January 9th. As soon as I woke this morning, I was aware of the day. January 9th was the first time I experienced loss in my life.
The year was 1978, I was 9 years old. My dad woke us up in the middle of the night and told us that our grandmother had died. My question was which one? That was it, which one??? I went back to sleep. I was a kid, awakened in the night, I didn’t realize that I would never see her again, this side of Heaven.
She had a stroke. A massive one this time. She had one before that had changed her beautiful handwriting to chicken scratch. She worked tirelessly to get the strength back in that side. She would sit and write for hours trying to improve her handwriting.
Her’s had not been the easiest of lives. Her mother had epilepsy and at that time, people with that ailment were hospitalized. Her mother had left home when she was 3. She was brought up by her father so she didn’t have girlish ways. She had to be tough and work hard.
She got married, just to send her husband off to World War 2. She had a small baby and still no mother at home to help her. Her mother was gone until her first child was three.
While her husband was gone, she wrote each and every letter to him with the same pen.
Once he return home 4 more children came. The second child was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis by the age of two. The fourth of the five children caused her to have to be hospitalized herself for a time.
Seven years after her youngest child was born, she became a grandmother. My grandmother.
She was a good wife, daughter daughter-in-law, mother, grandmother, neighbor and friend. She was tough as nails and she would stand up against the devil when it came to those she loved, but even from those people she would only take so much before she came out fighting.
My sister, my cousin and I stayed with her during our formative years. When we were children, we were put outside to play unless it was raining, then she put us in different corners to read. She wanted us to be smart. She never really felt “smart”. She was wise though, she could stretch to make ends meet.
After, she passed, something in my mind blocked it out, I have a few details of the funeral and the days leading up to it. The mind does amazing things to protect itself. I still, even though I have seen pictures as an adult, don’t remember her being in the casket.
I remember the flowers hanging on the front porch, the funeral director carrying in a big silver coffee pot, one song from the funeral and my uncle telling me not to cry, I “needed to be strong for my mom”. That is it.
When I look at my school photos, I can tell exactly when the emotional eating started. I was using food to fill that empty spot that it could not fill. I would eat my feelings rather and let them out. For 37 years I have battled this. It changed back ironically when my husband passed away. I battle it a great deal. If I can get outside, it is not a problem. I can walk for relaxation with it is pretty weather. When it is raining or cold like it is now, I have to find something to do, something to keep my hands busy if I am “trapped” in the house.
I know how it started and I know how to control it. The damage has been done. My body will always wear the stretch marks from a lifetime of eating my feelings. That is okay. I wasn’t equipped to handle things. Nobody could understand. My parents did everything they knew to do, childhood obesity was not a term that was used when I was young, You were the cute chubby kid until you became the fat, teenage girl that nobody wanted to date.
It leaves much deeper scars than you want to admit to anyone and at times to yourself. You always feel your are never going to be seen as desirable. I have learned that when someone loves you, it doesn’t matter how you think you look. They see the beauty in you and sometimes they call you ut when you do the self-deprecating talk. They do not feed the beast you have battled because they don’t see what you see.
If you have been in this fight, don’t give up. If you have a child who is dealing with this, encourage them to make smart choices. Lead by example, get outside more, let them run and play, teach them that vegetables and fruits are not bad words. They give us the nutrients that our bodies need for fuel. Allow them to talk to you freely and openly telling you what is bothering them.
My grandmother has been gone for 37 years today and still as I sit here writing this, tears roll down my cheeks. I cry because I still miss her. i wonder if she would be proud of the woman I have become. She is where my stand and fight if necessary gene comes from and to some degree the never seeing yourself as enough gene. I will allow the tears to flow openly if need be, it is better than eating them.