sense of humor. He had the docs and students in stitches on rounds every morning. Dr. Obvious told me to make sure to supervise him when he give himself shots, and I, a little naughtily, turned to Paul and said very seriously, “Okay, Paullie, so no running around the house with syringes, got it?” He fired back without a pause, “How about kitchen knives?” I about died laughing. Little snarkmeister! Where does he get that from? Happily the social worker in the room also found it funny. Whew.

It’s not all sunshine and roses; this morning as we drove to the pediatrician’s office, Paul scratched away at his Hand, Foot, and Mouth blisters (that’s right, picked it up in the hospital- yummy) while I mentally reviewed the contents of his travel pack- did I have everything I needed to make sure he wouldn’t die before we got home? Having answered myself with a tentative yes, I experienced a wave of frustration, and submitted what I would like to call a “passionate request” to God for some good ol’ fashioned undisguised blessings, you know, like unexpected checks in the mail or sudden weight loss.

Even as I made my demand, images of Paul’s brother Joe checking his sugar like a pro sprang to my mind, along with the beautiful face of my new daughter-in-law to be (Number One Son proposed the day after we brought Paul home), my folks asking when the diabetes care class is so they can attend, my awesome food values scale brought by a lovely friend with a Type 1 son,  my husband’s “not quitting” face as he learned to do a sugar check, Paul’s quietly ironic, “So hey Dad, maybe Mom could do the next one?” The existence of insulin, the advent of an artificial pancreas on the horizon, the fact that my crunchy doctor will still let me eat Doritos if need be, and even, a little randomly, the fact that Chesley Sullenberger landed a jumbo jet on the Hudson with no loss of life.

Yep, God’s here. We don’t know why we get the blessings we get, or the crosses.  But He really does weave it all together into something astounding, even if in deep disguise, and occasionally terrifying beyond belief.

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