My grandfather was a life-long farmer. He would always be the first one up in the morning, feeding the animals before coming in for his breakfast, and then going back out to the fields, barn, or woods to take care of the many daily chores the farm required. I remember looking for his teeth, which he kept in a Mason jar, when I first got up. If they were gone, he was out working. At night, he’d sit in an oversized rocking chair, reading the paper while the grandkids played games around him. His calm, consistent presence always made me feel safe. In the same way that he loved the farm and took care of it every day, I knew he loved and would take care of me.
My daughter Nikki has Type I diabetes, which, in a perfect world, is controlled by continuous vigilance to keep it from damaging her body. Taking blood samples and injecting insulin multiple times a day while trying to make sense of the way her diabetes responds to stress, growing, food, even sleep, is the diabetic’s life. As a teenager, her world is far from calm and consistent, and some days diabetes control does not make her “top ten” list of things to do. When it does, it rarely tops the list, as I’d like it to.
Last night, as my husband and I were waiting for a text message from Nikki that a high blood sugar was coming down, we asked ourselves again a question familiar to any parent – what else can we do? The answer we ended up at was not particularly exciting, but I know it to be a true one, for I have seen it in action. Like my grandfather, who did the same tasks over and over again to care for his farm and family, we must have the fortitude to wake up every day, be vigilant and consistent in our parenting and give her a sense that she can depend on us. Of course, most of the things we do for our families are not so dramatic, and doing the same thing again and again is not rewarding in and of itself, but what it provides our kids, knowing that they can count on us, is invaluable in this age of uncertainty and turmoil. And when I have to keep my teeth in a Mason jar, I’ll teach my grandchildren this philosophy of living. This I believe, that the best gift we can give someone we love is taking care of things – quietly, calmly, consistently – over and over again.
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