Sunday, October 24, 2010

Slum Dog & Diabetes

It was our first date. Alfred and I had just entered the movie theater and my heart was pounding so hard that I didn't hold his hand, afraid that he'd feel my heartbeat in my palm. I jumped. Kelis's "Bossy" started playing and my Blackberry was vibrating inside of my right pants pocket. My mom's ring. She'd called three times earlier that day and I knew a fourth missed call would result in her worrying. I was both annoyed and excited - I couldn't really talk then, but I wanted her to hear the joy in my voice. I make a mental note to turn the ringer off before entering Stadium 3.

"Hey mom," I paused before climbing the steps. We had a few minutes before the movie starts. I held up my pointer finger to Alfred and mouthed "one minute." He nodded.

"Sallomé," she started.

"Yeah mom, I'm about to go in the movie to see Slum Dog Millionaire with Alfred."

"Okay. I won't talk long. You can call me back. I tried calling you earlier, but it kept going to voicemail. I just wanted you to know that the doctor diagnosed me with Type II diabetes and I have to seriously change my diet or I'll have to go on meds."

I was silent. Mouth open. Head light.


"Yes. I heard you."

"Okay. You can call me after the movie. I just wanted to make sure I talked to you today."


"I love you."

"I love you too." I waited until I no longer heard her background noise and look at my Blackberry until it read 'Disconnected' with the blinking time code.

"You okay Sallomé?" Alfred asks.

"No," I responded. "My mom just told me she has diabetes."

"You want to see the movie another time?"


We went in to see Simon Beaufoy's masterpiece. I couldn't enjoy the love story. I was angry. The thoughts were louder than the characters on the screen. How dare she tell me after I told her I was on a date; she couldn't wait until I called her back? Of course you have diabetes, you have been eating horribly and not exercising for decades, though every year you say you're going to do better. You don't want to be alive to see my children. You want me to have to take care of you in your old age. How selfish can you be?

Then the heartbreak set in. I masked my tears by timing them with the appropriate sad parts of the film. And then, I closed my eyes, and prayed.

Two weeks later I joined my mother in California. I left a new and blossoming relationship to go to classes with my her to understand the diagnosis and help her get into a diet and exercise regiment that would work for her busy schedule. I read "Diabetes Prevention and Care," "Diabetes Foot Care," and a ton of other pamphlets with horrible names. I sat around a table of ethnically diverse people with the same diagnosis - the only "supporter" in the room. Each morning I'd get up before she had to go to work, make sure she took her blood-sugar levels and recommended grains.

We walked on the beach and volleyed tennis balls together to ensure she got fun exercise in. With sand between our toes and shoes in hand, she asked me about my new love and my upcoming projects. We laughed a lot. And when I began missing my boyfriend something awful, she paid for my ticket back to New York to return to him.

Before going through security at the airport my mom gave me a relatively long hug.

"Thank you Sallomé. I couldn't have done this without you."

"It was my pleasure. Of course I was gonna come. Are you going to be okay without me here?"

"Yeah," she lies. "Go enjoy Alfred. I'm going to do better and take better care of myself."

After retrieving my carry on and slipping my feet back into my sneakers, I looked back. She was still standing there, waiting to wave goodbye. I remembered my anger that night in the theater. Her smile, with lips closed and dimples deep caused a leak in my hard exterior. I recognized that she and I had conquered something powerful.

Before bursting into a full blown kindergarten skip down the terminal, a tear escaped. It was pride, breaking through the biggest fear I'd ever known. My mother and I had worked through our fears together, without ever acknowledging them aloud. And for the rest of my life I will remember that in her greatest time of need she called on me, her daughter, to join her in creating a new life for herself. For that, I will forever be proud.

That's my Diabetes story.