Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Chapter 46: No More Pictures

Dear Readers: As always, I do very much appreciate your time and interest! I invite any and all responses you may have. Though you may feel that you have no words for a bereft parent, it's rather surprising how verbose the heart can be if the head were just to hold its tongue on occasion ...


My search for hidden memories often eludes me

I have decided therefore to recall some of Ben's facial features which so wonderfully defined him as himself ... perhaps that will spark some recollections:

. Ben's earlobes were ever so slightly angled ... outward
. He had a slightly noticeable 'oriental' fold in the inner corner of each eye.
· His blue eyes and blonde hair complemented each other both of which he inherited from his mom.
· His sparse growth of beard he inherited from me! (Ben often commented approvingly that he and I were alike in that respect.)
· His cheeks were full and soft. (Even when bewhiskered, I never tired of kissing them. I learned to kiss my children from my father.)
· He had slight dimples in both cheeks.
· His nose had a slight rise in the middle.
· His lower lip was full, his eyebrows rather heavy and his very straight eyelashes angled downward.

Ben was indeed a handsome lad but even more important than the wonderful shape of his nose, his sparkling blue eyes or his dimples was his gentle nature as a loving, kind and considerate son. His mom always rightly characterized him as a “peacemaker”, the kind of person for whom *“shalom bayit” was nothing less than an inherent extension of his personality.

Just a glance back to the summer of 1993- when Ben first attended Olin Sang Ruby Hebrew Union Institute just a few short weeks after having been diagnosed with juvenile diabetes- clearly demonstrates what a remarkable kid he really was!

I was a “basketcase” despite assurances by the camp nurse that she would keep a close eye on him, as I know she did. Ben’s mom had things under much better control than I, but I dare say she was more than just a tiny bit nervous herself and Ben-with his usual aplomb-set about confidently reassuring us, but mostly me that all would be just fine.

Did he manage to put me at ease? No! He did not, but was he ever right about how well things would turn out! As a matter of fact, he did not experience any diabetes–related difficulties during the whole of his month long stay at camp.

Not long before, just several weeks prior to the start of his camp session, Ben’s mom and I first noticed the tell-tale signs of his diabetes, but at that time, we did not know or have any idea about an affliction that would soon turn our lives completely upside down.

I remember that afternoon we were sitting in the front room when Ben came down from his room for no apparent reason. Perhaps it was just to sit with us or watch a movie. It was then when Ben’s mom first mentioned that she had noticed how thin and drawn he had been looking of late, but which at first she attributed to the physical changes brought about by adolescence. I do remember the rather noticeable dark bags under Ben’s eyes and how thin he had become, but what really alarmed us was the frequency with which he had been urinating. As it happened, he was already scheduled to receive his required physical exam for camp.

We drove somewhat anxiously that day to the doctor’s office. Requiring no more than a few minutes, Ben’s pediatrician diagnosed him with type 1 juvenile diabetes and ordered his immediate admission into Children’s Memorial Hospital. Our timing was fortuitous if not almost dangerously late. As it turned out, Ben’s blood sugar was so high that he was spilling sugar in his urine, a potentially life-threatening situation.

Ben’s first endocrinologist was a staff member at Children’s whose bedside manner was as icy as Lake Michigan’s shoreline about December. Answers were all we sought. After all, neither of us had any history of type 1 juvenile diabetes in our families, although I have several cousins who contracted type 2 adult onset diabetes in their later years. That seemed hardly relevant to Ben’s case. How then could this have happened? How well I remember this one doctor’s response:


“What doctor?”

“Genetic predisposition,” he repeated clinically.

“And that is what?”
we queried.

“Meaning that he is genetically predisposed to something like this.”


He then mentioned something about the possibility of milk triggering a virus that attacks the pancreas’s insulin producing cells.

I just wish he had said,

“You know something? Honestly, we just don’t know!”

Before Ben could leave the hospital, we all had to demonstrate that we were able to inject him with insulin. I assure you it is no easy thing. At least it wasn’t for me, but I did finally pass the test while Ben’s nurse stood by watching. Frankly, I think I closed my eyes. Ben and his mom seemed to have no problem with it whatsoever.

*shalom bayit … peace in the home.

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