Saturday, November 29, 2008

Chapter V: Growing Up (or at Least Out)

W and I started to develop a fairly “normal” life. I stayed home, took care of things around the house. He went to work each day. We rented a house with room for a garden. That summer we grew more vegetables than we could ever hope to eat ourselves and donated some to the kitchen at St. Vincent de Paul. We also got the landlord’s permission to get a dog so we got the cutest little basset hound puppy to keep me company during the day. The dog went everywhere with me and enjoyed sharing my junk food habits of Jack in the Box ultimate cheeseburgers.

Of course, this wasn’t a totally normal life. W was still married, though in the process of a divorce. His wife was doing her best to fight the divorce, insisting that they could work things out if he would come home. On other occasions, however, she threatened to kill both W and me. These threats weighed heavily on my mind. Neither W nor I was sure she wouldn’t follow through on them. Eventually, after a couple of years, W’s divorce was final. A few months later we were married, in a very private ceremony because there was nobody to invite. Nobody would have been happy to know we were getting married on his side or mine so we just didn’t tell anyone until after it was already done.

With W’s accepting attitude of me, I stopped worrying about my weight. I ate what I wanted when I wanted, not caring that my size was increasing steadily. In the back of my mind, though, I knew that being too heavy was not healthy, that I was not able to do certain things because of my weight, that I was often embarrassed in situations where I could not fit, at least not comfortably, in seats provided in a variety of situations from waiting rooms to theaters to airplanes.

Shortly after we married, I received a letter from J (apparently Mom & Dad had given him my mailing address) saying that he was now ready to think about marriage, and, if I remember right, asking me to return home to him. I cried when I received the letter. I cried and cried and cried. It was too late. I had loved J so much for so long and never felt that he returned that love (which, I believe, is at least part of the reason I continued to turn to other men throughout our relationship). Now he wanted me, but I had already moved on. I was already married to W. I couldn’t turn back. When I looked at the way W accepted me for who I was, making no judgments, just loving me each and every day, and compared that to how J had treated me, teasing me about my weight and about the facial hair I hadn’t yet learned to get waxed on a regular basis, and always holding back from giving me the love and acceptance I so coveted; I had to choose to stay with W. I didn’t think I could ever live up to what J would want me to be, and I never gave him the chance to prove otherwise. I wrote to J explaining that I had married. I don’t know what else I said in the letter, but I do know there was a pain in my heart when I put it in the mail. I loved W, but I also loved J. I don’t remember for sure, but I’ll bet you anything I binged big time the day I mailed that letter.

I moved on, putting J out of my mind (most of the time) and focused on my relationship with W. We shared everything with each other, told each other our deepest, darkest secrets, and accepted one another just as we were, imperfect by far but neither worse than the other. I felt that I was okay, good enough, for the first time in my life. Somehow, somewhere in the back of my mind continued the nagging feeling though that I wasn’t. I was good enough for W, good enough for this new life half a country away from my roots, but I would never be good enough to return to my family. I would never be truly okay.

Through the years, W and I had our ups and downs. I patiently stood by him when he left his job only to be unable to find another, at least another at a similar level. I found a job and became the main breadwinner of the family. W worked when and where he could, never turning down a job as too menial but doing what was necessary so that we could make ends meet which sometimes was a real struggle. As stress increased so did my weight. All through the years when we struggled with infertility, and I was told several times losing weight might help, I continued to gain, having only moderate success when I would try the diet du jour which I did fairly often. For several years, I hovered around the 275-285 lb. mark.

There came a point where I felt W was pulling away from me, and I think he may have felt the same way about me, but we rarely talked about it and looked to the outside world to be the happiest of couples. Most of the time we even convinced ourselves of it, at least on the surface. My weight started upward again.

Giving up hopes of ever having our biological child, we finally adopted. I was convinced that adopting a child would be the glue that would hold us together, bring us back to the closeness we once had. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Although we had discussed childrearing beforehand, the actual practice was far, far different from anything we had expected. This whole childrearing thing was harder, more time-consuming, and far more intrusive into our lives than we ever thought possible. Yet we both love N more than life itself. We would do anything for him. Unfortunately, W and I rarely agreed on what the right thing to do was. I found myself often deferring to W just to keep peace, and I believe he sometimes did the same. Far from bringing us closer, having N pushed W and me even farther apart. Food, my faithful friend, was truly the only comfort I could count on.

Having N changed my thinking about some things. With W’s parents both dead, the only chance N had for grandparents were my parents, the people I had cut so completely out of my life. They had never given up on me completely, though, and a few years before had tracked me down to where we were living at the time. After both FU and Mom came out to visit, we had resumed minimal contact through the mail. Three months after N was born, I wrote to my parents to tell them about him. They were thrilled to finally be grandparents.

We made arrangements to fly back to visit my parents when N was a few months old. It had been 13 years since I had been back there, and I was absolutely terrified. What would we say to one another? How would my parents react to my weight? I set down rules before we arrived. There was to be no mention of my weight, none at all, or we would leave immediately. I can’t imagine how many questions my parents wanted to ask when we were there, but they never asked anything at all about the missing 13 years. To this day, they have never asked me why I disappeared or anything about the intervening time. We stayed with them for a week on this first not-entirely-comfortable visit and focused all of our attentions mainly on N. I was starting to reconnect with my past, but was still safely ensconced in my new life far away.

By the time N turned three, my weight was at an all-time high of 343 lbs. N was (and is) the joy of my life. He was at an age where I needed to be on the floor playing with him or chasing him down when he ran (and he always ran, never walked) towards danger. At my weight, both were darn near impossible. When I did get down on the floor getting me up was a major effort. Running after N left me breathless, not to mention that he could move much faster than I could. For N, I did what I had never done for anyone else, not even myself. I joined Weight Watchers and lost over 140 lbs.

To be continued. . .

Next installment: Losing the weight

2 comments:

Cocotte said...

Still reading.....

Trueself said...

Cocotte - Good to know. . .