Just a month ago, I experienced one of those moments that cleaved my life neatly into “before” and “after.” When the doctor said, “He has diabetes,” it was only one of many sentences uttered as she examined my son, him all skeletal and exhausted against the hospital sheet. She imparted the information casually, as if it wasn’t the equivalent of a lightning strike. I knew nothing about diabetes; I did know to be grateful the diagnosis wasn’t worse. I did know, in that instant, that our lives had changed irrevocably.

But even in crisis, I can never shake the sense of being lucky, of knowing that worse things happen and being grateful that they have — so far — not happened to me. To us. That was true in the ER as well. Trapped between the green sheets that partition one bed from the next, inhaling that peculiar stuffy-yet-antiseptic hospital scent that I have not grown accustomed to no matter how many times I bring one child or another to the emergency room, I was nonetheless appreciative that it was something we could “manage.” A total and complete head trip to be sure, but treatable.

But sometimes my capacity for gratitude is exceeded. Sometimes I just want to scream and cry at the horrible, horrible unfairness of it all. Nobody but fools and children expect life to be fair, right? But we promise our children we will take care of them, protect them, not let bad things happen — all lies, of course, but we say them anyway because the words are said with a love so powerful you could believe it capable of serving as some sort of protective spell — only life exposes us as liars again and again.

It is a cruel twist, this disease, that not only has something happened to my son despite his mother’s love for him but that I now find myself pinching and piercing his skin, trying to keep the needle from shaking in my hand, still convinced that if I’m careful enough, steady enough, I can spare him some of the pain.