May 15, 2008
One of my favorite non-profit organizations is the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. Our 18-year-old has been living with Type 1 diabetes since he was 5, and Liz and I see JDRF as one of the best resources for the research we hope will result in a cure.
Type 1 diabetes, sometimes called juvenile diabetes, typically has an early onset in life. It requires someone who has it to take insulin injections, since their pancreas has stopped working. A kid doesn’t grow out of it. Insulin doesn’t cure it. In fact, insulin injections are really no more than a life-support system.
We have a lot of history with this organization. Liz was instrumental in launching the JDRF chapter in Austin. We’re very honored to have our names on a “Founders Award” that the chapter gives to community leaders every year.
Someone even named a dog after us – well, really, after me. But I’m pretty sure that wasn’t meant as an honor.
Several years back, the local group was having its first live auction to raise dough. I’d been told that one of the diabetic kids really, really wanted a puppy that was going to be on the auction block. So, when it looked like someone else was going to bid enough to win the dog, I ended up buying him for the little girl.
The problem, it turns out, was that the little girl’s parents really didn’t want the dog.
They named the dog Watson. I’m told by folks that ol’ Watson is pretty much incorrigible. He can’t be trained. Even in his now-advancing years, he runs around like crazy and barks without fear or shame whenever the inspiration strikes him.
There are those who argue that the bad behavior is a product of his nature and, therefore, the dog was properly named. Other say the poor beast’s activity is a product of saddling him with the unfortunate name.
For years now, people have told me how the parents of that little girl seem to really enjoy saying, “Damn you, Watson,” or “Somebody get Watson to shut up,” or . . . well, you get it.
The poor mutt didn’t even serve on CAMPO.
Anyway, the Austin Chapter of JDRF had its big fundraiser last weekend, the night before Mother’s Day. I was honored to speak there. Cooper, our 12-year-old, went with me.
Preston and Liz missed the fundraiser. They were in Houston with the Austin High lacrosse team, which was playing in the state final four for the third straight year. Despite his diabetes, Preston started for the varsity team for three years before he hurt his knee this season. (I confess that I’d have been in Houston if Preston had been able to play.)
At 18, Preston is basically a grown man now. But, to his mom and me, he’s still that little 5-year-old boy that was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. That diagnosis changed everything we thought we knew about how life was going to be.
Preston’s also a kid who loves a tough, strenuous sport. Sometimes, playing lacrosse, his blood sugar got so low that we’d have to intervene. At other times, his blood sugar was so high that he’d feel bad. But he never flinched. For Preston, that’s life. That was normal.
Over the years, his mother and I have cried more than we admit. And as he finishes up high school and fearlessly looks on to college, we’re scared out of our minds.
It’s more than the normal jitters of thinking through 18 years of parenting and hoping we didn’t mess anything up. There’s also a sort of hollow ache as we wonder if he’s ready to be on his own out there without his mom asking whether he’s checked his blood sugar, or grabbed his glucose monitoring meter when he’s gone off with friends, or given himself one of the multiple daily shots of insulin, or calculated his food intake or exercise level, or done any of the many, many things that Liz coaxes, pushes, teaches, tells him – mothers him – to do to take care of himself.
Is he ready to live without us? Without her?
We’ve all been in it together, but I know firsthand that there’s something particularly strong about the mom of a Type 1 diabetic child.
It was fitting that the Diabetes Foundation event fell the day before we celebrated motherhood. And it’s important to honor the loving, special mothers who are doing so much to help cure this disease and take care of the kids who live with it.
Preston will do well in large part because of his mom. Also, Preston’s turning into a pretty good young man with lots of potential.
Others recognize this too. It’s not just a dad bragging.
At the lacrosse banquet this week, the team and families celebrated another great season. Preston received the awards for Leadership and Sportsmanship. He also made the Academic All District team, which means he made it all four years.
The Board of the Lacrosse Club created a special award called “The Liz Watson Service and Character Award.” It will be given each year to both a parent and a player. It was the Board’s very nice recognition of Liz’s hard work as President for the past two years.