I blame the walleye. Nearly five pounds of fresh walleye…On Wednesday, while shopping at Super One for tartar sauce, Panko Japanese breading and lemons, my blood sugar tumbled down, like an avalanche. Having wrestled with blood sugar issues for nearly thirty years, one might think I’d have figured it out by now. I haven’t. About the time I think I’ve got it licked, it climbs out of its hole like a long, black snake and clamps on, thrashing and coiling, until I inevitably find a way to choke it back.
It’s temporary. The constancy of the battle is exhausting. If giving up was an option I’d have done so long ago. I ain’t proud.
In the aisle next to the frozen vegetables—no where near the lemons—I finally realized what insulin-dependent diabetics the world over know as the moment of clarity, the epiphanic instant where the brain finally connects, however briefly, with the real-world outside the cranium, blood glucose somewhere south of 45 mg/dl and dropping.
“You finding everything alright, Sir?”
“Under control, Bud.” Epic lie.
“You sure?” The kid is relentless.
“Yup. …Just can’t remember…”
“Do you have a list?” His eyes are wide. Whatever he’s reading on my face, is foreign.
“Of course, I do, Bud,” I say. “But I was supposed to…”
Next, I’m swimming. The floor is my lake. The dirty tile is cool and smooth and I feel myself giggling a little. My shirt is filthy, my necktie ruined. Beneath the giggling is a reptile anger, a penetrating, dull understanding that it’s happening again, lost control in a lifetime of trying. Swear words come out of my mouth.
“Sir, I think your son is here.”
“Dad, drink this.”
“I don’t need that.”
“Drink it, Dad.”
“Drink it right now, Dammit.”
Then my wife is there. Familiar, frightened look in her eyes, worried. Kills me. She deserves more. Better. Lopsided deal…
“I’m FINE!” I shout and lie. The louder the shout, the bigger the lie.
“Honey,” she says. “Remember, you promised you’d do whatever I said, whenever I said it, no matter what.”
“Then drink this. Now.”
I do. Hatefully. It’s an admission of all gone wrong. Lost control. Again. Story of my life.
Cops everywhere. Deputies. Ambulance guys. The delicate choreography of dogmatic professionalism and human compassion is humbling. Inspiring. They’re young. And smart. And good.
“You’re coming around now, Sir. I don’t think we’ll need an I.V.”
“Yes, I’m feeling much better. It’s like magic….Ironic that what’ll kill me in the long run saves me in the short run.”
“You mean glucose? It isn’t going to kill you.”
I sign the stuff that needs to be signed. Shake the hands of the young men who spend their work days doing good stuff.
“Take care, guys. Thanks, again.”
“No sweat. Take care now. Make sure you eat something.”
“I’ll do that,” I say and, as I walk through the parking lot toward my wife’s waiting car, it occurs to me that more than an hour has gone by since I first entered the store. Time flies when you’re semi-conscious.
“People are good,” I say to my wife.
“They are,” she agrees and kisses me.
“And, you are beyond good,” I add.
“I am,” she agrees, winking, and kisses me again.
As we drive off, I roll down the window and close my eyes, the summer wind warm and buffeting. It smells like my childhood. Big Lake. Swimming with Wade and Jeff. My dad roofing the house. Old Dutch Potato Chips. Peanut M&Ms.
“I love the smell of summer,” I say.
“Me too,” she answers.
As we pull into the driveway, she looks hard at my face, something dawning on her, something big.
“Did you get tartar sauce?” she asks. And I hold up the bag, successfully.
“Lemons, tartar sauce and Panko.” I say. “Totally under control.”