Afternoon sunlight angled in through a glass door at the end of the hallway, spilling light across a spotless black and white tiled floor. It was so clean; not a single tread mark or smudge, not a smidgeon of dust along the molding or under any of the black plastic chairs that littered it. The walls were nothing but white with tastefully non offensive photos or photos of paintings that were scenery: fields and flowers and faceless children near the ocean. There was a distinct smell. It’s the sort of scent that, if you spend a lot of time in a place like this brings up so many emotions and memories and it’s not just the smell of one thing–it’s many all together. The smell in the air is latex gloves, bleach, antiseptic and glass vials, it’s quiet hope and crushed expectations with the faint squeak of white work shoes. It smells like cold stethoscopes, unscented linens that are changed daily and plastic bed mattresses. It smelled like hospitals.
We were seated in a couple of those plastic chairs and my mother stared ahead at a closed wooden door. The plaque had a name in bold brass letters. I recall staring at the path of sunlight on the ground and then out the door where a tree and few cars were parked. Even in the parking lot, I thought everything seemed so much brighter out there than in here.
This part of the hospital wasn’t for actual sick people. At least, there weren’t wards or beds. This was different–there was the underlying scent of paper, printer ink and perfume here that the other smell couldn’t override but couldn’t smother either.
The door opened and an unassuming lady with a bob cut smiled and called my mothers name. I came in with her and for a while, the woman and my mother spoke about food. They talked about foods my mother couldn’t eat, foods she could. They talked about sugars and glucose and then she led my mother to another room that was less an office, more of a meeting place. A large fold out table in the middle with more plastic chairs around it was the center piece of the room. Along the white walls, posters with the essential food groups, images of the pancreas, smiling happy people by insulin advertisements, model anatomy in more faded plastic was strewn about. The woman with the bob cut presented my mother with a tiny syringe, a little glass bottle and…an orange.
That’s how my mother practiced giving insulin injections before moving on to finally do them on herself. They gave her an orange. When I asked why an orange, the woman told me that it came close to simulating what it was like to inject yourself. The woman and my mother talked a little longer, and I thought that I was going to explode in boredom. I wasn’t terribly old then, and I was still in the mind set that if I had to sit anywhere that wasn’t at home or with friends I might up and explode.
When we were walking out, out of the boring room, out of the hallway that smelled of hospitals, on the way to the car I looked up at my mom and asked her all sorts of questions. I asked her about the needles. I asked her about why she needed them. I asked her how many times and what for and why and why couldn’t they just fix whatever was broken then? She answered my questions with the absent-minded way of one not sure either as she drove us home. I am not sure my mother had thought that this was the answer to all those questions she had: like why she was always so tired and shaky and unwell and dizzy and such.
Finally, in the passenger side seat an idea hit me. I looked over to her and asked, “Does it hurt?”
“Does what hurt?”
“Giving yourself the needle.”
“Do you have to do it everyday?”
“How are you going to do it everyday if it hurts?”
She shrugged, her eyes on the road. “I just will.”
My mother lived with Diabetes for roughly 17 years. The type of diabetes that is so severe that pills, insulin, proper diet and weight couldn’t control. The kind of diabetes that ate away at her arteries and heart and kidneys and energy. She had surgeries and hospital stays, tests, needles, pokes, prods and pills. But she did it. She didn’t like any of it and I am sure that my father damn well knew it. She is a Rawding, after all–they are notoriously stubborn, cranky people–but despite that fact it hurt her, she survived for 17 long years.
I don’t know how I will continue surviving without her.
How will I do it everyday if it hurts?
I just will.
Love you mom![box type=”bio”] Melissa Pence is wife to the husband and wife team here behind 2 phatgeeks. On December 11th, 2011, Melissa lost her mother to a long, difficult battle to diabetes. In her memory, Melissa is blogging 24 hours in order to raise funds for her through the organization: Step Out: End to Walk Diabetes, and for the personal goal to finish a humming bird tattoo on her right arm in memory of her mother. [/box]