Four years after Eric's diagnosis, some of the initial events seem dreamlike. They come back to me in flashes sometimes, intense snippets of memory that contain all the audio, visual, emotional, and sometimes tactile content of the moment. Most commonly, these are the ones I get:
I am seated in the exam room of my kids' pediatrician's office. It is October 7, and it occurs to me that it's my partner's 46th birthday. Bummer of a birthday if he spends it at home wondering what's going on. The kids are goofing around with the stools and books and fixtures in the exam room, and I'm so wiped out from a long day of working and worrying that I can barely muster up the energy to stop them from wrecking the joint. Suddenly, Dr. Foster, a tall, distinguished man whose gray hair contradicts a youthful face, strides into the room. His usual smile is gone, and he looks worried. This does not bode well, and the first words out of his mouth — "Well, Mom, you were right." — hit me like arrows. I was right to suspect diabetes. I did not want to be right. I tell him so. He smiles briefly, but somewhat sadly. He tells me he's sending me to the Emergency Department at Maine Medical Center, where I'll be met by a Dr. Olshan. I ask him if Eric is going to need insulin injections; I don't recall if I heard his answer. My brain seemed to have shut down, gone numb. He walks back to his office and I overhear him saying "glucose 2+, ketones 4+" which means nothing to me, but the tone he uses does not make it sound good.
I get out of my car at the entrance to the emergency department and take Eric, a toddler, out of his car seat. I have no idea how Nate, then 3, winds up next to me. It's possible the gent who subsequently whisks my car off to the parking lot helped him out and guided him around the car to my side. For all the attention I'm paying, the man might just as well have driven my car to a chop shop; once I have my kids in hand, and my purse, I couldn't care less what happens to the car. Inside the door, I start to ask the receptionist about Dr. Olshan, but before I even finish my sentence, there's a stout, bearded man with "specialist" written all over him standing in front of me. He's good with children and seems excited to see mine. His whole demeanor is comforting, if a bit unorthodox. "We don't get very many THIS young," he says... which I had already suspected, so it didn't really bother me. This is Dr. Olshan. He is about to become the second most important man in my life, after my children's father.
I'm sitting in the waiting room of the ER where they have a TV and some toys for the kids. I'm watching the TV but not tracking any of it. I watch Eric play with his brother and start to cry, feeling helpless. Dr. Olshan, who had gone to arrange for appropriate tests and exams for Eric, appears beside me, looking down at me as if he doesn't know what to say. I wipe my eyes and attempt a smile. "That's more like it. Your son's going to be fine," he says, as though this should be obvious to me. Easy for you to say, I think, but what I say is, "Yeah, I know." Even though I don't know any such thing. I explain away my tears by telling him that I lost my prize filly to a broken leg just yesterday, that she wasn't even buried yet, that it's Eric's dad's birthday and he must not only bury our filly but also deal (alone) with the knowledge that our son was dangerously ill. "Man, you've had a shitty day, haven't you?" was his response. It is the right response. I stop crying and start laughing. God in His wisdom has given me an endocrinologist with a great sense of comic timing.
In the ICU now. Mark has come and taken Nate home, and it's just me and Eric. Mark will be back, because I asked him to return and bring me some PJs. I'll be there overnight. I am wearing a long, wool wrap around skirt and a blouse, and the skirt is too tight at the waist. It itches to the point of burning. The longer we're in the ICU, the more uncomfortable that skirt becomes. I can't WAIT to take it off. My fear for Eric, my foggy grief over this change I can't accept coupled with my still unprocessed grief for the loss of my filly, they're all subsumed by the fact that the skirt is driving me INSANE and I want to remove it with every ounce of my corporal being. I surreptitiously take off my heavy tights when the staff leaves the cubicle for a minute. It doesn't help. Makes matters worse, in fact. I unbutton the skirt so it's at least not so tight and try to focus on my son. At last, Mark appears with a bag in his hand and I gratefully hurry into the ladies' room to change into my PJs. I'm wearing pink cat pajamas in public. I do not care.