I am lucky.   Living alone  made making my house safe is relatively simple.  It was one huge undertaking that first weekend that pretty much involved emptying the kitchen and putting every thing back piece by piece.  It was a lot of cleaning.  It was reading the labels on EVERYTHING that was in my fridge, freezer, and pantry.  It was googling the things I was not certain of.  It was bag after bag of food that had to leave.  It was daunting, but I did it once and I was done.  When Sweet One’s deployment is over, the kitchen won’t change.  He’s seen me sick too much to risk that so he’ll eat gluten free too.  I am lucky.

My sis lives just up the street.  She cleaned out a whole cabinet just for me.  It’s labeled the way all things sister are labeled.  A bright post-it written in sharpie.  Her fridge has containers with masking tape over the labels and my name scrawled over them.  The children know to stay out of those things, and they are becoming diligent label readers in their own right.  The youngest still looks for the word “gluten” but the older manages to think through at least the odds of gluten being in something with startling regularity.  I’m lucky.  When I mentioned getting in her pantry made me nervous with all the flour containers sitting there, she moved them.  Just for me.  Just so I could feel safe.  Their freezer has a whole shelf just for me where I store leftovers that can be heated for those visits we don’t plan in advance.  They accommodate me well.  They wash everything, twice, when I come over.  They scrub down the counters so I don’t accidentally get bread crumbs on my hands.  They love me well.

We had family dinner together one night gathering around the table with heaping plates of spaghetti.  Sis went to great lengths to make sure her homemade sauce was safe.  She made a double batch so I could have the leftovers.  We made quinoa pasta for me, strained it in a separate strainer, on a different side of the sink from where their pasta was drained.   I avoided the Parmesan, just in case.  We ate.  We chatted.  It was just like the old times, pre-celiac.  We laughed long and talked loud, just as we always do.  Until the pain started to creep up my neck, the hot spread over my skin, and the world got fuzzy.  I’m still not sure what gave me away.  The way I blink more trying to make words make sense in my head?  The rash that spreads around my mouth, across my forehead, and down my chest?  I tried to keep it hidden, but as Brother stood at the stove dishing himself seconds he said “You made your plate first?  Right?”  I felt the air change in the room.  I felt the weight of it settle on me.  I didn’t.  He mad the boys plates first.  The room froze and I met sis’s eyes.  She knew.

He had plated the kids spaghetti noodles and the grabbed a ladle full of sauce.  He used the ladle to carve out a crater in the noodles as he poured the sauce over the noodles.  He put the ladle back in the sauce pot.

That’s all it took.

Sweet One called me on Skype that night from the other side of the world.  He knew.  He told me as we spoke that he felt like he was watching me fade right out of me.  I laughed and retorted “that’s exactly how it feels”.  The headache starts at the top of my neck and arches over my skull.   It feels as if my eyes no longer fit in their sockets.  My skin feels wrong somehow.  The feeling you get in your jaw when you eat something super sour?  My whole body feels that way.  I lose the ability to find words and resort to the sentence structure of a three year old.  The dizzy hits and the nausea floods.  Bonine helps a bit.  The first dose of benadryl helps a bit if I take it fast enough.  Migraine meds are required before the four days of hell ends.  The worst part is that first hour though.  When I feel it start to spread, powerless to stop it and keenly aware of what is to come that is the worst part of it for me.

I am lucky.  It does not happen often.  Those that love me work hard to make sure that I am safe.  They help me cope when the gluten does hit.  That spaghetti night taught me something though.  The books all talk about cross-contamination.  I understood this in the abstract.  It became much more real when a ladle in a pot made me so ill. I learned to make my plate first.  I learned that even though the whole batch of sauce was safe – mine should still be in a totally separate pot.  My big brother will probably never forgive himself his oversight that night but me?  I’m grateful.  It taught me just how careful I have to be.  It taught me what the dangers of cross-contamination really are.

Yeah, I’m lucky alright.