My flight last night from Austin to Seattle was scheduled to leave at 6:40pm and arrive at 9:15. Add two hours for the time difference and that’s 4-1/2 hours, too long for this particular flight, which I know from experience.
Probably early, I texted my wife from the plane, just before takeoff, and I was very right. Whatever calculations had been made, whenever they were, about an early evening flight on the last day of February, a Saturday, were conservative. We were wheels down a good 30 minutes ahead of schedule, and we knew we would be from the onset.
I watched St. Vincent, the Bill Murray film I’d downloaded onto my iPad before I left for Texas, before I got sidetracked by my free viewing of Birdman. It was surprisingly compelling, or at least watchable, even if it got predictable and sappy in predictable and sappy ways. This was curious, as it featured heavyweights (Murray, Melissa McCarthy, and Naomi Watts, all of whom did excellent work, even Ms. Watts, stuck with fighting cliché in every scene as a Russian prostitute who was pregnant. She kept the “hooker with a heart of gold” trope at bay by being rough, selfish, and surprisingly practical, even if her idea of a meal is spaghetti with green beans).
McCarthy fought her own stereotype, playing an overworked and still-grieving single mom after leaving her cheating-heart lawyer husband (lawyer would come into play) and moving next door to Murray, starting by causing physical damage to his front yard (which was probably an improvement). Not exactly a meet cute, and romance was off the table, as Murray was protective of his hooker and, surprisingly in its sweetness, somebody else.
And it featured a young actor who looked to be distantly related to the Culkin breed. He was smart and sensitive, a runt who endured hazing at his new Catholic school, his first class taught by a refreshing performance by Chris O’Dowd as a priest who understood why parents send their kids there, regardless of their brand or none of religious feeling.
When this boy, Oliver, played by Jaeden Lieberher, an observant and tolerant tweener, gets stuck with Murray as sort of an afterschool sitter, compensated at 12 bucks an hour (he was running tight on funds), they develop a relationship that, again, fulfills a trope.
Murray was a marvel, and coming from a Bill Murray fascination and admiration it was a surprisingly subtle characterization, as always with these curmudgeons creating that audience dynamic of trying to figure out his story. Murray showed off a Boston accent, one I know but have no expertise in, but I bought it. A really nice performance.
But, again. Not a Wes Anderson film. I could savor the performances and roll my eyes at the storyline, which was heading exactly where we thought it would, but the ending is happy and I can live with happy endings, trite or not.
And at the end, we have a family of sorts, spaghetti and all. It seems to be all that matters.
We also have a family of sorts, scattered and with their own problems, but I was arriving at the tail end of trauma, to some stability. Treating a 16-month-old for diabetes Type 1 is an exercise in achieving stability, given his serious diabetic ketoacidosis episode in the hospital, young life on the line. He became different over the course of my week, surrounded by love and safety. He is a happy baby, with manageable blood sugars , in this special case geared toward preventing hypoglycemia (dangerously low blood glucose levels, increasingly dangerous because of the developmental delays and damage caused in a person this young, with a big brain just forming).
So they take levels in the 200s and don’t sweat it, although he’s finally stabilizing. A few mildly tense nights, and one crazy evening when he took a bath and then ran the hallways nekkid for a while, a burst of activity, dropping his sugar to the 90s and 80s, a new range. A little sugar water raised it back up to his normal, and he was fine, active, and happy the entire time, but it was a mystery and explained by an almost-joyful endocrinologist on-call, who looked through the chart and said, “He’s stabilizing and becoming a regular toddler with diabetes type 1.” That is, sometimes serious diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) can result in a temporary insulin resistance (common in diabetes type 2), in which he didn’t respond as well to insulin, but perhaps that has dissipated.
A brief primer, in case you’re like me and had a vague idea of type 1, more familiar with type 2, the increasingly prevalent form that involves less production of insulin and a resistance, meaning that it doesn’t quite do its job. This is often handled with diet and other modifications, along with medications that eliminate in many cases injections of insulin. The causes can be vague, but it’s often seen with obese people and other issues. It’s manageable.
Type 1 is a different animal. It’s an autoimmune disorder, where the body’s mighty immune system, sometimes instigated by a virus (coxsackievirus in particular, which Bix had six months ago). It has nothing to do with diet, and with his parents Mr. Bix’s nutrition has always been top notch. No refined sugar to speak of, no junk, veggies and meat protein, and in fact it’s a challenge to make sure he has a carbohydrate segment of his meals, which can come with milk and, as it turned out, Grandpa’s attempts at low-carb mini-muffins, a big hit and a learning experience for me. Baking with almond meal/flour and coconut oil, Stevia and apple cider vinegar, mashed together with blueberries, bananas, and apple sauce., they pack a calorie punch (95 calories) and 4 gm of carbs per, which is a quarter of his carb requirements for a meal (milk serves as an adjunct). Toddlers need those carbs, as limited as they are, while his brain grows.
But he’s happy and eating like a horse, playing and grinning, sleeping very well, enjoying the attention from mama, Mamie (my daughter’s mother in law), and me. It takes a village, and in this case a small trio of the best kind of village, a love village. He got a lot of attention.
I did what I could, playing with him, making him breakfast, baking those muffins that consisted of a quarter of what they call a carb unit, and of which he needs 3-5 or so per day. Again, milk helps, and the fine tuning has become natural. If anything, it was tricky persuading medical personnel that Bixie has never eaten of the American culture; no French fries for him. Veggie smoothies and Paleo-esque protein loading; these are omnivores, with an affection for slow-cooking meat, and kale has been a part of his diet for a long time.
And I slept at home last night, waking at interesting moments, imagining I heard Bix crying and mentally picturing myself still on the living room couch, command central.
I also saw a nice collection of PBS children’s programming (Sesame Street looks revamped a bit from 20 year ago) and endless comfort viewings of A Muppet Christmas Carol, a favorite of his. I got familiar with nutrition alternatives for the diabetic toddler, including Stevia for baking, almond meal/flour, coconut oil, etc. It’s interesting, right out of the Paleo handbook, and maybe it will carry over.
It was a busy week, all of us asking questions and wanting blood sugar reports and commenting on his mood, which changed in a positive direction over the course of a week. This boy will be fine. A cure is on the horizon, and new therapies and technology are changing the game. This is complicated at the moment, given his age, but controlled and reaching stability.
And my book, Learning to Walk, has had a surprising reaction, given that I just put a few posts on Facebook and Twitter. Books and Kindle edition orders are slow but steady, and marketing has only barely begun. I have plans.
If you’re interested, here’s the link to the paperback and to the Kindle version. If you’ve read it already, or plan to, once again I’d make the point that reviews on Amazon are very important. If you have the time and inclination, I’d appreciate it. It makes a big difference.
Now to readjust to home, sleep in a real bed, work on a real computer with a keyboard, monitor and mouse (old school. Or just old). I love my mobile devices and take them anywhere, but it’s hard to manage the nuts and bolts of publicity from mobile. Back to work.
And back to the new normal, with diabetes research and nutritional planning. From here, I just wait for updates and wish them the best, and hope for another visit soon. He babbles, says a few words, including something that sounds like, “mmmpa,” which is close to a good try at Grandpa.
And he will remember Grandpa, or at least his muffins, and now we’re at an interesting stage. Soon he will be talking, and I will fill his head about cosmology and language and concepts, conversations that I remember from so many years ago, leaving a trail that my daughter uses to good advantage.
And Bixie? A young man with a horn, of course.