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My Goodbye to Gluten

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Dear Gluten,

I’m sure many people (including my husband) will think it’s odd I’m writing a letter to you, but for me, it’s the only way to say goodbye. After all, the mere mention of your name sometimes makes my heart ache as if you’re a real person. I’m not ready to lose you.

To many, you’re just a string of proteins. To me? You’re a rope, and I feel you tightening around me. You seem impossible to get away from.

But I must.

Last week, my youngest daughter, Willow, was diagnosed with celiac disease. It seems her body hates you. Funny, because most days you’re all she wants to consume.

Willow is just like the rest of her family — a lover of pasta, bread, tortillas and every gluten-filled goody there is. You’d never know the love/hate relationship raging inside her. I thank God for good doctors and innovative tests.

I knew there was a chance we’d someday have to part ways. Willow has Down syndrome, and according to Beyond Celiac, “up to 16 percent of individuals with Down syndrome are believed to have celiac disease.”

I’ve never been one to trust statistics when it comes to Willow, so I didn’t worry much about you. Maybe that’s why you picked her? You felt like she was easy prey.

little girl after eating a green-colored sucker

You were wrong. Willow is unbreakable. She doesn’t need you. She won’t miss you. She’s 3 years old and more interested in baby dolls, color crayons and eating dirt than eating gluten. Just a few days ago, she enjoyed her first sucker. It was gluten-free. She loved it.

Last night at supper she ate her favorite yogurt. It, too, was gluten-free.

Sure, Willow loves pasta, fishy crackers and all the other things you’re hidden in, but they don’t rule her life. She’ll likely be unfazed by the phasing out of you. Me, on the other hand, will grieve your loss.

Our love affair has lasted nearly 40 years. In high school and college, you joined me at dinner almost every night. You’ve been my comfort on hard days. You’ve filled my soul and tummy on my occasions. I hate that I love you. I’m sad that we have to say goodbye.

I tried making banana bread with coconut flour yesterday. It wasn’t the same. I made tacos with gluten-free seasoning served with corn tortillas this week. It wasn’t the same. I’m learning to bake with something called xanthan gum. It just isn’t the same.

Life isn’t the same. It will never be the same without you. That’s actually a good thing.

I know it’s going to be hard. It already is and Willow’s doctor doesn’t even have us going completely gluten-free yet. She still has tests on the horizon that apparently need you raging through her body, wreaking havoc on her intestines. The very thought makes me want to rummage through my cupboards, throwing all the gluten-filled garbage I find. Crackers, noodles, baking mix, bouillon and even soy sauce.

Maybe I’m ready to say goodbye after all.

I think you’ve done enough and I’ve said enough. You’ve hurt my daughter. You’ve emotionally wrecked me. I won’t let you sink your claws into the rest of my family.

I’m done.

Gluten? I’m allowing you to stay in our lives until these tests are over, but after that, you need to leave. Right away. Your bags are already packed, in fact.

It’s not you, it’s me. Because I love my daughter. I love her brother and sister, too. I also love my husband and I care about our health. I want to enjoy many more years together, many more meals together. Without you.

And hear this: Those meals are going to be tasty. Damn tasty.

Goodbye, gluten.


Willow’s Mom

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Originally published: October 26, 2016
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