Thursday, September 07, 2006


This week is my niece Emily’s 5th birthday. At least, it’s her “legal” birthday. Emily was found in a cardboard box in an alley in Wei Lin, China and they did not know exactly how old she was so she was assigned a date.

My older sister surprised us all 4 years ago by announcing that she, at age 44, had been approved for single-parent adoption and would soon go to China to pick up her baby. We were dumbfounded but excited.

I’m pretty much of a homebody and traveling just doesn’t call to me like it does to some, but……………..China, that’s a different story. I have practiced tai chi nearly every day for the last 14 years and have studied acupuncture intermittently for the last 10. A trip to China would be the dream of a lifetime, and to see that baby placed in F’s arms would be priceless.

So, I decided that I’d go with F to “get the baby”. I did endless preparation - planned the “touristy” things, studied the language, got the name of a college of traditional Chinese medicine to visit. I couldn’t believe that this was happening.

Ten days before we were scheduled to leave, I woke up with a hemorrhage in my eye. It was like dumping an entire pepper shaker into an egg white and whisking it up. My retinal specialist got me in that morning and said his best guess would be that the vitreous would clear in a few weeks. But the trip was in less than two weeks - how did my other eye look? I could certainly go with just monocular vision, but what if the good one also bled? Dr. M is a deeply kind person. He put his hand on my shoulder as I cried and said that if it were him, he’d stay home, but it was my choice. I still thought I could pull it off. He told me to come back in a week, three days before departure. He did an ultrasound and told me that my retina had completely separated from the back of my eye and I’d need immediate surgery. I was stunned and rapidly slid into that tunnel of “blissful numbness”, where you shut down because the emotional pain is simply too much.

I don’t feel like recounting the details of the surgery and recovery right now, but no, I did not go to China. I was too immersed in the health crisis and did not experience the profound sense of unfairness and disappointment until days later. Why why why did that f’ing diabetes take away my one dream? I’ve never asked for much from life, and at that time it seemed like I’d never gotten much, either.

But today, 4 years later, I can see all that Emily is - in her Halloween costume, blowing out birthday candles, ripping open Christmas gifts and rushing to greet me with open arms. I can see her cousins (all boys) fussing over her endlessly. I have a picture of her on my desk at her first baseball game (go Twins) where we both came home with peanut shells in our hair - and I could see the scoreboard clearly

Because of laser beams, retinal surgery and Dr. K.M., I am living my reward.

I’m sure that diabetes will be the reason for more disruptions, disappointments and snafus as the currents of life carry me on. But the rage has faded to nothing.

That dear sweet baby was one of a million stars in the sky that was chosen to come and be a member of our family. And because of her, we all shine more brightly.

Happy Birthday Em. I love you.


Sandra Miller said...

A Beautifully-written, poignant entry.

Your approach to this disease -- it's myriad challenges and sometimes devastating "disruptions" -- is truly awe-inspiring.

Bernard said...

Minnesota Nice

I'm so sorry that you didn't get to visit China and experience some of what that country has to offer.

If I'm ever hit by diabetes in a similar surprising and unplanned way, I hope I can handle it with the same grace that you did.

art-sweet said...

Kathy --

Your niece is truly lucky to have you as an aunt. I hope that someday you can travel to China with her!

Scott K. Johnson said...

MN - you have a very eloquent grace in terms of dealing with some of these yucky complications that diabetes throws smack dab in the path of our lives.

There is never a "good" time for such a thing - but the timing of that incident was truly rotten. I'm quite sure you felt very hostile about it, and as you say, just frickin' numb about the whole damn thing.

You made it through, and life goes on - although those feelings of being robbed of such an experience will probably be with you forever.

I truly hope that as I encounter such obstacles, that I am able to handle them with as much grace and strength that you carry with you through your experiences.

Lori Rode said...

Kathy, you're making me cry. What a lovely post, full of joy and pain, fear, frustration, triumph and hope. Happy Birthday to Emily. I hope that your China trip is still in your future. Hugs to you, and hugs to your niece.

George said...

That was such a sweet post. Although now I am crying at work.

What an awesome Auntie you are!

Happy Birthday Emily

type1emt said...

I'm glad you have this joy in your life(D's tough, but you're even tougher!) Emily is lucky to have you for an aunt..
Go out and spoil her royally.

In Search Of Balance said...

What a beautiful post, and what powerful, inspiring, hopeful sentiments. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us. And that niece of yours is a lucky girl to have such an aunt!

I wish you and your family all the best, always.

MileMasterSarah said...

Awesome! The joy you have from your little Emily is contagious! There are many things that can be taken away from us in life, for many different reason, but there are some things that are held so dear they can never be lost. I enjoyed this post greatly. Thank you for sharing!

Minnesota Nice said...

A giant "thank you" to all of you - your comments made me cry more than writing the post did.