“Those raccoons keep you up all night?”
“Not too bad. Not since I got the padlock on my tent flap.”
The raccoons had been ruthless. My first night they had been quiet but curious. Occasionally sniffing my tent and wandering around the campsite. The second night they became intolerable. Trying to climb on my tent and growling. Eventually managing to work the zipper of the tent flap and chewing at a corner of the tent trying to get in. I had spent than night pushing them away through the canvas and holding my zippers tightly together. The next morning I drive over to a Shopko home store and picked up some small padlocks with keys to lock my zippers together so when the zipper-happy trash pandas came to call they could mess with them all they wanted, but not get inside.
My brothers made fun of me for the rest of the trip. Telling me I was over reacting and wondering why I had food in my tent knowing there were raccoons around. I told them I didn’t have any food other than a juice box for potential low blood sugars in the middle of the night, which ended up being used at one point and I was glad to have it. My brother and sister-in-law had slept in the tent next to me and had not been bothered by the raccoons much. My younger brother had slept in the air conditioned hard sides camper my parents brought, and I felt he had absolutely no right to speak on my plight, yet he was the most ruthless and judgmental of the two.
The family camping trip had been good, but exhausting. At least I thought so. I had forgotten how intense my brothers could be, especially together, when I had recommended doing a family thing as a Christmas gift to one another instead of giving gifts. It had been my older brother’s idea to go camping, and while everyone seemed to like the idea, no one had asked my opinion on the matter, so I kept my mouth shut. If they wanted to camp, I was going to not let it get ruined.
I don’t dislike camping. I grew up with it. But most of our trips were prior to my diagnosis with diabetes. After the fact it became more difficult. Insulin would often go bad on me and result in a great deal of high blood sugars and feeling ill. Or insulin bottles would break and I’d have to go with my father and seek out a Walgreens to try to refill it and pay $160 out of pocket to get a vial since insurance only covered one vial a month. Raccoons trying to steal my snacks was another problem, but only when my parents chose to “downsize” to a camper with a master bed and a pull out couch, and I was one of the siblings willing to rough it in a tent and my younger brother refused to sleep outside.
If it wasn’t diabetes related, it was female related, and since reaching puberty my periods and our camping trips always synced, even if my period wasn’t supposed to come, it came whenever we went camping. Not even an exaggeration.
I did all I could to have a good attitude. Making jokes about it all and acting like it wasn’t a big deal. Keeping my mouth shut when I didn’t have anything good to say. I laughed a lot, forcibly. I talked with my sister-in-law about life in small bursts when I could. Asked how things were. Tried to be as good a sport as I could.
Still, I felt like something always seemed to happen to me on a camping trip. Which made it less enjoyable. This time it was raccoons, my period, and my boyfriends boss being unwilling to let him have off of work for the Fourth of July. To top it all off, my brothers had an intense habit of instigating all activities and questioning every move everyone else made, even down to “Why didn’t you sit in this chair?” When trying to find seating by the campfire that didn’t directly put me in the line of smoke. Then trying to force me to gather up all my food and relocate to “that chair” when I was already in an ideal place. Still I complied, knowing it made them feel better to have control. I would be as pleasant as possible.
Both my brothers and my sister-in-law attended the same college. So in most conversations I was excluded, and I just listened and absorbed this life I didn’t know about as they talked about past profs and what friends were doing now that everyone had graduated or left school for one reason or another. I tried to ask questions and add commentary, but it was no use. It had been obvious that I was an odd man out. My parents even found ways into their conversations so the isolation felt deeper than before. I was alone. Completely alone. Still, I kept my mouth shut as much as possible. I wouldn’t ruin it for everyone. I refused to let it all get to me.
The most fun I had was on the trails. They were rustic trails, often involving climbing rock walls and tracking up rocky riverbeds carved into some kind of stone crevasse referred to as “the narrows”. It was breathtaking. I took tons of pictures with my phone, and kicked myself for not bringing my camera. Then again, raccoons probably would have tried to take that too. No only was it beautiful, but it was the only time I heard encouraging words come out of my brothers mouths. They actually were trying to be on my team in the trek. Asking me how my blood sugar was. How my breathing was. Trying to be helpful so I wasn’t left behind or excluded. Even walking slower at times we had to climb steps and ladders to get up and down rock walls. It was the only time during that trip I felt like I mattered to them, and it was really nice too know that I wasn’t just dead weight. It was nice to see something other than indifference shot my direction. It was nice to feel like I mattered, even though it would all change the moment we hit the pavement to the campground. The moment they didn’t have to worry they wouldn’t.
Still, I tried to be a good sport about things. I kept my mouth shut. I smiled and posted images on my Instagram. It would seem my virtual community would be my support and affirmation this trip.
When we returned home I began unpacking my belongings quickly. I was anxious to get home to my cat, a shower, and to listen to at least six hours worth of music. When I put the last of my items in my SUV I turned and hugged my mom.
“Good camping.” I said in her ear.
“No it wasn’t. You hated every moment of it.” She said with a malice in her voice like I had ruined something.
I pulled away from the hug forcibly and without a word climbed into my car, started it, and drove out of the driveway. I waited until the stop sign on the corner to release the tears.
I tried so hard not to ruin things. I really did.