Monday, May 20, 2013

My Mom & Jackie Robinson?

In writing about taking the little Goofs to see 42: The Jackie Robinson Story on Mother's Day I forgot to mention that I actually have a story about Jackie Robinson and my mom.

Not that they ever met, or were even in the same city at the same time.  It isn't that kind of story.

When I was a kid I was extremely interested in baseball history including lots of biographies of baseball greats including Pee Wee Reese, Tony Conigliaro, Walter Johnson, Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, and of course Jackie Robinson.

Robinson, sadly, died relatively young from the complications of diabetes.  Whether this was connected to the enormous stress from his years in the majors or just bad breaks is not clear - although this particular biography made the direct causal connection and discussed his medical case in great detail.  I don't know why a children's biography of Jackie Robinson would go into such medical details, but it was the 1970s - an odd time.

One afternoon a friend of my parents came by for coffee.  His youngest son had just been diagnosed with diabetes.  As we sat around the dining room table chatting my mom encouragingly said 

"Well, no one dies from diabetes."

"No, people do die from diabetes!  Jackie Robinson died from diabetes," I announced, happy to contribute to the conversation.

"That was a while ago, the treatments are much better now," my mom said - in what I now realize was a very cool tone.

"No, it was only seven years ago.  And before he died he was bleeding out of his eyes!" I added helpfully.

"Thank you for sharing how smart you are." mom said, her tone just a few degrees above Kelvin. 

Our guest smiled wanly and took his leave.

Later that day mom asked to speak to me.

"Do you think Brian's dad has already talked to doctors about diabetes?"


"Do you think he probably knows all about the risks of diabetes?"


"Do you think he wanted to hear about how awful diabetes can be?"


"It's called tact - you'll need to learn it," mom dismissed me.

I won't claim to have learned tact - but an important part of growing up is at least knowing that it exists.

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