Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Walter Payton and Larry Bird.

It's been sneaking into my nights and early mornings lately. Too frequently for my liking.

Walter Payton.

You see, we all have our number. That moment it flashes on the glucometer screen, you reflexively think of some random word association. Mostly because your brain is hardly working at all, and it gives your wandering, foggy mind something to fix on. A homing beacon. For Kerri, it's Larry Bird, jersey number 33. For me it's legendary Chicago Bear Walter Payton, number 34. And 'Sweetness' was Payton's nickname - how ironic.

As a child raised in Chicago, to me and many others Payton was a magical figure. When the Bears won the Super Bowl in 1986, I was 14 and still new to the world of type 1 diabetes - diagnosed just three years earlier. Not many 34s crossed my brick of a blood glucose meter back then; orange was the new blue (never black) for me most of the time, my early self-care years hampered by primitive instruments and poor habits I denied to everyone, including myself.

Since then newer insulins and better tools mean I see Sweetness occasionally. Lately he's shown up three times in the last week, always unannounced at 4:30 or 5:00 in the morning. I'm not sure if it's good or bad that I've never not woken up when that happens - what's unsettling is how often I have no symptoms besides that uneasy feeling of something being very wrong.

I loved Walter Payton. It broke the city's heart when he died. But I don't want to keep seeing him in the wee small hours of the morning, sneaking past me and flashing that '34' like his famous smile when I'm half awake.