I called my mother and asked her if she had heard about the thing with Paula Deen. She said she had. I asked her what she thought of the whole stink. She said, “Not much.”
I understand Paula Deen. And because I do, it’s a little hard to understand why some people want to attack her about continuing to hawk the gustatory virtues of the donut hamburger even after having been diagnosed three years earlier with Type 2 Diabetes.
I remember ten years ago when my mother learned she had diabetes. I wasn’t worried. Not much. I understood that if she ate “right,” exercised and took her medication then she should be fine. Millions of people live with diabetes and knowing this I didn’t give too much thought to her diagnosis until weeks later as I watched her inhale handful after food stained colored handfuls of M&Ms.
“What’s with the candy?”
“What, you want some? These are the plain ones, you like the peanuts.”
“No, I don’t want any. Are you supposed to be eating candy?”
Supposed is not a word to use with one’s elders because many, like my mother, tend to get riled up, becoming wired, little teeth gnashing five year olds, especially after having ingested unreasonable amounts of sugar.
In my mother’s case this meant a slew of “Girl, please,” retorts, followed closely by the ever so wise and profound, “We’re all gonna die of something.”
True enough. Of course she will, we all will, but usually not at our own hand, and usually not while chomping M&Ms washed down with Pepsi chasers.
My mother was clearly in denial. And so, I decided to leave it alone. I refused to get wrapped up in the personal health choices of others, especially others like my mother, who choose to deal with their health issues in ways many people would find hard to understand.
Example: Years and years ago, when I was young and didn’t know any better, I’d call my mother on her job every so often just to check in, to assure her I was alive and thriving in the big city. This particular time instead of patching me through, the receptionist responded, “Oh, don’t you know, hon? She’s having her brain surgery today.” Well, to say I lost what little 20-year-old clarity I had would be an understatement. I went from, “Huh? What?” to “Okay, then…thank you, Cathy,” with enough time in between for both our lives to flash before my eyes. Then I hung up. I took a breath and remembered who I was about to become undone over. My mother, warrior woman – and quickly got back to whatever I was required to do that day at work. If my mother had wanted me to know about her “brain surgery” then she would have told me. I did call Cathy back and asked her to relay a message to my mother: When you’re back from your brain surgery, please call me. It’s important. Thanks.
That day as I watched my mother pop M&Ms, I remembered this exchange, and it provided me with a sense of relief which continues today. A person’s health is a private matter, even when it’s your mother, even when it’s a celebrity like Paula Deen, even when Paula Deen cuts a deal to shill for the manufacturer of a diabetes medication. None of it is my business, along with her motivations and timing for doing this.
I’ve watched Paula Deen's show. She's very entertaining. And just as I don’t go in for the Baltimore lore that I haven’t lived unless I’ve had all of the following Baltimore culinary delights: A tall Half and Half (sweet tea mixed equally with even sweeter lemonade), a deep fried lake fish platter soaked in hot sauce, and Berger chocolate coated cookies, nor have I ever remotely thought of Paula Deen as a role model for healthy living, and I doubt anyone else has either.
As for my mother, her health as far as I know is fine. Her diabetes is under control. Of course, Cathy had things wrong. It wasn’t brain surgery; it was a test. When my mother finally got around to returning my call, her response provided little in the way of clarification: “Slight headache...test…nothing found.”