It was a warm August morning when I heard a distressing knocking at my bedroom door. Forcing my eyelids open, I could see the summer’s intense sun ripping its way through the blinds of my window. The sound of the neighbor’s children playing outside sliced through my ears. Sleep furiously beckoned me back, but I couldn’t ignore my mother. She entered the room in a panic, but it wasn’t alarming because nothing about my mother was ever subtle. She asked me about her eyes. I took a tired glance and told her she was fine, probably just overreacting, like she does with everything else. After an uninterested and unsympathetic analysis, sleep took me back into its forgiving arms and I rested with ease. I think that was the last time I ever slept without concern or a saddened heart.
Less than a week later the whites of her stunning green eyes and the pigment of her naturally olive skin were an unsettling shade of yellow. Doctors call this Jaundice. Jaundice can occur when there is an excessive amount of red blood cells dying and the liver cannot keep up in doing its job of removing the dead ones. Mom’s liver became overloaded with red blood cells causing it a bit of damage. Jaundice wasn’t the problem, but whatever was causing it certainly was.
My mom used to tell me the story of my birth. Ironically enough, I was born Jaundice. She laughed as she expressed to me her initial reaction when the nurses placed her baby into her arms, completely yellow. My father, being my father, thought it would funny to name me Lisa, as in the Simpson. As the story goes, my liver needed a slight jolt at the very beginning to get started on its own. Doctors had to put me under heat lamps for a few hours before my parents could see me. The first few hours of my life all I saw were those yellow lamps. This was mom’s theory on the reason for my favorite color or what used to be my favorite.
I wasn’t informed about much. Being the youngest of my immediate family nominated me to be the blind and deaf Diodato. Summer was almost over and no one would tell me what was going on, but I wasn’t blind or deaf so I decided it was time to take action. The Jaundice hadn’t gone away, but had simply gotten worse. I decided to do a little research on my own, but what I found wasn’t something I had ever expected. It explained weeks of whispers, suspicious glances, and trips to the doctor’s office.
There’s a long list of causes for Jaundice. Liver disease, Hepatitis, gallstones, blockage of the bile ducts, genetic disorders, pregnancy, a number of over the counter medications and anything having to do with the liver, gallbladder, or pancreas. There was only one common cause on every website and all account on Jaundice, cancer.
I sat with her in the kitchen. Being fully Italian, this was where we convened. Normally, the kitchen is a haven of mouth watering aromas, family, and thunderous laughter. On this day, we sat there in earth shattering silence. There were no pots or pans sizzling and bubbling on the stove, no beeping or whistling of timers, no laughter. It was darker that day and not only in my kitchen. I looked at her. The same face I had looked at since birth, almost the same face I looked at daily, in the mirror. It was September, yet I couldn’t remember a day of winter I had felt this cold. My toes were icy against the tiled floors. I had noticed the wallpaper starting to come down. The tops of the counters were unkempt and filthy. My hands shook. I had to ask, but words escaped me. I already knew the answer, but panic held itself heavy in my heart. Horror enveloped my kitchen, my childhood sanctuary. She began to speak. Maybe I was deaf.