Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Eat, Drink and Be Merry

A couple weeks ago I went out for cocktails with friends.  A good time was had by all and there was much laughing and merry making.  Making merry.  Now there's an underused term.  I think I'll start a campaign to bring it back.  Are you in?  

Ah, but I've already digressed.

As the merry was being produced, the cameras came out and I was forced, once again, to realize that my arms are bigger than your legs probably are.

That's an easy way to kill a buzz and a serious drawback to being able to see (and share) pictures instantly.  It separated me from my merry.  Killed my merry.  Would that make me a merry widow?  No, I think that's something else.  Still.  I miss merry.  I like merry.  I've got to find a way to get merry back.

You're a step ahead of me, right?  If you don't like something about yourself, change it!  So - despite all of my experience to the contrary - despite everything I have learned the hard way - I get it into my head that I can change my weight.  Everybody says so, right?  It's so easy, really - eat less, move more.  Oh - and also?  You have to want it.  I've heard that, too.  Maybe I just didn't really WANT it all those years that I starved and exercised like a fiend.  Well this time will be different.  This time I really want it.


So the next morning Tom is making me breakfast.  I have married an excellent breakfast cook.  He doesn't want much to do with preparing any other meals - he isn't even big on grilling like a lot of guys are - but man can he turn out a breakfast. He asks what I want and I say I'd like an egg white omelet. Because he is an astute dude, who knows that I didn't request my eggs sans yolks just for the taste of it, he asks, "Should I cook it in olive oil instead of butter?"  This is not, after all, the first morning after the picture before he's spent with me.  Yes, I told him.  Yes you should.  And very little of it, please.

Enter my mom.

"Is something wrong with the eggs?  I thought you liked these eggs."

Ok, there is some serious truth to that.  My mom gets her eggs from a farm.  They vary dramatically in color and size.  They are rich beyond belief.  My mom keeps WAY better eggs in the house than I do.  I look forward to them when I stay at her house.  To discard any part of this egg - particularly the huge golden yolk - seems vaguely sacrilegious.  I rethink my response.

"Y'know what, hon?  Make it one egg and two egg whites."

Tom begins to do just that, but my mother interrupts, "Why are you doing this?"

"Having breakfast?"

"Having egg whites and olive oil instead of eggs and toast and butter which is what I know you want."

She was right.  I wanted two of those big, beautiful, rich eggs, fried in butter with some toast to sop up the yolk.  But more than that, I wanted arms that didn't require a special blood pressure cuff.  No.  I would be strong.

"I just want it that way today."  (Stop there, Tammy, stop there, Tammy, stop there!  Don't say another word!)  "I'm trying to watch." (Well, now you've done it...)

"Watch?  What are you trying to watch?  Why do you do this?  Why can't you just accept yourself as you are?  You are what you are.  Tom, make her eggs in butter.  Olive oil isn't good for you.  Butter is the best.  Butter and sugar - that's what you're supposed to eat - not all this crazy stuff."

Tom looks at me.  I shrug.  I'm not good at standing up to my mom.  One breakfast wasn't gonna change my life.  If eating whole eggs fried in butter was gonna make her happy...

"Go ahead and cook them in butter."


"I don't care. I am what I am and I guess this is what I am."

"Tammy!  Why would you say that?  You just need to accept..."

"I do not accept it!  Those pictures were not acceptable!"

"Then you need to do something about it!"

"That's what I'm trying to do!"

"Don't yell at me!"

Just another typical morning in the life of a conflicted fat chick.

An external reminder of the internal conflict.  I am big.  Fact.  I could be big and beautiful.  I could be big and healthy.  I could be big and happy - merry, even.  Or I could try to become - less big.  Society keeps telling me I ought to.  Society tells me there is no such thing as big and beautiful or big and healthy.  I know I can't be much smaller - I've tried and tried and tried.  It doesn't work and it sends merry flying right out the window.  And, as I mentioned before, I really like merry.

In a three minute conversation, my mother told me to both accept it and do something about it.  One cannot do both of those things simultaneously.  I thought it was ridiculous when she made this argument, and yet - it's what I tell myself constantly.  I have to accept that I cannot change this.  I cannot accept it.  I attempt change.  Change does not occur.  I have to accept..... round and round, up and down.

A merry-go-round, if you will.  (I know.  I groaned, too.)

The next day, back home, over a big dinner salad, my daughters begin to debate the merits of various salad dressings - whose choice is healthier.  (Ok, you've got to love it when the dinner table argument revolves around whose salad dressing choice is healthier, right?  I mean, if you've got to argue...) I said a little olive oil and some vinegar - red wine, balsamic, whatever - was probably the healthiest choice.

"That's not true." my handsome hubby chimed in.

"It's not?"

"No. The healthiest choice would clearly be to drizzle it with some butter.  And a little sugar."

Hello there, merry.  Nice to see you back.  I've missed you.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Spring Goes Up the Mountain

I originally wrote this about a month ago. I revisited it today with the plan of changing it - giving it a different ending, as the story is now over - but I decided to let it stand as it is. It was a slice of life. Apologies for giving you a story about Spring in the Summer (TECHNICALLY still Spring, I guess.....) and for telling the story out of order, but I wasn't ready to post this when I wrote it. Now I am.

I’m on my way home.

I don’t even know what that means anymore.

Is home the suburban tract house where my husband and children sleep? Is home the small-town house in the mountains in which I grew up? They say home is where the heart is. If this is so, home, right now, is a hospital bed in the neuropathy wing on the tenth floor of Memorial Hospital.

It doesn’t matter. It seems like I’m always headed to one of those places these days, and whichever place I am, I’m missing the other. Can one be homesick from home?

Most of the time, when I am not driving, I sit with my mother in my father’s room. We watch him – making too much of every minuscule sign of progress and every equally diminutive sign of regression. We react to every sigh. We hold his hand and fuss over him when he is awake and we exchange concerned glances when he is asleep. Although we rarely leave our vinyl covered, hard backed chairs, it is exhausting.

My mother washes her clothes every night because she can’t stand the stink the hospital has left on them.

His window affords us a view of a mountain; a small mountain, to be sure, but decidedly more than a hill. When he first took up residence in room 1034, the trees at the bottom of the hill were bright green with young leaves. These gave way, further up the mountain, to trees that were red with buds, which went on to give way to trees that were still presenting their stark, winter silhouettes at the top of the mountain against the horizon.

We watch, day by day, as spring moves further up the mountain.

We watch, day by day, as my father moves nowhere at all.

I’ll have to go home, soon; home to my husband and children. I don’t want to leave him, but neither do I want to be away from them. I miss them – I miss being around people who like me for who I am – who aren’t constantly telling me how I need to change – how I need to be someone who I’m not – someone better. Ah, home.

When my father’s stroke stole his ability to speak, I taught him to squeeze my hand three times – I. Love. You. He did so every night before I left his side to go home. I cherished it. One night he did not squeeze and I was disappointed, until I leaned closer and heard him laboring to make out the words. I. Love. You. He got all the vowels out, but none of the consonants. His eyes filled in the gaps they left. Yesterday morning, when I left for home – my home – the home where my husband and children were missing me – he didn’t squeeze. He didn’t attempt to make words. He didn’t register my message in his eyes. “I love you, Daddy.”

His response was a mumbled, “yeah” – the same mumbled “yeah” he gives in response to all of the queries of the doctors and nurses and therapists.

“I miss you already. I’ll see you in three sleeps.”


I cry in the privacy of my car. I’m headed home. Over the mountain, past the dark, maturing leaves to the light leaves in their hopeful infancy, through the red buds and into the bare branches, then down again – the same progression in reverse.

I’m headed home for now; for three sleeps. And then I’ll turn around and head back home.

Where my heart is.