Sunday, September 16, 2012

Short and Painful

This is a first draft of what I hope to work into a memoir someday.  It's abbreviated, and was excruciating to get even these few words down.  **deep breath**   Here goes.

My mother took her own life.  She didn't go the conventional route, however.  She didn't hang herself,  shoot herself, drown, overdose, or walk into traffic.  She starved herself.  And because of that, because everyone could see it coming, everyone in her life is culpable.  She damaged me and lifted me up as best she was able, and without her I am incomplete.

Imagine that you're five years old.  Your entire reward system is food-based.  If you're good you get cake, candy, potato chips.  Food is social, a comfort, because you're an only child, and maybe that's the only way anyone knows how to communicate with you.  Imagine going to the doctor and hearing him tell your mother you're too fat and need to diet.  Imagine the first day of kindergarten when your new school clothes won't zip.  Imagine the name-calling.  Imagine being the heaviest kid in class. always.  And because you're tall ("big-boned"), these things last until you can drive.

Imagine having a father whom you idolize.  He eats WITH you, and he's the best.  He prepares big, greasy breakfasts on Sunday and giant bowls of ice cream for evening TV.  Your mother eats none of this, of course.  There is a picture of you as a toddler, and your mother stands over you in a park wading pool.  She is tall, svelte, the most beautiful mother by far.  Clearly, this is why your father loves her.  When you go out as a family your dad says, doesn't your mom look nice?   When it's her birthday he asks you to go shopping with him.  If you try on the present and it fits, that means it will be too big for her.  Sometimes the three of you will go out for breakfast, and your mother will eat half an egg and two bites of toast.  Sometimes your father expresses concern for her health, but he never encourages her to eat.  Sometimes he admits to you that he is worried about her, but it is never about her eating disorder, just the fact that she smokes.  You're frank with him about her eating habits, but he doesn't listen.  After all, thin is the ideal.

Imagine that your mother eats in secret.  Imagine going to the bathroom of your two-bedroom house in the middle of the night, and your mother is sitting at the kitchen table.  She has a box of powdered sugar and a spoon.  She smiles guiltily and offers you the box.  You get your own spoon and join her.  This is bonding.