Note to self; Remember suffering and pain is as old as life itself.
I’ve been contemplating the strength and fortitude of my grandmothers. I went and bought myself a spiral bound empty recipe book, to put in my calculated recipes for Caspian. It has a wonderful comment on the front “Recipes from Nana’s Kitchen”. Initially I felt indignant; no these are from Mummy’s kitchen! But it set off that chain reaction of contemplation about Nana’s. In our little family we had a Nan, Gran, Oma and Por Por. Now that our mothers are grandmothers we also have an Ah-Mah and another Oma. David’s grandmothers and mine lived in the time of wars, pre- antibiotics and famine. Tough times. My Oma lived in Holland during the German occupation in the 1940’s. David’s Por Por lived in KL during the Japanese occupation in the same war. Both had a serious reduction in food availability. My Australian Gran had 10 children and in the 1950’s had a child that failed to thrive. These women knew hardship.
A Dutch paediatrician noticed during the war that children that had failed to thrive improved with the bread shortages, and deteriorated when the Allies dropped bread supplies. He was the first to prove that gluten caused the ‘coeliac’ disease. Before then children died of starvation as a result of the intestinal damage that gluten created. A world away my Gran had a little boy that was one of the first in Australia to be diagnosed as a coeliac. In the 1950’s there were no trendy café’s serving lovely orange and almond cakes or quinoa salads. It was revolting corn bread, that was hard to make and horrible to eat. My mother remembers chasing her little brother to keep him from the regular bread and gluten full foods. Today my mother chases her grandson to keep him from regular bread, or any stray food. Echoes through time, as a family we have been here before.
My Dutch Oma had three little children through the occupation, and towards the end of the war she fell pregnant again. The Dutch began resisting the Germans late in 1944 and in retaliation the Germans severely cut the food supply. My dear Oma had no expectations of holding onto her new baby and yet 6 weeks before the end of the war she delivered her 4th child. Food was so scarce that to celebrate this birth the nurse, doctor , my Opa and Oma cut a single piece of bread four ways and shared it. Many babies died at this time and this baby had no milk for 6 weeks, just water. I cannot imagine the pain of watching your child truly starve. And yet… he lived. My Oma knew the pain of starving children. She was blest to keep all her children.
Wars and famine, starvation due to damaged guts, my family has already been here, I am not alone. I confess I struggle daily to feed my child. Beyond the precise high fat low carbohydrate foods Caspian needs he has significant intolerances. He has trouble with his nose and lungs if eats a little bit of dairy or wheat. This week eating at all is an issue for him as he really can’t breathe through his nose and his lungs have muck in them. I know he is not starving, really. However, without the nutritional supplements he would be in serious danger. I dance the on the edge of a precipice, holding Caspian on this point of deprivation in the hope of him healing. When I see him at preschool pale and shaky because he is hungry it hurts. This pain has purpose; our grandmothers had pain without purpose. Their children lived and eventually thrived, many didn’t have that blessing. Thankfully now in our society starvation is rare and being a coeliac is safer and easier than ever. I think of all the grandmothers in my life and remember, they have been here and they faced hunger and pain in their children’s eyes. If my grandmothers can do this, so can I. Today I thank my grandmothers for their wise and knowing lives, breath in and move forwards.