Thursday, February 14, 2008

Our Tells

I'm sitting at the counter, entering Joseph's bg in his log book-- his sugar is just flying down.

No surprise-- it was a gym day.

As I stare at the curve -- the 100-point drop that took place during our short ride home from school -- Joseph plops down on the seat next to mine. I look up from the log.

Nope, not yet-- he's still low.

He has a look.

A "tell."

It's the way he smiles when he's low-- it's not quite right.

It's not him.

"Mom," he says suddenly, "I told this kid at school that if he pulled out my insulin pump I could die."


"Well, he was buggin' me. And he started asking me about it-- he's this big kid named "A" who likes to push people around."

"But Honey, I really don't want you telling anyone something like that."

"No-- but Mom, it was funny-- 'cause then later this other kid was messin' with me- "

"Hold on-- what do you mean messin' with you?

"It was no big deal-- but then A got all freaked out-- because of what I told him about my pump... "

And now Joseph is giggling and shaking his head.

Still smiling in that way.

".... and he grabbed the other kid and said, 'You could kill him! Leave him alone!' Then my friend, G was like 'Wait a minute, he couldn't kill- ' and I went 'shhhh!' and then G said 'Yeah, yeah-- you could kill him."

"Joseph, I really don't want you telling kids things like that-- someone might think it's funny, doing something to your pump."

"Oh yeah-- like all of a sudden they're gonna learn how to unlock my pump, and figure out how to push the buttons and do a bolus."

"Joseph, don't even say that. Please."

He laughs-- then shakes his head and rolls his eyes.

"Mom, they can't really hurt me."

But then he notices the look on my face.

My "tell."

"Really, Mom, " he says quietly-- without a trace of that smile.

"No one can hurt me."

Then he reaches across the counter and picks up his meter.

"I'm gonna check again, to see if I'm back up."

"Sounds good," I tell him-- though I can already see that he is.


Jillian said...

Oh that motherly worry, I think it's going to be okay. I've said crazy stuff like that to people (including my adult relatives) before, but I don't tell my mom about it. You caught him in a low confession!

Kendra said...

Although spreading misinformation doesn't exactly help clear the air about diabetes, it might cause Joseph's classmates to treat him and his disease with a little more respect, to hassle him LESS . . . the only reason I say that is because I have told "white lies" when it comes to my pump in order to lessen the hassle of explaining it to people who A) don't care and/or B) don't have the time to understand it fully. Case in point: at the airport, I tell security that I can't take off my pump. Of course I can, but I'd really, really, REALLY rather not be separated from it in the midst of everyone else's confusion (what if someone grabs it thinking it's a cellphone or something, or I forget it in the craziness of trying to find my other shoe, and my laptop bag, and my purse, and my blah blah blah on the conveyor belt?) That and I don't want it to go through the xray in the first place.

Em said...

I can relate to having a "tell". When I was a kid spending the night at my best friend's house, her mom would always say that my eyes looked different when I was low.

And although it probably doesn't make the worry go away, it seems like Joseph is well prepared to handle himself, his diabetes, and his pump. (I've been a reader for awhile, don't know if I've ever commented.)

Penny said...

Riley's "tell" is his eyes. I can't describe what they look like, but when he's low they look different.

Sandra Miller said...


Definitely motherly worry-- when Joseph made that comment about someone figuring out how to work his pump, he gave voice to one of my earliest and worst fears about pumping.

It's comforting to know that he's not the only one to say outrageous things to people about his pump...


Thanks for sharing your perspective-- and the airport example.

Helps me look at what happened yesterday in a little less negative (and scary) light.


Although it's usually the smile that tells me Joseph is low or dropping, often I can hear it in his voice, too.

I still remember one day last summer when he was playing outside with his buddy, Zachary. I was sitting in the kitchen talking to a friend when through the open kitchen window I heard Joseph laughing.

And I knew.

Immediately, I jumped up and called him in-- turned out he was in the 50s.

When he's low, the tone of his laugh is just... different.

Anyhow, thanks for chiming in, the kind words-- and for reading the blog. :-)


I know exactly what you mean.

It's so hard to describe, but you recognize it immediately when you see/hear it.

Donna said...

My tell has always been my eyes. My mom could always tell that way. Even though it's not very fun, at least you know his tells. And that's a good thing.

Paige said...

Sandra, facing those fears...I am afraid to even put them into words sometimes. I have horribly cataclysmic thoughts about a disaster or global emergency or even weather situation somehow seperating us from a source of insulin. I am always trying to figure out what I would do "if xyz happened."

Sandra Miller said...


I agree.

Though it really scares me sometimes when I see these tells, ask him to test, and Joseph insists that he's fine.

Because most people don't see them. They just think he's being funny.


Back when Katrina happened, I had nightmares about exactly the situation you describe.

Still do every once in a while.

Storing some backup bottles of insulin and other supplies helps.

But not a ton.

The best thing I've done to keep these fears at bay is to re-focus on what's happening now-- knowing that if I don't, I'd be paralyzed with fear.

Anonymous said...

My daughter usually calls me when I am on the train coming home from work. I can tell immediately when she's low by the sound of her voice.

Carol said...

My son has said the same thing to several of his classmates. It's a relief to know he's not the only one.

Jimmy said...

I just read your story this morning and loved it. I like Josephs attitude and feel he and you both are going to do just fine. My wife always says to me that she can tell when my sugar is low by the way I hold my mouth and needless to say she is right 99 times out of 100, when I was a kid Mom would always seem to know when to get me a snack, I bet that same "Tell" was there then.

Kids can be really mean at school, I can just imagine wearing a pump while I was there, I commend your son for handling it so well and as I said before his attitude will take him far in life, knowing when to use humor and others lack of knowledge to his advantage is something most people can't handle, I see no harm in him handling the situation as he did and at the same time I am with you for feeling as you do about it.

Just from this post I can "tell" you are good people who Love one another and will be back to read more.

Thank You,

Chris said...

Sandra: Your Joseph is an amazing dude. (make sure you tell him i said that!)
By the sounds of it you have nothing to worry about when it comes to him holding his own.It is nice to see that the vulnerability that i see emma flanked with will eventually dissipitate because of what i heard here. I may have read into this post a different way than you wrote it. But that is the beauty of this.
I ALWAYS love reading about you and your family and one day would love to meet you all when we pass through.

Sandra Miller said...


I really hope you're right about Joseph's attitude. :-)

Thanks for reading-- and for the very kind words.


I'll definitely tell him.

And hey-- I would love it if we all got to meet. I'll bet Evan and Emma would have a blast together. :-)