CHAPTER 13: THE HORSE AND PONY

 

199207_horsesThe little barn was finally built. Samuel had found time after working to dig countless holes and implant posts, sometimes during rainstorms, working past dusk into darkness. Then he lined the posts with two courses of wire, connecting them to the electric box in the barn, a term used loosely. It was really a shed with one large walk-in stall that could be closed by a door that rolled to the side. He managed to fit in a small area for storing hay with a loft above, and one more smaller stall with a Dutch door, the type where just the bottom half can be closed so the animal can look out. We painted it white with country blue trim to match our house. Large tuna cans tacked sideways onto the wall accommodated the bridles and a two- by-four apparatus held both saddles nicely, one for my horse, Misty, the other for Shane’s pony, Tony.

Once the hay was loaded and the stall filled with wood shavings, I leaned in through the sliding window from the tack room. I gazed at the area, immensely satisfied now that they could come home, breathing in the scent of sweet hay, dreaming of our first ride in the fields. Both animals were being boarded out till everything was ready and it was time to bring them home.

We thought they would be happy together going in and out of the large stall at will without a door. The pony immediately changed that, bossing out the horse in the first few minutes by a nasty bite to her rump that the vet had to dress and treat with antibiotics. We needed a new plan. Samuel wired up a smaller pasture for Tony outside the little stall. Now they were side by side but not together. It worked beautifully—that little bugger pony.

Though Tony demanded dominance with his horse-mate, he didn’t bite humans or have other bad habits that ponies often do. And my horse was fairly docile though jittery when first starting out, trotting rather than walking. With no place on our property to ride, I scouted out a place one road over, through the gravel pit, past the housing development, and across the next road into the farmer’s fields and forests. Ruby was retired and oddly had the same first name as my beloved Grandmother Ruby, and eventually he became a good friend and grandparent replacement. Grandma had died many years before.

His land went on and on, all cleared of rocks and cut down for hay every spring as if welcoming us, “Come and run, I’m ready!” And we did, happily loping along, the biggest threat, woodchuck holes. We found one, tripping the pony onto his knees with Shane flying over the top of his head because of the sudden stop, but neither Shane nor Tony suffered any damage.

Walking together, the saddles creaked, foamy sweat seeped out from the leather, the pungent odor radiating soothingly as the hot sun warmed our bodies and souls. We talked and laughed, then ran. Up the hill, then the next and into the woods, to where the path ended at a cliff-like point where we could look out and see for miles. We called it “The Top of the World.”

We rode those paths in every season but winter, and each season brought new sights, sounds, and smells. After moving steadily through the lower woods, we discovered another path that opened up to light and found a second gravel pit beyond. Turning back into the woods, the cool shade of trees blocked sunshine with a roof of vegetation; hooves clomped on soft wet earth, crunching leaves and twigs, making satisfying sounds. Sunbeams escaped leafy hands, and little pools of brightness appeared on the earthy floor where circular patterns of greenery and forest bits glowed.

Since we rode as a pair, the animals were less tense, comforted by the other’s presence. They rarely became spooked, though occasionally a squirrel or other creature would make a snapping sound in the distance, and one of the animals would startle and hop sideways. But both were mainly calm, and enjoyed the fresh air and exercise as much as we did. Little did I know that I needed to grab onto those few years as snapshots and memories to hold dear, because they didn’t last; but luckily the pleasures were so great they stuck to me. Once Shane turned thirteen, only things with motors interested him: a go-cart, motorcycle, even the riding lawnmower became more attractive than little Tony. The pony was left to chew grass, roll in dirt, and lay in the sun, contented.

I continued the pursuit as a solitary rider. On hot summer days, Misty nickered as I approached the barn. Her sorrel coat received a good brush down, the russet hair glossy, lighting up red and shiny in the sun, almost aglow. She loved it, stretching her neck in ecstasy as I curried, bumping her bony, hard head and soft nose against me with such strength that she pushed me off balance. Once tacked up, we headed out, but Misty screamed out for her trail-mate, sending shivers of shock through me with her shrill neigh. Tony neighed back with little effort, seemingly more interested in eating the sweet grass beneath him.

Once we were far enough away, in the fields loping circles, she quieted, but she became much harder to manage without a traveling partner, especially in spring after a long winter without being ridden. “Whoa, whoa,” I would plead repeatedly in a firm voice, trying to temper her tendency to trot instead of walking calmly.

On cool days her friskiness included bucking while running up hills. One time her joyful buck tossed me over her head where I hit the hill with such force, I wondered if anything had broken. She watched me get up slowly, and stood still as I sorely climbed back on. But I wouldn’t reprimand her joyful abandon, her emanation of pure happiness. I flew with her as she galloped, her muscles coursing as she thundered up to the top of the hill, her tail flying. Both out of breath, we turned and continued upwards as I reined her in to a soft lope.

On the hilltop, stillness. Only the rustling of leaves could be heard in the breeze. A dog barked, the echo drifting upwards. Misty seemed to know and tolerate my need to sit quietly, absorbing the view and beauty surrounding us. She nibbled on grass while I drank in the rolling hills stretching all the way to the city.

We trotted gaily along with adventures to come, past the thicket of berries and a meadow tall with swaying grass. We investigated a gangly tree stuck right in the middle of the meadow, then walked on and down a hill into a denser, darker wood. The scent of decaying matter centered my being; the rich potpourri of mossy wetness, rotting logs, leaves, nuts, and berries tingled my senses and made me feel at home in my body—a rare occurrence. I sucked it up as if I had never breathed before.

Misty picked her way along carefully, without much guidance. Wildflowers hid in patches. The woodsy coolness enveloped us. Finally we came to a clearing opening to sunshine, so we explored some more before turning back.       

Heading home, we were pleasantly spent, the sweat around her saddle drying into white crust. She received a hose down after the tack had been removed. Her neck extended to the fullest, arching as the water streamed down, washing the sweaty foam off like whipped cream, the strong jet of water soothing and cooling her warm muscles. I walked her till almost dry, and then let her loose to eat, roll, or drink. She nickered to Tony who nickered back. They were happily together again.

MOSAIC

 

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A life Whole.

Shattered.

Then made Whole

Again.

I want to thank Jane, who spent an enjoyable afternoon with her crafts, http://jbartell2013.wordpress.com/2014/11/30/altered-states/

and Samantha Jane, a very talented artist, https://bothsidesofthewall.wordpress.com/2014/12/22/new-art-journal-pages/  for the inspiration to get back into my studio. The piece above has been sitting unfinished since spring and now is finally complete.

I am ready to start another project. The tiles are rolled out by hand with a giant rolling pin, glazed then baked in my kiln. I smash them with a hammer reconfiguring the pieces into something beautiful.

 

TRUST?

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I am going to struggle with trust permanently. That is just one of the things broken. I suffer so because of it. Even unable to trust my sons. They cleave to their wives. I wouldn’t want it any other way.

Relationships are so sticky, complicated. My husband says I think too much. He is right. I also know that I have always felt that I had to ‘think’ about why people are doing things in order to save my life. Because those around me were only up to destroying me. Or so I believe. It didn’t magically slide away as I aged. I believe things that aren’t true. I cannot really trust my gut instincts. I cannot trust myself. Or maybe my instincts are right on but it doesn’t matter because everyone tries their best and still hurt others along the way, including me.

See how I think? One way then the other. And in the winter these thoughts drive me to places I’d rather not be. What I want is sit on the patio in May and soak up some sun.

What it must be like to let go of these negative beliefs in people and throw them to the winds. Believe that others are struggling too. That they may hurt me in their own struggles, but it’s ok. I hurt them too. It’s just part of close, loving relationships.

We all gather tomorrow. And when I know I ought to be grateful, I struggle with interpersonal relationships, growth, my memories of old tired interactions with my own mother and how I want to do better, be different, heal within and with my husband and children. I want it to be happy for everyone.

My intensity of wanting all that makes it stressful for others. I didn’t realize that. I want to just relax and enjoy being together. Why is this so hard?

Let go Patricia. Let go. Let it all go, like the pine tree dropping its heavy burden of snow off its branches. Let it go, Life is For Giving.

Chapter 12: BUTCHERED

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I found the hospital that stapled stomachs—the only one in the city, the procedure was still so new. I called. The operator connected me to the correct department.

A woman queried, “Hello, can I help you?” 

“I’m calling about the stomach stapling,” I stated, trying to hide the desperation I felt.

“How much do you weigh” she asked.

“What? How much do I weigh? Two hundred and thirty.”

“You are not heavy enough,” she replied, adding, “Morbid obesity in the amount of one hundred pounds over one’s normal weight is the rule we use in order to perform this surgery, and you have to be at least that much over for your insurance to cover it. The weight range for your height is one hundred twenty-five to one hundred forty pounds, so you’d have to weigh at least two hundred and forty pounds.”

No problem, I thought. Gain ten pounds? I didn’t have to think about it. I called back in a few months and easily booked an appointment because the weight requirements were now met. A quiet little voice spoke softly, “This is insane, illogical,” but I hadn’t learned to listen.

I went forward with the typical paperwork, physical exam, and testing. After that it went smoothly except for lying once again about depression on the paperwork. Some precautions were being taken; they didn’t want to operate on anyone unstable. Rearranging your internal organs is not for the faint-hearted. I knew an honest answer would ruin my chance at a normal life, and a slim body would make me “normal.” I wanted this transformation from fat to thin, abnormal to normal, more than anything else I had ever wanted. And though depression was my middle name, I quickly checked NO with little thought or reservation.

Yet the lie followed me like a shadow heaped on all other mistakes. My lie made my insides slip apart. I hate to lie, despise dishonesty, yet have lived a lifetime of it, never allowed the freedom to say what happened to me. After all the weight dropped off, I still thought of death, dying, and not being here; thought it’d be easier. Not until long after the surgery did I begin to realize just how major an operation it was, and what a total waste.

The layers of tissue I wished to be rid of protected me, a cocoon of darkness, a whirlwind of it. Without changing the internal messages of badness or dealing with the fear of others, I would continue to turn to food and fatness to feel safe. If you don’t love yourself fat, you won’t love yourself thin. The dark road I would travel, the new me, my new stomach, brought new agony that not only matched but surpassed my original pain. 

The surgery date came and, after being admitted the day prior to surgery, in between meals of Jell-O, broth, and popsicles, a compassionate nurse explained what to expect. She took me to a quiet area with stuffed chairs. Leaning in towards me, checking notes on her clipboard, she said softly, “You’ll wake with a tube down your nose to your stomach. It’s there to suction out blood and fluid. It will feel uncomfortable, but you will be able to breath and talk.”

She looked up, gauging my reaction. This didn’t dissuade me. I hardly heard her.

She continued, “After a few days it will come out and you’ll be on clear liquids here and at home for several weeks as the incision heals. You’ll be in pain but ring us for your pain meds before you start to hurt. If you have the pain relief medication regularly, on time, every four hours, especially the first week, you’ll do better. Too many patients have been in severe pain and don’t need to be, because they wait till the pain kicks in, and then ask for their medication. You are the first person I decided to sit down and explain this to. And I think I will begin to explain it regularly with others.”

She went further, “You won’t see stitches. You’ll have staples and the internal stitches will dissolve on their own.”

Her eyes searched mine to be sure I understood. I returned her gaze with a polite nod, some fear creeping in, but I felt more than ready.

I went to sleep that night grateful for her advice. When I awoke groggy from anesthesia the next day after the procedure, the tube she talked about caught in my throat. Because she had forewarned me, I remembered to breathe which quelled the automatic panic…but just barely. I kept repeating silently, “I’m all right, I’m all right,” for the next few days till the tube came out. Though hazy and still under the effects of anesthesia, I rang every four hours for pain meds, something I would have been too timid to do otherwise.

Staples ran from the middle of my breasts to my belly button, a significant wound. Samuel stayed at my side that first day but beyond that, I wanted the surgery kept private, my guts being rearranged. Maybe I felt ashamed for having the surgery, needing it, or maybe it was simply nobody’s business, or both. But one thing I adamantly told Mom, I do not want anyone to know, especially my brothers, and particularly the abusers among them; but I didn’t mention that last part, we didn’t talk about what her sons had done. Don knew, and I could accept that because he was Mom’s longtime adviser on all issues. She tried to respect my wishes for privacy but after seeing me so out of it afterwards, with tubes in every opening, her anxiety leaked out. She called them.

My secret became family news, but more than that, she needed the others to know and help carry the weight and gravity of what I had done. She could not cope with it alone. But I felt betrayed once again. This was my attempt, my effort to cut them away. A huge chunk of my stomach rendered useless via a guillotine called gastric stapling. I would be fresh, new and normal, transformed from fat to thin. My abusers weren’t going to be a part of me, they were the fat layers that would dissolve, a large portion of the stomach stapled off. But it didn’t work.

For eternity I cannot make what happened not to have happened. I cannot rid the fact that I have brothers who sought to attack instead of love me. I cannot be somebody else no matter how hard I try or how hard I wish it. It will not go away; what happened did happen. I can’t change it no matter how much I change me or how many parts I cut off. The surgery is the concrete part cut up; the parts that love and trust, already slaughtered, inaccessible even to me. If I am not worthy of love from those around me, how do I love me?

The phone rang in my room. I picked it up, still groggy from surgery the day before. “Hello,” I scratched out, my voice weak and hard to hear with the tube snaking from throat to belly.

“Hi, Patty,” a male voice answered. It was Chet.

I froze. She had told him. The reason I did it was because of THEM, and one of THEM called and knew.

The call didn’t go well; how could it have? I had my guts torn out, stapled, cut off from me, and one of them who had made me that way called to see how I was doing.

“Chet? Oh, hi,” I responded, my voice flat without enthusiasm, my rearranged raw, bleeding stomach knotted up even more with fear, rage, and revulsion.

“Yeah, so you’re in the hospital?” he stated. Was it wariness in his voice? He hesitated then added, “How do you feel?”

It took concentration to breathe with the stomach tube pressing against my windpipe, and the minuscule energy remaining was exhausted by anger towards Mom for divulging my predicament. Hearing his voice brought him into my sterile room, colder now with him in it, red rage obliterating the pastel walls. Struggling to cope, words failed me, clutched me, stymied me. Weak, vulnerable, and lost in the fog of anesthesia, feeling small and completely defenseless, like road kill, I barely managed a reply.

“Okay,” I said, and then nothing, my emotions were, as usual, locked tightly inside, a tornado of them. Breathe, I thought silently. Contain the rage, or burst with it.

“You’re quiet. Would you rather I hadn’t called?” he asked, seemingly agitated, incredulous even.

He waited for an answer, not getting one. He became livid. “You bitch!” he screamed. “I’m calling to see how you are and you act like that?”

He hung up, the click resounded as if he had crashed the phone down. I held out the receiver, looked at it curiously, in wonderment, astounded at what it had just delivered. Struggling, I returned the receiver to the cradle, wincing with the pain of even slight movement, hoping the long row of silver staples held. Though the minute turn sideways pulled at the tender skin, the fury I felt when hearing his voice hurt much more, deeper, down below the wound, in my spirit where I’d continue to carry hate and rage for years to come, fat or thin.

Don arrived later in the week, happily bringing a gift. It was a digital scale. I pretended to be happy and thankful, but a scale? He left it on the chair near my bed, a symbol of my failure as a woman, a scale, my judge and jury along with Don who gave it. My problems since childhood have not been my fatness though my family made it so. And so have I.

Mom picked me up from the hospital after a five-day stay. She gaily asked if I would be up to a quick stop. “I have a present for you ready to pick up from a jeweler who hand-crafts all her work.”

Surprised, I nodded.

I waited. She returned handing over a little box. I opened it finding a soft grey velvet pouch inside, and gently pulled out a delicate pair of long strands of gold, pounded flat, with a tiny pearl on the end of each. It’s a type of earring I’d never seen and surely only for the upper crust, richer women than me. The gold strand inserts into the piercing, the pearl catching at the lobe to hold it in place. They must have cost her plenty, too much for a widow living on a secretary’s salary.

I have used them a few times, but mostly they stay in that soft velvet pouch, too precious to use, costing more than any jewelry I own, perhaps even my wedding band. Or maybe I don’t use them because it feels like a reward for great stupidity caused by even greater desperation, not something I’m proud of. Even in my thirties I became easily swayed by others, especially Mom who I allowed to successfully persuade me to have the surgery. Why don’t you just put a gold ring through my nose and lead me around that way? The voices banging in my head are not kind. Still on liquids, Mom helped me make broth out of bones thick with marrow. It tasted disgusting. Later, once I was able to experiment with real food, I had mashed potatoes, even cheese curls. The cheese curls excited me: finally something that tasted good and didn’t hurt. I ate them guiltily, all five of them.

Humanly needs for contact, warmth, love—all the basics we crave which I couldn’t fulfill with humans because I feared and mistrusted them—were filled instead with food; fill the hole with food, food, and more food. I tried shopping and drinking, but food remained my main comfort and substance of abuse.

The soul resides near the stomach, maybe the solar plexus, or it floats around all organs, invisible but alive like flesh with as many needs. Food is the closest substitute place I found to fill basic emotional needs. Because it’s the wrong place, no amount of food will fill it. So the feelings and needs remained. I still felt bad, worthless, invisible, nonexistent, less than worthless, as if I weren’t real. And I still craved love, warmth, and closeness, and still ate to fill those needs and to blot out the rest, tiny pouch of a stomach or not; that didn’t stop me.  

More often than not, I ate in excess of the tablespoon or two my new stomach allowed. My new friend, the toilet bowl and I, became thoroughly acquainted, not a friend you want to know or keep. The pain became a way of life. You’d think one time lying next to the moist perspiring toilet on the cold tile floor for hours, hanging on to it, waiting to vomit, would be enough to cure me of eating for needs other than hunger, but it didn’t. I overate repeatedly. Overeating now meant one teaspoon too much. But still, I lost weight: eighty pounds. I looked different but felt the same.

With the pregnancy of my second child a few years later, the pain lessoned considerably. I don’t know why and guess it had to do with the weight of the baby pressing against the stomach doing something to the nerves. Whatever the reason, I felt lucky I could eat without pain, but then excess weight returned as the baby grew inside.

Chapter 11: JACK

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My tentative steps at therapy started in college when I dared go outside the family for help, and again after marriage when we lived in the Adirondacks, though just briefly for both. I didn’t try again until after Shane was born when we moved back into the area where I grew up. Fear almost kept me from trying. I needed to divulge secrets that rotted my core, yet would I be able to? Caring for Shane brought satisfaction, but I needed help for the blackness of recurring depression. Eventually pain overcame my paralyzing fear.

The mental health clinic employed an acquaintance of Chet’s. I worried relentlessly. How could I talk about what I needed to if his friend had access to the files, which I assumed he did, because he worked there as an intern in a career path for counseling? The secrets I carried were taboo, and I felt so guilty for the abuse, as if I were the abuser not the victim. What if he read what I talked about, what would he think of me? Certainly he wouldn’t think less of my brothers, just me. I sat in the waiting room, apprehensively imagining him poring through my records with disgust. I had taken on my family’s sins. The weight was killing me.

The therapist I worked with, Mary, wore two hats; she was also a nurse. I wondered if my problems made her nervous or were more serious than others, or maybe more interesting, because leaning towards me intently, she smoked as I talked. I smoked too. After a while I touched on what my brothers had done, but just barely. Then I stopped going, afraid at what I’d divulged. But eventually I went back.

When I returned the next time she had gone. I was now assigned to the director, Jack. I felt fortunate because of his prominent position, even though he was a man. Jack mentioned that he took my case specifically. I didn’t know what to make of that. Was it that sexual abuse case histories intrigued him? Challenged him? Were titillating? Or could only be handled by him because he was so great at his job?

He had no problem commenting bluntly on my weight and my lack of makeup, jewelry, or nice clothes. I responded by shopping for all three, enjoying the reward of his compliments. He encouraged me to pursue further education, so I enrolled in a nearby community college. He also encouraged me to take parenting classes offered on the premises. They became invaluable over the years raising our sons.

I sat across from his desk where he always remained seated, more like a businessman than a therapist. The expanse between us didn’t seem odd at the time; the space protected me from a larger person. I liked that.

But one day he leaned over and asked, “Are you attracted to me?”

Warning bells clanged in my head. I looked at him. Not unattractive, but far from handsome. “No,” I said without much pause.

He continued, “One woman began taking her clothes off in my office.”

His response jolted me and made me uncomfortable, but I censored that thought immediately, weighing his importance against mine. 

He won. I continued to see him.

One day I confided my mother’s plan about the operation, and with barely a breath, he responded, “Go ahead, if you want to butcher yourself that way.” 

His words hit like a slap, but didn’t deter my pursuit of what I thought would bring happiness. I went after Mom’s idea of a surgical solution to my problems like nothing I’d gone after before. I was going to have it no matter what.

When I put my mind to something I can be persistent. I gathered the courage to whisper softly to Jack about brothers and hint at what they had done. “Oh, so you were a precocious child,” he replied instantly. Not a question, a statement.

I remained still, as if iced to the seat. But I kept the maelstrom of emotions completely hidden behind an unblinking stare as if he had said something as mundane as, “It’s hot outside.” I didn’t know how to do anything else but act as if whatever anyone did or said was okay with me. But that final straw gave me the impetus to stop seeing him. I did pursue the butchering though, as any good girl would, to please her mother. I fell for it too, the idea of it, a magic cure. Jack won the prize for worst therapist, but his words struck the gold of truth. I volunteered for butchering, a lifelong regret, one I would permanently lament

Chapter 10: INSANITY

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At thirty, my weight hit a high point, two hundred thirty pounds. I felt extremely unhappy, lost, as if I didn’t have a center. Playing the “good daughter,” the “good sister,” and the “good wife” took too much, burying me more and more. Each day faked added more fat. Anxiety, high anxiety traveled upon me like an old ragged coat. Sometimes, as a child, it would hide away when I’d play, ride my bike, or spend time with my pony, but the years didn’t lessen its severity. It grew with me.

Now my friends were food, TV, and too much alcohol. My first son, Shane, then two-years old, kept me busy, the second not even a thought on the horizon. And though I had a sense of purpose caring for him, each day came and went just trying to get through it.

My confused, mixed-up world focused on Shane, my home, and husband. There’s nothing wrong with that, but that was all I had. Getting out among others scared me. I knew too well what people were capable of. Rather than chance destruction, I chose isolation. Or did it choose me? No grey area existed: intimacy meant annihilation. I could make a friend but not sustain the relationship. Unable to speak up about even minute disagreements, my feelings of being taken advantage of would escalate until anger bubbled up in the form of withdrawal and coldness. No one wanted to be friends with a porcupine.

One friend, Lisa, a daughter of one of Mom’s friends, had a son Shane’s age. At their house I’d help pick up after the kids. But when she offered at my house, my mouth said, “No, that’s okay.”

What? Why did I say that? After she left me with a mess that I told her she could leave me with, I felt enraged. It took only that to end the friendship, but not by my choice. She stopped calling. I never knew why, maybe she sensed my rage. It would have been hard not to. Because my voice had been gagged since childhood, learning not to speak up about the atrocities of brothers, I came out of childhood believing I was not worthy of protection, love, or acknowledgment. I learned to be abused and keep quiet. And because I felt guilty for it happening, further infractions or minor careless actions of others, along with my inability to speak up about them, mixed up the melting pot, increasing the heat of my emotions. I went underground, and that is where I raged, unable to forgive anyone, including myself. A victim in childhood, throughout adulthood I became a victim of rage.

That pattern, engraved into the soul-rock of my being, had long been a way of life. Mom had learned to silence me in order to maintain the image of a happy family, no matter what it took, or how far under I went. It wasn’t malicious on her part. I don’t believe she thought it over, or had a plan; she operated on instinct, as did I. To remain a family meant cooperating with the cover-up. I didn’t need to be told to stay silent; I just knew it was necessary for survival, unwittingly collaborating in the conspiracy.

Our new home, across town from Mom’s, needed a ton of work; septic, updated electric, a roof, walls, floors, and ceilings. Bare wood rafters needed covering. But we were happy to be out of her basement and into our first home, one that would shelter us comfortably for well over twenty years. I babysat and did crafts to sell at the local festival each fall, earning a little money in addition to our meager income.

Shane and I frequently visited Mom. During the summer months he could ride his toy car across the road at the school’s big blacktopped bus circle. Mom and I sat at the picnic table in her backyard, the warm air thick and heavy, a slight breeze making it just bearable. Shane played nearby, picking dandelions, a perfect picture in his powder blue terry sun suit matching the clear sky, his chubby little thighs poking out through the leg openings. Barefooted in the grass, he marveled at the white fluff, giggles erupting as he blew the seeded parachutes up and away. My cherub toddler touched me where no one else could.

But still my internal struggles manifested in physical heaviness. My weight issues began at age eight, after Dan’s attack; my scrawny eight-year old body quickly blowing up as if pumped full of air. I ate my mother’s food in the daytime and threw it up at night. Her love of cooking, and deep desire to see it all eaten, became my panacea. It seemed to be the most she could do for me after learning about Dan. I accepted her love in the form of food readily, with a voracious hunger that would haunt me for a lifetime, looking for her love—and mine. Food numbed out the painful nightly attacks and later became a tool to comfort all feelings. It solidified my ability to repress what he had done, though the memory flutters on the edge of consciousness, waiting like a bared-tooth tiger.

In tune with my unhappiness, believing weight loss to be the answer, Mom excitedly told me one day, “There’s an operation. You can lose weight.” She knew someone who had it done.

 Quickly dismissing initial reservations, brushing away that little voice of reason, I felt as excited as Mom. Lose weight by only having an operation? I listened attentively; she seemed so positive, hopeful, and encouraging, like this was the answer for me. I so wanted to believe in an answer, any answer. Hope like a cool breeze lifted the oppressive heat. It sounded so very appealing, irresistible.