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Food for ThoughtDec/Jan 2009 Issue

All in the Family

When my brother and I were kids—and at each other throats for the umpteenth time—my dad would sit us down and say, “All you’ve got is each other.”

I’ve said those same words to my wife: All we’ve got is each other. I was referring to the feeling of being alone as we raise our 9-year-old son, Mike, who has both type-1 diabetes and celiac disease.

Friends and family are well intentioned but sometimes they just don’t get it. Not long ago Grandma was still saying, “He wouldn’t need insulin if he ate more vegetables.”

While my wife and I do have each other to rely on, the sense—and the stress—of it being ‘just us’ takes its toll nonetheless. And that feeling is especially poignant each year at my family’s holiday dinners.
 
Our tradition is to have Christmas dinner at one of our homes, rotating hosting responsibilities among siblings. Last Christmas, my wife volunteered us as hosts. We had just completed renovations and my wife explained to my siblings that she wanted to show off the new home addition to the family. Admittedly, I’m a little slow on the uptake sometimes but even I could see through her fib.

Mike had just been diagnosed with celiac disease. I knew my wife was thinking that the work of cooking for 22 people was outweighed by the fact that, if we stayed home, Mike would stick to his diet, eat at a reasonable hour (critical for managing his blood sugar levels with type-1 diabetes), and most importantly, would enjoy dinner with everyone else.

And who could blame her? In the past, we would travel to a relative’s house knowing full well that dinner wouldn’t be served on time and that it might contain ingredients not permitted on Mike’s special diet. We’d pack Mike’s lunch and dinner, drinks and dessert and bring them with us. My wife and I would be on the eating schedule of Mike’s diabetes, while everyone else’s schedule would revolve around football on TV. Even with preplanning, Mike’s glucose numbers would be out of whack for days afterwards because of the junk he ate while watching the game.

Our last Christmas dinner was a great success, thanks to my wife. She planned everything down to the last morsel and no one realized the menu was gluten free. Mike was able to enjoy every dish on the table, with everyone dining and celebrating the holiday together.

This Christmas, the holiday meal will be at my brother’s house. In the past, he’s scheduled dinner for 7:00 p.m. but because of the football game, the meal is served at 9:00, followed by dessert at 10:30. Usually, we feed Mike what we pack and head for home before dessert. 

My wife and I were anticipating the same for this year—until recently. Several weeks ago, we visited my brother and his family for a barbeque. Without our prompting, he had gluten-free food available for Mike. He offered burgers and hotdogs with no fillers or additives. He picked up gluten-free baguettes for Mike’s hotdog roll and prepared gluten-free brownies for dessert. What’s more, he served the meal at the traditional dinner hour.

I called my brother a few days later to thank him for going out of his way for Mike. No problem, he said. He was glad to accommodate my family.

“That was easy,” he explained. “We’re all we’ve got.” LW

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