My Meet-cute on the Detasseling Bus: A Diabetic Love Story


Rom coms are famous for the meet-cute. Everyone loves it when Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks finally meet in Sleepless in Seattle and You’ve Got Mail. If they were in another movie together, I haven’t seen it, but I’m sure their meet-cute was precious. How a couple meets is often a story passed down for generations. With sentimental fondness, the happy pair can share the adorable hi-jinx that lead to their coupling. I bet very few of them start with Type 1 Diabetes.


I first met my husband on a detasseling bus when I was 14.  I was a rookie detasseler on a bus with what felt like a hundred rowdy and hormonal teenage boys. On this momentous occasion, I was laying down on the sticky, leather bus seat with my tired, scratched up legs pulled up and my hands resting on the tops. Minding my own business. Cursing myself for signing up and the corn growing. When all of a sudden, I felt the prick of a needle on my finger.


I sat up clearly alarmed to find this gawky guy laughing with his buddy.  I was probably too pissed to note the twinkle in his eye or the mischievous grin that would later make me swoon. I was too busy figuring out what had just happened to me. I came to find out that he was a Type 1 Diabetic and had stuck me with his pricker for a laugh. Suffice it to say, it wasn’t a great first impression.  And I have very little memory other than annoyance at this kid who clearly didn’t value boundaries or hygiene or my deteriorating mental and physical state on the detasseling bus.


Flash forward a few years and picture a youthful and unjaded 11th grade Gretchen who’s untimely finger prick is but a distant memory. Bored in Health class...again. Until our guest speaker walked in. A much taller (albeit still kind of gawky), much more memorable version of the boy from the detasseling bus. He was asked to speak to us about his illness. The same one that had caused him to play a silly prank on me years before to get my attention. I don’t remember much about what he said about his wonky pancreas but more how he said it. I could tell he was nervous talking to a group of students a grade above him, but what was more noticeable was his charm and that sly smile. I left class and turned to my girlfriends. They did not seem to have had the sort of revelation that I had. In fact, they looked at me like I may be losing it.  It was still just Nick after all.


I didn’t learn much about diabetes that day, but I would. A couple more years passed, and that gawky guy became my boyfriend. We experienced and continue to experience all the highs and lows of relationship.  With diabetes, we have more of both.


Part of loving him has meant working outside my pay grade. I play nurse but not in a cute/sexy way. I play watchdog (and who doesn’t love a partner who is uber in tune to your every little mannerism shift?). I notice when his coloring is off. When his speech is different. When his eyes are glazed. When he is more sweaty than normal. I play boss. I nag at him to prick his finger. I shove Poptarts and orange juice at him when his blood sugar is 37, and he assures me he’s fine. I have played the intercessor. I have called the ambulance, and I have struggled to keep him awake.  I have worried and prayed and cried many tears.


I try not to worry about the future. I try not to worry about our kids. But sometimes I do.


It’s been so incredibly hard at times. To bear this burden. To watch out for him. The hypervigilance and the momming that is outside of what I want my role to be as a wife. But in a weird way, this disease has always pushed us together.


And it reminds me how blessed I am that God has allowed me to be the one to see him when no one else did. Before he was buff and brauny and Mr. October material. When he was gawky and nervous and unsure of himself, I saw that charm and cheeky grin. I get to know him better...even better than he knows himself at times.


That means that sometimes I’m scared, and sometimes I lose sleep over the next low.  Will I be there? Can I protect him?


But then I remember it’s not my job, and the same hands that orchestrated our undeniably weird not-so-cute meet-cute can carry us through all the literal and figurative highs and lows of this disease and this life.


What is your story with your person?  It doesn’t have to be glamorous or sickeningly sweet.  It might be mundane or weird or even a little sad. Whatever it is it’s special because it was ordained. Not an accident. Not by chance.  There is no way I would have believed you if you had told 14-year-old me I would be crazy in love with the weird diabetic kid on my detasseling bus. That a spark would ignite a couple years later in Health class of all places. I would not have guessed that we wouId become friends while we continued to date other people. That we would survive me trying to set you up with one of my best friends. That we would find commonality in such different personalities and histories. That God would see fit to create from us these two also super cute and weird little people. It defies logic. It demands faith.


Move over Tom and Meg. I’m glad this is our story, Nick. You’ll always be my favorite weird busboy.  



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