Celiac Disease vs. The Old Italian
Letting people in on the not-so secret of Celiac Disease can be a daunting task. Explaining it to them. Describing it to them. All the pros and woes that come with a strict gluten free diet. Advocating and educating about Celiac Disease has it’s ups and downs. It all comes down to the person you’re trying to relay the advocation to.
Every holiday is the same with family members calling, texting or e-mailing you wether or not you can have certain foods or ingredients. That’s always a given, they sorta/kinda get the idea of Celiac and what it means to be gluten free. Their education is always ongoing, like I said, every holiday. What about the people outside the family? The general public who have no clue about it?
Most of my work comes from personal experience and today is no different, the old italian lady I used to cut grass for. An 84 year old barely speaking English woman who was two feet shorter than me and only wanted her lawn to be immaculate when it was cut each week. A kind enough woman who’s every other word was an italian word because she couldn’t string it together in an english sentence for me to understand.
On a hot day I was cutting grass and she offered me a homemade Biscotti. Oh shit, this is where I was in a conundrum. My first thoughts were ‘I can’t eat this’ but the old Italian lady stood there and watched me. Urging me to eat it. It was one of those moments where you kind of look like a deer in the headlights. I know I couldn’t eat it. I don’t think that I could explain Celiac Disease to this lovely and kind woman because in my heart I don’t think she would get it. She once told me she doesn’t drink Canadian coffee, only espresso, so how could I convince her of my disease?
I was stuck in a place where the stereotype of old world Italians eating wheat pasta was swirling in my head and this woman just wouldn’t understand and in a world where I need to stand up and tell her about my Celiac Disease and that her homemade biscotti would just destroy me. Could I tell her? I finished my grass cutting and tried to avoid her for the duration of the work.
As I was leaving she asked me where the biscotti was or if I had eaten it. Truth was, I tossed it into the truck not even caring where it landed because I knew I wasn’t going to eat it. I knew that this old italian woman was probably going to ask about it again, so what did I tell her?
In the end, I told her I was going to eat it later.
I couldn’t bring myself to explain to her about Celiac Disease. I felt that maybe she wouldn’t understand, not just because of the language barrier, her poor understanding and command of english and my own misunderstanding of her throwing in italian words in each sentence, but because I didn’t think she’d grasp the concept of Celiac Disease. A person who can’t eat wheat, rye or barley. A person who couldn’t eat homemade biscotti because it was wheat based. I have a feeling it would have been a long afternoon of attempting to explain.
I could have brought awareness to a kind lady, but I didn’t. It was a culture clash that I felt would have gotten in the way. As much as raising awareness of Celiac Disease is important, I don’t think the old Italian woman would have understood.