Vindication, when it comes to us, brings with it a superfluous sense of self-righteousness which then manifests itself in a satisfyingly smug “I told you so” smirk. When vindication does not favor you, but results in someone else directing that satisfyingly smug smirk at you, it seems as if said smug is in the worst possible taste.
Case in point:
My mom is a diabetic, has been since the 1980s. It’s only been in the last decade that she’s been on insulin, rather than pills. The insulin gave her much better control over her blood sugar levels. She was very serious, very diligent about testing her blood and taking her insulin until she had her aortic-valve replacement surgery two years ago. Since then, she’s been fairly lax: testing her blood only once a day, only taking once a day the insulin that she’s supposed to take with every meal. We’ve gone round and round about it, and things finally came to a head last week.
She called me at 3:46 a.m.
I had not yet gone to bed. I gave up sleep one year for Lent, and have yet to return to the regularity of a 7-8 hour a night rest. The phone ringing was not as startling as it is when one is asleep. Though, it should be said, that anytime an 88-year old parent calls in the middle of the night, it’s upsetting: there’s usually something wrong. On this particular night the news is that her blood-sugar level is low, and she needs juice.
If you’re unfamiliar with diabetes, the only thing you need to know at this point is that a low blood-sugar level is not good, and, if not rectified quickly, can result in serious consequences, and could even lead to death. I’m happy that my mom is aware of her lows; there are many diabetics who have no idea when their blood-sugar level is low, and this can make things much more complicated.
I made my way into the kitchen, poured her a half-a-cup of juice, adding half-a-packet of Equal sweetener to the juice, since fruit juice is never sweet enough for her, and brought the doctored-up juice to her room.
She was half-sitting up. Not only did she look like someone who was abruptly awoken from a sound sleep, but, she also had The Look. The Look is rather tough to describe in a few words. The Look is what she gets when her blood-sugar goes below a certain level; it is a look of Differentness: her skin, while not pale, is not quite as colorful as usual; her eyes seem to just be slightly unable to focus, so she squints ever-so-slightly; her speech, while not slurred or jumbled, is just different — to someone who wasn’t familiar with her speech, they’d probably not notice, but, to me, who is so familiar with her voice, there is this slightly strange difference to its tone and cadence. The Look seems almost as if she’s faded slightly. When I see her with The Look, I know that her blood-sugar is going to be really low.
As she is drinking the juice, I get out her blood-testing kit, place a testing strip into the machine, give her a damp washcloth to wipe away any possible sugars on her finger, as these could add sugar to her blood and give a false reading. I hand her the needle to stick her finger, which she places it against her left ring finger, and then presses the release. The needle shoots out, pricking a small hole in her finger, and a second later, a rich, red blood droplet appears on the tip of her finger. I put the test strip up to the blood drop, the meter beeps, indicating it has enough blood to sample, and within a few seconds we have the result: 45. A good blood-sugar level is 70-100, while less than 70 is considered low (the lower the number, the more serious the low).
I hate when the number is in the 40s, as that’s when bad things have happened. She gets quite belligerent when her blood-glucose level is that low, resisting and arguing every step of the way (for many diabetics, this is a common side-effect of low sugar). When she gets belligerent, she likes to insult me and call me names — during these episodes, she’s called me queer, homely, stupid, fat, whore, and, more than once, she’s called me a fag. One example: she was being very belligerent with me, and was refusing to drink any juice. An argument ensued, with her telling me “I’m 85 years old, dammit, and I don’t need my fag son telling me what to do. I got to be this age without any help from you!” I, in turn, told her that if she didn’t take the juice, I was going to call the ambulance, and that all of the neighbors would see her being carried out on a stretcher. Even though mom loves to be the center of any and all attention, the thought of being carried out of the house, on a stretcher, in her night clothes proved to be too much. She drank the juice. After, she had no recollection of the argument (this also seems to be common to many diabetics when they are having lows, this forgetfulness of what has happened. According to her doctor, I’m not supposed to take these words seriously, though, I cannot help but wonder if she is giving voice to thoughts she keeps buried, or if they truly are meaningless thoughts brought on by her condition). Another time, when her blood-sugar dropped to 40, she couldn’t keep the juice down, and she had moved her emergency glucose needle (a syringe full of glucose, to be injected in just such an instance) and it was not in the place where it is usually kept. The ambulance had to come that time. Another time (though, this time her low was caused by her accidentally taking 20 units of the fast-acting, daytime insulin, instead of the 20 units of the slow-acting night insulin) we were up most of the night,feeding her toast, juice, and several other things, and testing her blood every 30 minutes, until….I’m not sure what the “until” was. I just know that it was daylight by the time she was stable and we were able to sleep. The Rest Of The Story Is This Way