These 5 Pieces Of Life Advice From His Uncle Would Rescue Peter From Type 2 Diabetes
“Our daughter recently broke up with her boyfriend, citing philosophical differences and having “grown apart.” Aside from the fact that he’s a pretty great kid, my wife Alice and I were heartbroken because it’s a reminder of just how much the world has changed since we were young. If we were to have analyzed our philosophical differences, we would have broken up nearly thirty years ago and none of our kids would even be here today!
Seeing the way kids are today makes me appreciate the era that we grew up in, as well as the woman that I chose to make my life partner. Alice and I understood from a young age that choosing to enter into a marriage was a commitment. We decided that we would get through the hard times together, rather than let them tear us apart.
My parents’ marriage was nothing to model my own after, but my aunt Margaret and my uncle Earl are a very special couple that we’re lucky to have in our lives to this day. My uncle Earl taught me a few lessons over the years that stuck with me. I’d like to share them:
1. “Any woman you choose to marry is going to drive you a little nuts. But not as nuts as you’ll drive yourself if you choose to seek perfection.” Alice and I met when we were 22 and 24 respectively. My friend Donnie and I were at Yankee Stadium a mere four days after I’d come out of knee surgery (I wasn’t going to miss the ’85 Yanks march to a division title, for which they ultimately came up short!) and the stadium was packed. When Donnie went to get a hot dog, he brought me back one as well, only he forgot the mustard. No big deal, right? Before I had the chance to get in my first bite, a soft voice uttered from behind me, “Here you go.” This beautiful girl, who would shortly thereafter introduce herself as Alice, handed me, a total stranger, a packet of mustard. This would be a prelude to what was to come down the line, but more on that momentarily. It turned out that we lived near one another and ended up taking the train home together. We chatted the whole way and it was pure magic.
2. “Getting to test, through adversity, the strength of your relationship is a painful but important blessing.” The mustard packet showed me that Alice had a kind soul and a caring personality, but this wasn’t even close to her biggest test. A few years after we met, I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. At first, I didn’t even tell Alice, out of fear that she’d perhaps want to leave me. That, and I was ashamed. I didn’t know anyone else my age with the disease, so it didn’t even feel real.
When I eventually did tell her about it, I downplayed it and tried to inconvenience her as little as possible. This circus act went on for a little while, even getting me through my wedding night (I was so sick on our wedding night that I had to hold back from throwing up during our first dance together). Just after our first son was born in 1989, Alice could see how badly I was struggling. I came home from work one day and cried to her. It should have been the happiest time in my life, yet I couldn’t have felt any worse. I still have guilt about that to this day, but I’m also thankful that I cried to her that night and let it all out.
3. “People who are secure and filled with love are attracted to vulnerability and honesty, not posturing and showmanship.” Alice let me be myself and made me feel human again, in spite of my diagnosis. For several years after that, I took my medications and we did our best to eat well. But to truly get over the hump, I needed Alice to steer the ship, apparently.
4. “A partner who truly loves you won’t merely support you through tough times, they’ll lead you out of those times by the hand… as long as you’re willing to let them.” About 8-9 years into our marriage, Alice came home from work one day and said two sentences that would forever change our lives: “Honey, we’re not going to be diabetic anymore. I won’t allow it.” Alice had read a few books and was in the zone to kick Type 2 Diabetes in the read end.
New York in the mid to late 90’s wasn’t what it is today, so eating healthy was no simple task. But we did it, thanks to Alice. We both eliminated all refined sugar, all grains, all conventional dairy, all alcohol, all corn, soy and canola, and all processed foods. We then set a trend (at least I think we did?) by loading up on coconut oil. That’s right, we were doing it before it was en vogue! I kid you not, we got to a point where we’d have a tablespoon or two with every meal. That, combined with wild-caught fish, daily helpings of cinnamon, foods high in chromium (broccoli and green beans, especially) and a bunch of low-glycemic-load foods, had me well on the way to reversing my type 2 diabetes.
We had this small local health food store near where we lived back then, and the guy who ran it (everyone just called him “Dr. John”) made a few recommendations that really did wonders for me. I got on a few supplements that were just right – chromium picolinate, fish oil, fiber powder and magnesium. We also cleaned out our basement and put in exercise equipment. We’d work out there every morning bright and early, and would go for jogs together on the weekends.
5. “If you really think about it, dying in and of itself isn’t so sad. But dying alone is positively depressing.” The real medicine that reversed my type 2 diabetes was Alice’s love (with a little help from my three kids!). Knowing that I had so much love in my life not only kept me motivated to be healthy, but also gave me comfort in knowing that if for whatever reason something were to go drastically wrong, Alice would know what to do. Selfishly speaking, I need Alice to outlive me. If anything were to happen to her, I’d die from a broken heart in no time.
There are countless more nuggets of pure gold that my uncle Earl’s shared with me over the years, but these are the ones that stand out most.
To my 23 year-old daughter who will hunt me down if I associate her name with this story (even though I’m itching to), remember to follow your heart and to choose a partner based on REAL love – not the fantasy kind you see at the movies. You’re going to “grow apart” from any man that you choose to be with. The key to happiness is to keep your eye on the prize by putting forth the devotion and effort that will allow you to fall in love over and over again – with the same person.
Choose to be with a man who will lead you out of the tough times, and who you’d be happy to do the same for as well. We as a society speak a lot today about how important it is to be individually strong in order to be healthy as a couple – and I concede that that’s important. But choosing to commit to someone wholly and unconditionally can provide you with a motivation and inner strength that you never even knew existed.
As for my uncle Earl, god bless him. He and my aunt Margaret are still going stronger than ever. He takes her for ice cream every Sunday and shows up at my house with droplets of vanilla on his neatly pressed sweater. I hope one day to be able to share a similar ritual with Alice – only we’ll stick to a treat that’s more suited to our taste buds – some home made coconut yogurt!”
– Dad (Peter from Suffolk County, NY)