"So feathers or lead?" I asked him.
"It is the riddle of the kallikanzaros. Pick one."
"If I had said 'lead'...?"
"Uh-uh. You only have one chance. The correct answer is whatever the kallikanzaros wants it to be. You lose."
"That sounds a bit arbitrary."
"Kallikanzaroi are that way. It's Greek, rather than oriental subtlety. Less inscrutable, too. Because your life often depends on the answer, and the kallikanzaros generally wants you to lose."
"Why is that?"
"Ask the next kallikanzaros you meet, if you get the chance. They're mean spirits."
Roger Zelazny, This Immortal, 1966
This Immortalis one of my favorite sci-fi/fantasy novels. I thought of this passage this evening while trying to figure out what the deal was with Eric's stratospheric blood sugar. I was weighing the options: was he high because his site was crimped, or because he'd slipped himself a few extra carbs while my back was turned? If I replaced his site and that wasn't the problem, I'd have wasted a site—and as tight as funds are right now, that's not something I want to be doing. If, on the other hand, I bolused through the pump and it was crimped, then he wouldn't get the full bolus and would stay high. And yes, I could give him a needle bolus instead, but that almost always brings him low, because invariably, the required amount is some minute quantity, like 0.3 units or something, that I cannot measure with a syringe, so I end up giving him 0.5 and staying up all night waiting for the low. Which may or may not come, depending on whether his overnight period of insulin resistance (starts like clockwork at 8 p.m., and ends around 12:30 a.m.) is in full swing when the injection peaks.
Always, with diabetes, there are choices, and sometimes, those choices are equally unsatisfactory. Bolus through the pump and risk a high BG, or with a syringe and risk a low BG? Crimped site, or uncovered carbs? Insulin resistant or insulin sensitive? Feathers or lead?
I do sometimes picture diabetes as a kallikanzaros, a malign little gremlin not evil enough to be a true demon, but just nasty enough to make you want to kick its gnarly little balls in. The kallikanzaroi spend most of their time sawing through the World Tree and trying to destroy the earth, but when Christmas bells ring, they flee. They are never able to do much harm because bigger forces intervene, but they "come to bring trouble to mortals." Does that describe diabetes adequately? Come to bring trouble to mortals? Yes and no. It brings plenty of trouble to us mortals, don't get me wrong. But it also transforms us in ways the kallikanzaroi don't even attempt. Positive ways.
But when it comes to riddling, ooooh those diabetes gremlins are masters. "Feathers or lead" is simplicity itself compared to the diabetes riddles. Your life (or in this case your child's) may not depend on what you answer... or it may. Or your answer may have an effect but not right away. Any way you look at it, you don't get much sleep.
Feathers or lead? Lead or feathers? Which is right? I don't know. But I'll be up thinking about it for at least another 2 hours.