Friday, February 11, 2011

"Dat poor sweetheart with dat dumb sugar problem."

I come from a very Dutch family.  My grandparents immigrated to Canada from the Netherlands over 60 years ago, eventually settling here.  These people have lived through some incredible history.  My Oma actually had German soldiers living in her home and taking all the good livestock.  I still have to smile when she says that they put a sign on the house saying they had some terrible contagious disease so the soldiers would leave them alone.  These people have lived a life I can't even imagine.  They have seen advances in everything from healthcare to technology.  I always kind of laughed at how little they new about modern day conveniences.

No one, to my knowledge or the knowledge of my family, in my family has ever had diabetes.  This is a disease that no one really even knew about.  The only people who seemed to have any clue about diabetes were my Oma and Opa.  I was only 6 weeks pregnant when I was first (mis)diagnosed with diabetes (the doctor said "It must be type 2 because adults don't get type 1 and it's too early to be gestational").  The next time I saw my Oma she looked somber.  She asked "Sweetheart, you have dat sugar diabetes?"  When I responsed with a 'yes' her eyes glassed over and her jaw clenched tight.  I didn't understand this response.  Sure, diabetes isn't fun, but I didn't think it warranted that.  She looked at me like she would never see me again.

As time went on, I researched.  I have never in my life liked non-fiction.  I can't tell you how many non-fiction books I poured through.  One of which gave a great history of diabetes.  Do you know that people have known of diabetes for many many years?  Back in the day, the way they tested for diabetes was by tasting your urine.  Now that is a job you couldn't pay me enough for.  Mmmm, this is sweetened lemonaide.

I learned so much.  This brought into perspective how far diabetes healthcare has come.  In my Oma and Opa's lifetime, type 1 diabetes was a death sentence.  If you had the top care and followed instructions (eat nothing, drink nothing) you would be lucky to get 2 absolutely MISERABLE years.  So when I told my Oma who doesn't understand that a VHS can be replayed and you don't have to buy a new VHS everytime you want the watch The Sound of Music (they have like 8!!!), yes I have diabetes, she wasn't up on all the new 'stuff'.  She did look at me like she might never see me again because in her mind, she might never see me again.  When I made this discovery I called to explain that things have changed.  She still doesn't quite grasp this concept, so I will forever be "Dat poor sweetheart with dat dumb sugar problem."  Except when she writes sweet it is spelled sweat.

Oma and Opa are very old now.  They do ok, but they need help that they are too stubborn to accept.  The stove has been left on ("You have never done dat?") and bones somehow break in bed while they're sleeping ("No, I didn't fall going to the bathroom.").  They really aren't cheap though- they have spent their lives working very hard and saving, leaving them fortunate, blessed and giving.  Truely, they are dear sweet people that I adore.  Which is what makes this story so frusterating (and in a few years funny for me, probably funny for you now because it didn't happen to you).

After years of traveling to Florida we have managed to convince them they should no longer go.  Actually, we didn't convince them.  They started the planning process and a nurse who was coming to their home (who obviously thought this trip to Florida would have been a terrible plan too) told them that their insurance wouldn't be accepted in Florida.  In fact, their insurance would only be accepted within about 20 miles of their home.  God bless this nurse!  No Florida trip for the old folks.

I feel sad for them being home.  They are bored.  It's cold and there is nothing for them to do.  The toddler and I have been trying to make an extra effort to keep them company this winter.  Who knows how much time they have left?  We generally go over there, but the roads are clear, so today they came here for a nice cup of coffee and some cookies.  How "gezillig". 

We are blessed to have a roof over our head and heat to keep us warm.  I am not complaining about this place we live in.  Let me just say though, about 50% of the time our garage is wetter than the Netherlands before the dikes were put in.  Today is one of those days.  Needless to say it is all sandy and salty from the car.  Not to mention our driveway, which is like every other driveway here, is covered in about 2 inches of ice and hard snow. 

10:00 AM rolls around this morning and here comes the massive Lincoln pulling tenatively in the driveway.  I can read Oma's lips as she is straining to verify that this is indeed my house.  "John (which sounds more like Yon), turn John, here" in her broken english.  Toddler is running around the house yelling "Oma and Opa!!!  Me want cookie!!!"  The dog is barking like a maniac to alert us of the extremely dangerous eldery couple slowly pulling into the driveway in their tank of a car.  They pop the trunk and begin to unload food, tulips (I AM NOT JOKING!), and old dutch books.  From what I understand, these are things that only the "sweetheart with dat dumb sugar" get.  Sorry cousins, guess you should have gotten a chronic illness if you wanted old dutch books.

I fight the losing battle of keeping the toddler and the dog away from the door while trying to carry in everything the old folks brought.  (BTW, they call themselves the old folks, I am not being a brat).  I now have a lifetime supply of fruit, coffee cake, cookies and dinner for 4 for a week.  The tulips, although stereotypical, are beautiful and the books would be much more interesting if I could read Dutch. 

They enter the house through the wetlands (aka the garage).  Oma proceeds through the kitchen to the dining room where I am assuming she will sit and remove her now soaking wet, snow caked, sand sprinkled shoes.  At the first sight of 'road apples' as my husband calls them, in the kitchen I run to get a towel.  Our house isn't new and perfect, but we try to keep it nice and clean.  I am now on my hands and knees moping up road apples off my kitchen floor.  At this point I notice that no matter how much I wipe up, I am not even making a dent in this mess.  It's like it keeps growing.  I realize she isn't sitting down, but rather pacing in circles around my house with the toddler.  And Opa is on his way to join her.

Remember I am the grandchild here.  I want to give the benefit of the doubt that this is an accident she hasn't noticed.  She would not be disrespectful of all my hard work cleaning and hubby's hard work to keep us in this house.  So I make a rather loud mention that there is dirty slush all over my freshly washed laminate flooring (that isn't suppose to get THAT wet).  Nothing.  I am literally wiping up after EVERY step she takes.  I can feel my blood boiling and my blood sugar dropping from all the scrubbing.  Fine, I will ask.

"Oma, why don't you sit down and take off your shoes.  They are all wet and dirty.  I can take them off for you and get you some nice slippers."  What I expected to hear was "Oh, yeah, sweetheart, dat would be soooo nice."  What I got was "No.  Dese shoes are sooo good.  I keep dem on."

Perhaps she didn't notice I am chasing her with a towel.  Maybe she didn't hear the part about being wet and slushy.  "But Oma, they are all wet and slushy from being outside.  See, I am scrubbing the floor after every step you take."  That outta do it.

"No sweetheart.  My shoes are clean.  I just wear dem at home and den into our garage to da car and den come in here."

Did you not see the flood in our garage and the swamp in my kitchen?  They are soaked and sandy, take them off.  "Our garage is very wet and messy though and I can see that your shoes got all messy from our garage.  Let me get you some slippers."

At this point Opa is struggling to keep his balance to begin removing his shoes.  I quickly help him get his balance and grab a chair for him so we can take off his shoes.

"Sweetheart, I like to keep my shoes on."  She says this while clenching her teeth and giving me that I am grandma and I scared off the soldiers look.

My blood sugar is dropping.  If I can feel it I know I am sitting at low 50's.  I need to eat.  Toddler and dog are under foot dragging this mess all through the house and she is not going to take off her stupid shoes.  Maybe I am just irritable that I am low, but I can feel my face turning bright red and I am ready to ask her to walk her shoes right out of my house.

"How are you feeling sweetheart?  Do you still have dat dumb sugar?"  Yes, yes, it's fine.  I am having a lot of ups and downs lately.  I explain that scrubbing the floor has attendency to make me low which makes me feel like I'm dying.

She changes the subject to the food she brought and how much work it was to bring (which I asked her not to bring because it is a lot of work and I am capable).  I know this is a guilt factor.  I know how she works.  She is thinking "I had to work to make this food and bring it here, you can scrub your floors again."  But I live in bare feet most of the time and the toddler has (now wet and dirty) socks on.  I am not re-cleaning my entire house because she is having a love affair with her shoes.

"Oma, your shoes are still wet and dirty and making a big mess.  I really appreciate all the work you did on the food even though I told you we didn't need anything.  Please take off your shoes."

She totally ignores me and walks into the living room (on our 'nice' rug) and sits on the couch next to the now shoeless Opa.  I finish moping up the the kitchen and prepare their coffee each to their liking without asking because I know.  I am boiling angry and taking extra time in the kitchen trying to decide my next move.  I am still low, but that will have to wait.  I can talk and I can see well enough. 

That is when it hits me.  I am not getting these shoes off this woman.  She is an old stubborn Dutch woman, I will lose.  But I grew up with a stubborn Dutch dad (so I know how to work the system) and am also a stubborn Dutch woman (so I MUST have my way out of stubborn-ness).  What I care about isn't the removing of the shoes, what I care about is the mess it is making.  How can I prevent the mess?

I bring the coffee into the living room with 2 plastic bags- Meijer of all places.  Not the luxe D&W.  I put down the coffees for each of them and look to Oma.

"I know you want to keep your nice comfy shoes on and I respect that.  I am sure you don't want to make a lot of extra work for me, because I know I would never want to make a lot of extra work for you.  So, I am going to put these bags over your shoes so they don't drip all over the house anymore.  I think it's a nice compromise."


I walk back into the kitchen to get the cookies.  I hear a bunch of Dutch which I know well enough to pick up on how ridiculous I am being about a little dirt.  I stuff a cookie in my mouth, partially to treat the low and partially to keep my mouth shut. 

I have to laugh a little when I walk back into the living room to see Oma in her nice plastic bags.  When she dies someday (hopefully in a long long time) I am burying her in those stupid shoes.

1 comment: