Dad and Daughter, charcoal on paper
In 1983, I was in 8th grade. That year science was focused mostly on physiology, anatomy and disease which meant eventually we came to a point where my science teacher talked about diabetes. I think it was one of the most infuriating days in my academic career. My teacher pointed me out to the entire class and told them that the reason I had diabetes was because my mother fed me too much sugar when I was younger. He told them not to eat candy or they would get it too. When I disagreed with him, he countered with something along the lines of “Well, if your mother didn’t then you must have been sneaking it.” When I told him that the kind of diabetes I had was autoimmune he brushed it off and said it was too complicated to get into those details. Then he proceeded to tell the class that they shouldn’t let me eat candy around them. I was horrified, embarrassed and livid.
I told my mom about it when I got home from school. She very calmly told me that some people will always remain ignorant no matter what you say. Because she was so angry at the time, that was all she said to me about it while I stomped off to my room to be a typical furious teenager.
The next day, I was called out of a different class to go down to the principal’s office. When I got there, I could see the principal, my science teacher, and my dad behind the glass wall of the office. I thought “Oh no, I’m in trouble for sassing the teacher.” When the door opened, I heard my dad with his teeth clenched speaking in his “You’re in so much trouble that I can’t even look at you” voice, and then he started yelling at my science teacher. Dad was great at the wind-up when he scolded us kids – it started out with quiet fury, with just a hint of calm behind it and when he was done yelling at you, you wanted him to go back to the scary fury with which he started out. I was glad I wasn’t on the receiving end of it that day, but in all honesty, I kind of felt bad for my teacher too.
The result of that meeting was that my teacher apologized to me for singling me out, and I was told I could give a report on the differences between Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes in science class. I also learned that day that my dad was one of my biggest assets when it came to some of the things in the outside world that kids with diabetes need to battle.
Dad only showed up two other times to school when it came to defending my diabetic honor. Those were equally as embarrassing and horrifyingly awkward because I was a kid. As an adult, I now appreciate that he stood up for me when I couldn’t. He was also the best at giving insulin shots when I asked him to, and he never once told me that I couldn’t do something because of my diabetes. These things are priceless, even if you don’t appreciate them until you’re an adult.
So in my Mother’s Day post I wrote about how my mom taught me to never stop learning, and never give up. My dad – he taught me to stand up for myself. When you have a chronic illness sometimes it can be one of the hardest things to do when you’re faced with people that don’t understand the disease. It goes back to those questions people ask me time and time again about why I had my transplant. I’ll be standing for my decision to do this no matter what life throws at me. I have to thank my dad for teaching me how to do that.
Insulin free since 2006