Utterly Disturbing Consequences

Written by Julianne Kravetz

Those who think they know it all have no way of finding out they don’t.” (Buscaglia)

Most people would agree that dairy products are essential to meet basic human nutritional needs. After all, what other way does one get an adequate amount of calcium to build strong bones and healthy teeth? Isn’t milk required to prevent osteoporosis? A great source of protein (which helps to rebuild muscles), it is promoted as the ultimate post exercise drink – even better than water. Milk can aid in weight loss and indeed, prevents irregularity – or so they say. It is “nature’s perfect food.”  Over the course of 20 years, we’ve been asked by more than 1,000 mustached celebrities if we’ve “got milk?”  Americans have a love affair with milk and dairy products. After all, it does the body good! And I thought so too.  But research indicates that milk is linked to a long list of serious health risks including asthma, an increased risk of cancer, diabetes and heart disease.  Most may not realize that milk does the body harm – not good.  What I believed to be the truth about milk compelled me to eliminate it from my diet. I wanted to enjoy better health, so it had to go. Almost immediately, the seasonal allergies that had plagued me went away. But little did I know that my choice to eliminate dairy from my diet would put me at such odds in other ways. It not only changed what I ate, but my social life, long held family traditions, and eventually even tainted the relationships I have with my children.

I first made my family aware of my decision as we sat around the breakfast table. The revelation wasn’t a dramatic announcement, but rather unfolded by actions. I began first by serving rice milk with the Frosted Mini Wheats.  That culinary experiment was not successful, so I maintained a gallon of milk in the fridge just for the kids. The dollop of tofu sour cream on our chili was even less successful. I watched my children one by one as they slowly stirred in the creamy white blob, face in hand propped up with elbows on the table while the chili became a sick, lumpy, unappetizing pinkish orange. I kept at it though. I spoke about milk often. The information that I presented to my family through casual conversation was debated for sure, but not heated, and I never compelled them to believe as I did. I’d say nonchalantly, “Did you know it takes 1,000 gallons of water to produce one gallon of milk?” Or I’d dramatically feign disgust as I said, “Eww, the United States allows our milk the highest amount of cow pus concentration in the world!” I chose not to reveal that milk was directly linked to breast and prostate cancer – it was too sobering to discuss around the table. Of course eliminating milk meant eliminating milk products too. My children playfully accused me of being radical and even un-American. Once while eating pizza, my teenaged boys took a bite, pulling it slowly, dramatically away from their face, pizza slice held high above their mouth, purposely stretching the elastic cheese, eyes glancing to the side, watching for a reaction – teasing. That was okay with me. As I aged they would thank me. I wouldn’t be the pill popping, senile, immobile burden, made bitter and cranky from the aches and pains due to guzzling milk.  But that’s where my thinking stopped. I never once considered that the manner in which I communicated my choice to eliminate dairy would threaten the relationship with my children – specifically, my oldest daughter who had children of her own.

I embrace social media – to a point. It is pure delight to see posts revealing the cute things my grandchildren say and do. It makes a grandma proud! My daughter and children live so far away – a glimpse of them on Facebook is a delicious emotional snack during a mid-day break at work. Their antics lift my spirits and bring a smile to my face. But this fateful day, I opened a post to reveal the image of my red-faced, feverish and lethargic 3 year old grandson lying in the arms of my daughter. He not only has a heart defect, but also has a known intolerance to milk. The caption noted that his condition was the result of a failed attempt to introduce milk into his diet. Responses poured in suggesting organic milk, raw milk, and goat’s milk – everything but the obvious. Don’t give him milk at all! The poor baby! I couldn’t resist the urge to be clever and piped in myself.  I posted the reply, “Milk. The perfect food…for cows!”  This was of course very responsibly followed by a quote from a respected medical journal. I remember feeling quite smug, even smiling. There was a just enough humor (I thought), not insulting, and still a teaching opportunity. Almost immediately there was a response from my daughter. Her post reeked with resentment and was on the verge of disrespect and insult. I felt my face get hot. Could what I said have offended my daughter? Horrors. I hoped not! To be sure, I sent a text to her phone.

“Am (her nickname),” I typed. “I hope you don’t think I’m pushing my dietary ways on you by commenting on Benson’s allergic reaction. I want you to know that a major motivator for me to pursue better health is so I am not a burden to my children as I age. I would never compel or shame anyone to believe as I do, but on the other hand, why must I feel ashamed to express opinions that I find might be helpful?I also have read countless supporting medical studies – not so I can compel others, but to improve my own health. I love you sweetie and totally respect your opinions and decisions. What I don’t always understand though is why our different opinions create animosity.”

What happened next was like a volcanic explosion of pent up emotion from my daughter which engulfed me with a billowing plume of acrid black ash.

“It’s because you’re preachy, pushy, and condescending, Mom. I’ve always felt like if someone in the family doesn’t agree with your opinion, they are automatically wrong in your books. And you take personal offense when people don’t agree with you. I love you and I think your determination to eat healthy is commendable. But I don’t like it pushed down my throat. In fact, it is probably the biggest deterrent to my family ever eating that way…because you are so pushy. I’m sorry to tell you this over a text. I feel like this is probably not the best way. I really do love you. I really do. But I also need you to respect my decisions for my family… I am doing the best I can and am making the best decisions for my family that I know how – even if they are different than yours.”

As I read her words, acid rose up through my stomach and into my throat, burning like the smell of sulfur. Her response had spewed hot, angry magma into the air and it landed in my eyes, burning. With a short gasp (as if oxygen would give me strength), I lifted my chin and determined to maintain dignity and composure as I quickly planned an escape from my desk to the privacy of the women’s restroom. I stood deliberately, quickly finding my balance. The cell phone was in the palm of my hand, pressed tightly against my thigh as I hid the shameful words of my own daughter from the world.  I took long strides across the commercial carpet and pushed open the restroom door with my shoulder. Once inside the private fortress of a pink tiled stall, her eruption was followed by the scorching lava flow of my hurt and tears.

For several days with phone cradled in hand, I reread her texted words in the green bubble. They often brought forth a fresh flow of tears and hurt.  You can’t recall lava. It burns the scenic countryside and leaves a black, jagged and barren landscape. It’s unmistakable evidence of a volcanic eruption. I’ve analyzed (and re-analyzed) this painful experience many times. It’s easy to begin the analysis with denial. I made a genuine attempt at accepting responsibility for her eruption, but my mind always wandered back to denial. It wasn’t ever my intent to be preachy, pushy and condescending.  Maybe it was the text itself. Perhaps it was the raw, unspoken words that issued forth not from my lips, but from the tips of my fingers that had offended. There is no tender voice in typing, no nuance of concern in the written word, no familiar, comforting tone of voice that accompanies the “send” on the screen of an iPhone. There was no way she could have heard my love and concern through the words that she saw.

Do not fear dear reader; amends were made with my daughter. I can’t scroll through the text messages on my phone and quote her apology, for she called. She humbly offered me the simple, unadorned expressions of regret.  I can’t recollect the exact words, for they reside within my heart. But this I know – they were tender and sincere.  I could hear it in her voice. They were the spoken words of a daughter who loves her mother.

I visited Am and her family in Washington State recently. We visited Mount Rainier, considered one of the most dangerous active volcanoes in the world. The mountainside once covered by molten lava has become a rich and fertile relationship once again. We had a wonderful time. My grandchildren were delightful, healthy and happy. I don’t mention my choice to avoid dairy anymore. The eruption of such emotion made me realize that what goes into your mouth can be just as controversial as what comes out. I’d rather listen than speak and risk another eruption, and feel others should come to the same conclusion more often too. And should there not be room for compromise?  One warm summer evening, grandkids giddy with anticipation, we pulled into a Dairy Queen.  Okay, okay….I’ll take mine chocolate dipped!

Works Cited

Buscaglia, Leo. Good Reads. Leo Buscaglia Quotes. 2015 Goodreads Inc. Web. 23 Sept. 2015.


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