By Sally Friedman
Passover, the holiday that celebrates Jewish freedom from Egyptian slavery, comes along at an especially benevolent time of year. It happens in spring, as the days grow longer, and life just feels easier. Blizzards are yesterday. The beach is tomorrow.
This year, Passover begins at sundown on April 11. And this year, as every Passover, I think back to that April night in 2008 when everything changed.
Our grandson Danny, a sparkplug of a kid, wasn’t with us. Nor were his parents. They were in a North Jersey hospital, learning the ropes of handling Danny’s newly diagnosed Type 1 diabetes, which was alien to us, back then, as a seldom-heard foreign language.
One day, this rambunctious 6-year-old had been fine. The next, he was terribly ill with all the unmistakable hallmarks of Type 1. The rest of us sat at the Passover table, Danny’s two older brothers stunned and scared. My husband and I could not even find words for the feelings.
“Everything is so weird!” Jonah, the family philosopher, whispered to me. And how could I deny it?
I somehow flashed back on that long-ago Passover night, to an early fall morning several lifetimes ago when we’d finally allowed Nancy, Danny’s mother, to wait outside with the big kids at the school bus stop that was just yards from our home.
She was so proud of her new independence, and I was proud for her…until I heard a scream. The neighborhood bully had spotted his target. He had knocked little Nancy to the ground, and the scream was hers.
“Let her be fine! Let her be fine!” I prayed as I rushed outside to claim a tiny girl with blood pouring from her chin. That day, that second, I felt a mother’s eternal vulnerability.
And at that Seder table, I was feeling Nancy’s vulnerability again — but this time for her child.
Danny is 14 now. He’s devilish and delightful at once. He’s funnier than almost anyone I know.
And yes, he has Type 1 diabetes and wears an insulin pump that helps him deal with this nasty intruder in his life.
I watch Danny maneuver early adolescence with the added burden of a tough disease. And he is never, ever without the “kit” that contains emergency aid should he need it. It’s burdensome and annoying, but he well knows that it must be with him. When he goes anywhere, that kit goes with him. And attached to him is that insulin pump.
I’ve been warned by his parents not to make a fuss about his compliance, and not to commend him for doing what he must.
But when it’s your grandchild who is the patient, sometimes you just want to take him in your arms and tell him how much he is loved because he’s brave and tough and handling something that takes a lot of both of those things.
So yes, as the season of Passover approaches, I think of that singular Seder when everything changed.
I think of how far we’ve come.
We are a family deeply committed to helping the search for a cure to T1d, as it is now medically known. Our calendars are full of fundraising events that we wouldn’t miss.
We watched our grandson stand at his own bar mitzvah and tell the world of his dream of a cure, and of his plan to start a support group for teens with Type 1. And he has.
My husband and I have resisted the temptation to coddle Danny. Not easy. We’ve treated him the way we treat our six other grandkids, and scold him when he’s out of line, something we’ve had to learn to do. The impulse is to forgive Danny anything and everything.
And every Passover, when we recite the prayers about freedom, we think and dream of the day when another kind of bondage will end, and another kind of liberating freedom will come.
For Danny, and millions of others.
Soon, soon, we hope. ••
Sally Friedman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org