I had a very odd conversation with Eric's brother Nate last night. It seems Nate, who's nearly 8, has become a bit jealous of the "attention" his brother gets from me. Even pointing out that a lot of this attention involved me poking Eric with sharp objects, or not letting him eat until I was sure his blood sugar was going down, it was clear that Nate felt that "Mama likes Eric" better than she "likes Nate."
"What makes you think that?" I asked finally.
"Well," he said, a bit tremulously, "You come to the school MUCH more often to see Eric than you come to see me."
"Oh, Nate," I said. "I'm not coming to see Eric. I'm coming to see the monkey."
The tears stopped. The brow crinkled. Confusion, instead of self-pity. Good.
"Don't you see the monkey Eric has? He carries it with him everywhere. It's called diabetes, and it's a nasty little creature. If it gets hungry, it spins Eric around and round till he's dizzy and sick. Sometimes it gets too much to eat and then it acts wild and dances on his head, which makes Eric have a headache and run around just to try to get the monkey to fall off. It bites him on the finger every few hours, and sometimes it bites him on the BUTT. And at school, because it's important that the monkey stay quiet, several times a day, Eric has to go to the School Monkey Adjuster to have it dealt with."
"Mrs. Sanborn [the school nurse]."
"I only come to the school to help with monkey adjusting if it's behaving especially bad. And because the monkey goes wherever Eric goes, Eric has to come with it to the office so we can make the adjustment. It's a real nuisance, and I'm sure Eric would just as soon not have to deal with his monkey." [Eric, bless him, nodded vigorously at this point.] "But I hope you realize, I don't come to the school to see ERIC. I come to the school to see the MONKEY. I would far, FAR rather be able to ignore the monkey, but if I ignore him, he makes Eric suffer. So believe me when I tell you, I'm not at all excited about seeing the monkey."
He thought about this. "Mom, will that monkey ever go away?"
"I sure hope so, someday, but he'll be around for a while I'm afraid. Diabetes monkeys are hard to get rid of."
More thought. "Hey, maybe I could become a monkey adjuster when I grow up!"
"Maybe you could, Nate. But I kind of hope that by the time you grow up, they won't need monkey adjusters."
"Yeah, me too."