Thursday, July 03, 2008

Bicentennial Memories

Independence Day (July 4 to those of my readers outside the U.S.) has never been a particularly joyous day for me. Memorable, yes, joyous, no. In 1976, the U.S. celebrated the 200th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, which was dubbed (appropriately enough) the Bicentennial. The whole country seemed to be covered in stars and stripes. People were painting fire hydrants in shades of red, white and blue, wearing tri-colored clown wigs and plunking down newly-minted Bicentennial 25 cent coins for all of the miscellaneous crap with a flag pattern or the red, white and blue colors on it.

The main reason for my less-than-enamoured feeling towards Independence Day is because it brings back rather vivid memories. I spent my Bicentennial in the Seattle suburbs. But less than 2 weeks later (on July 24, 1976), I received the wonderful news of a type 1 diabetes diagnosis. By itself, that would not be particularly significant, except that for many people who are diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, the weeks leading to their official diagnosis are often marked by all-too-frequent trips to the restroom, and a thirst which few people could possibly imagine except perhaps someone walking across the Sahara desert without any water.

My response to grade-school teachers who said things like "You don't know what its like to be thirsty" was "I actually DO, but others may not!" and I once had to go to the principal's office for being disrespectful to a teacher (compare that to what kids say today!) and my mom was called into school -- needless to say, after her little meeting with the principal where she ripped into them for denying a perfectly reasonable request, no teacher ever denied my request to use the restroom or go to the drinking fountain ever again! Anyway, with that in mind, you might imagine what my 4th of July was like that year, unquenchable thirst and going to the restroom what seemed like every 5 minutes (I was only 7 at the time, so my memory may be slightly distorted). Med students are taught to memorize the symptoms of type 1 diabetes as polyuria, polydipsia and another "poly" which I don't remember because I didn't go to medical school, but whatever it was, I don't remember that as a symptom, but the first two certainly did apply.

Anyway, back to the 4th, vivid memories aside (that and being stuck in Lambert Airport in St. Louis for 6 hours on the way home), the 4th has never really been filled with terrific memories for me. True, I did go to Philadelphia a few years ago and got to see Elton John, Patti LaBelle and others in concert ... for FREE, but generally, I use the holiday to just relax and try to stay out of the heat. This year, I will be catching up on some Broadway shows, since tickets can be had for a fraction of their usual prices, but other than that, this holiday will be one where I can sleep late and relax!


Anonymous said...

Hmm...the US Bicentennial was spectacularly nonspectacular for me, but not for the same reasons. I was a teenager living off Long Island. No money to buy the collectible stuff I wanted, Dad "not being able" to get us in to see OpSail at the South Street Seaport area... basically, being stuck around the house all day except to see the crappy local fireworks at night.

Best for me was 1980, the Boston 350... I could see the fireworks from the terrace of the dorm I was staying in that summer...

George said...

I hope you have a good 4th Scott. Thank you for sharing that story.

BetterCell said...

When I was five years old and in kindergarten with pre-existing symptoms of T1DM, I had a F-cking teacher who would not let me go to the bathroom, saying that I was going too often.
This Bitch is now in H-ll chained to a Toilet Seat.

Scott S said...

Bettercell, that stinks!

Its amazing how blissfully ignorant most people are on these issues ... had your teacher known better, s/he might have been able to recommend to your parents that they might take you to visit a doctor much sooner. Parents typically spend fewer hours per day with their kids than do teachers. But many parents today struggle to get adequate protection enabling their kids to test in the classroom. Much of this is due to unions -- so you might imagine how tough it would be to get union approval for education into such matters.

Anonymous said...

Bettercell: Yup, I'll bet she's chained there as well, and ala Tantalus's punishment, is chained just out of reach of a full, ice-cold pitcher of water.

Unfortunately, looking for the symptoms of type 1 diabetes in one's pupils wasn't exactly in the teacher training back then. In early September of 1980, in Granger, UT, my 6th grade teacher, Mrs. Stott, let me go get water whenever I wanted and called my mother with her concerns that I was unable to lift my chair onto my desk at the end of the day. She also told her that it seemed that I was losing my baby fat very quickly and asked if I was eating, since I was a preteen and the girls were starting to harass anyone who wasn't slender or didn't look like Farah Fawcett (it was the 79's after all). It took another month before my mother got me to the doctor and to the hospital immediately afterward for a ten-day stay to save my life. I wasn't aware of Mrs. Stott's questions until years later, when my mother told me about her initial call. I do remember her coming to visit me in the hospital, carrying cards that the rest of the class had made for me and she sat with me for an hour. Of all of the teachers I had before high school, hers is the only name I remember. Without her putting my mother on warning that something wasn't right, my mother might not have been paying attention the day I went in to try on winter school clothes and she would not have seen how much I had begun to resemble an emaciated refugee.

When bond issues for teacher pay come up in my area, I don't even have to think about it. I vote for it, to keep the good teachers like Mrs. Stott in the business of teaching. Kids can't afford to lose them to low pay and disrespect, especially the ones that care enough to take a real interest in the kids they are seeing and think of them as more than test scores. So wherever you are, Mrs. Stott, thank you. I hope you are still in the business of educating kids.


BetterCell said...

Thanks for your understanding Scott and Anonymous.
It wasn't that she was Ignorant, it was because she was Mean!!
Compared to when I was in Kindergarten, it is much easier Today for the "average" Teacher to be more aware and hopefully more intelligent and less mean so as to be able to "see" warning symptoms of T1DM.
I still remember her name as a result of being Traumatized.
I am sure that as a part of her punishment in H-ll, she is forced to contemplate her refusal to let me go to the bathroom.
Her being chained to the toilet seat in H-ll is a just punishment indeed.