Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Veronica: Aging Grandmothers

Veronica sits in her favorite chair and sits very quiet and still. And if they call her name that they never get right and they don’t then nobody else will. But she used to have a carefree mind of her  own, with a devilish look in her eye, saying You can call me anything you like, but my name is Veronica sits in her favorite chair and sits very quiet and still. And if they call her name that they never get right and they don’t then nobody else will. But she used to have a carefree mind of her  own, with a devilish look in her eye, saying You can call me anything you like, but my name is Veronica. -Veronica, Elvis Costello 

Aging Grandmothers: 

One of my main reasons for coming to Haiti, was to see my grandmother, who I adore completely.  While I love her, I should be clear and tell you that she was never the warm and fuzzy type. She was always opinionated, cantankerous and if I am to be honest, sort of strange. Unlike my grandfather, she was down right anti-social. She never had any friends and rarely left her home. I’ll bet today, she’d be diagnosed with some kind of phobia.  Her entire reason for being was my grandfather, their children and grand children.

I last saw her 2 years ago for her 90th birthday. Yes, I noticed that she had slowed down. However, she was still herself and in top form.  Two years later, my grandmother is no longer in top form.  She can’t quite put her finger on who I am.  She knows that I’m the person in the photo that hangs on the wall. She’s knows that I used to be fat, but she can’t seem to fix it in her mind that I’m April. It is a dagger in my heart. Last year one of my cousins told me that she had to remind our grandmother who she was. I remember thinking two things: A. That can’t happen to me. (I don’t know why I thought that—I just did) B. If that does happen to me I’ll be beside myself.  Well, it DID happened and I am beside myself. I’m the 3rd grandchild of 20 total. Since I grew up in the United States, she didn’t see me as often as the rest of the kids. I spent every summer the occasional Christmas with them.  Although the love was not demonstrative, I knew that I was loved.  She knew my favorite foods and often had them on hand. When I was a little girl she knew the way I liked my hair best.  She knew when my birthday was.  Now can’t put her finger on who I am and it breaks my heart.  I am salty that she knows my other cousins and brother, but is foggy about who I am. Please, spare me your logical thinking. “You don’t live in Haiti”. (My brother did for a while and most of my other cousins do as well) I know all that. But this this bothers me quite a bit.  My brother has said that he thinks that not only is she 92, but I’ve changed quite a bit. I’ve lost weight and changed my hair. While I know all that, I do not think that I am unrecognizable. (More on that another time)  

I know it’s not her fault. She doesn't want to forget. But her mind, her strength and faculties are leaving her. There is nothing that she or anyone of us who love her can do about it.  She has lived a long life and seen some things.  Maybe I’m just sad that her time is limited. She’s tired and misses her husband. In the 10 or so years since my grandfather’s death she goes the the cemetery every 8th of the month. She talks to him and keeps him up to date with what’s happening with us. Lately, she has taken to asking him when he’s coming to get her.  I realize that this normal progression. I just wanted her to be of sound mind and body until she just peacefully went to sleep one day.  I HATE what is happening to her. Not just because I’m sure she’s frustrated, but because it hurts me so badly to see her deteriorate so. 

Monday, January 12, 2015

Changed My Way of Living: La Réaction

I’ve got to change my of living, ‘cause troubles all that I can see. I gotta change my way of living, Lord trouble’s all that I can see. My life is in such a mess, there ain’t no one to blame but me. -Change my Way of Living, The Allman Brothers

La Reaction-Weight Loss

Predictably, my weight loss has been a topic of conversation. I knew that it would be. But it has been a surreal experience. It would seem as though my family doesn’t know what to DO with me. I have been fat my entire life. While they seem happy for me, I no longer fit into the box they had for me. (Shrugs). I’ve gotten a lot of the usual—Don’t get too skinny.  Are you sure you don’t want more food?  No, eat something else.  My internal answers are often as follows: Fuck you. No, thanks I’ve had enough. Fuck you again.  The staff at my grandmothers seem to be praying for my recovery. No, I’m not sick, but they are praying none the less.  I mean prayers are always welcomed, so thanks? (Again, April shrugs)

As only a fat person can tell you, when you are overweight, especially if the rest of your family is not, there is a barrage of “helpful” suggestions. Pleas for weight loss. “Tough” love, etc. Now that I finally have done what it seems the world was after me to do, there is this feeling that I am doing harm to myself.  My reaction: Oh please. Take many seats and leave me alone.  And if you are wondering, YEP I am planning on loosing more weight. Uh uh. How many pounds you ask? 30. Uh huh. No, it’s not too much, fuck you very much. If it sounds as though I am angry, it is because I am. I did this for me and I’m happy I did it. I am resentful that I am being questioned about my weight loss.  

My sister friend E (who is also Haitian and is familiar with the madness that comes along with being Haitian) said to me before my trip, that I should just prepare myself for the barrage and accept it. She suggested that I that I should say that I was done with the weight loss. She is a much better person than I. I can’t help it. I am, or can be, argumentative. Here is the thing. I don’t think I should have to sensor myself. While I won’t go up to people and announce to them that I plan I loosing 30 more pounds, I don’t think I should have to keep a truth that I am not ashamed of to myself. Jury is still out on that one. 

When I was planning my surgery I told a handful of people. And I was very choosy about who I told and when I told them. My brother knew I was planning it about 4 months before I had it. The closer I got to the date, the more he asked me to tell our parents. Finally 2 weeks before, he straight up told me that he couldn’t (wouldn’t) keep my secret and told me to tell them. I opted to tell them exactly one week before. (I wanted to tell them the day before but my boyfriend but the smack down on that).

In telling my parents about WLS, I made it clear that I did not want them to tell people.  My father was affronted by this.  When my mothers back was turned I whispered to him “It’s not for you, it’s Mom.” He nodded sagely, knowingly, like a man who’s been married for over 40 years and knows his wife and said “Mommy is a whole other story”.  I give my mother a list of people she was NOT allowed to tell. The list was long and specific. Basically she was allowed to tell my father (who already knew) and her son (who also already knew).  My mother did not keep my confidence and told, at least, one of my aunts. When I found this out last year I was beyond angry. I was on fire. She was on vacation when I realized it. I spent the day tracking her down and gave her a tongue lashing. I forbade her to discuss it further.  Talk about a waste of breath.  Everybody, including my grandmothers housekeeper, knows. I give up.  My mother cannot keep a confidence. I won’t share with her anything that I don’t want broadcast to the whole world. Too bad. Lesson learned.

I’m not embarrassed about having had WLS.  I just didn’t want the judgement that come along with it. Because people will and do judge. Hell, I judge it from time to time. I didn’t want to have to explain it to anyone. There are things that we do that we just do them for ourselves. The more I think about it, the more I wish that I had either told everyone right away or had told no one at all. Ah well. Too late for all that. I'll just live with it.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Somebody Get Me A Doctor: A Pox On The House of April

Somebody get me a doctor. You better call up the ambulance I'm, deep in shock. Overloaded baby, I can hardly walk. Somebody get me a doctor (Ooh!) Somebody get me a doctor. How’s my health you ask? Well let me tell you… Somebody Get Me A Doctor; Van Halen

A pox on the house of April:

Common Colds and Ear infections: Before coming to Haiti, I had been battling a cold, given to me by my boyfriend. That cold decided to morph into something else.  Thusly, I came down with an ear infection to end all ear infections. I truly felt as though my ear was rupturing or that maybe my brain was going to start pouring out of my ears. I wasn’t really sure. So that sucked.

Food Poisoning: My Aunt and Uncle have a beach house and that’s where we went to ring in the new year. New Year’s eve there was an amazing dinner. I made sure not to over eat or to mix to many things.  Before going to bed (after midnight 1/1/15) I made, what can only be described as a colossal error in judgement, and had 2 oysters. In hindsight, they likely had been there for a few hours and I do recall noticing that they were sitting a puddle of water were the ice had been. But-fuck it, I’m on vacation and had them anyway. So you can imagine what happened next. At about 2 am my new teeny tiny stomach decided to take out its anger and frustration out on me. Thus started horrifying diarrhea and projectile vomiting on and off all night and through-out the next day. While I felt better that day, I didn’t eat anything and wasn’t feeling all that great. Which leads us to the following night/morning (1/2/15).

Head injuries and midnight runs to the hospital: Here’s what I remember; I remember waking up to go to the bathroom (Remember my stomach was still pissed at me) next thing I remember is my aunt and cousin standing over me calling my name. I’m pretty sure I got slapped, hard, a few times. I remember thinking that my nose was bleeding and I said as much when they were trying to get me up. My aunt took me to bathroom and told me that it was my head and not my nose. Full disclosure, I freaked out when saw all the blood—but my stomach was still annoyed and I said so to my aunt/cousin.  Someone, I’m not sure who, escorted me back to the bowl. I was in bad, bad shape kids.

Picture this. Me, a grown woman of 42, sitting on the toilet, dizzy as hell, bowels ravaging with an audience.  An audience? Yes. An audience. 2 Aunts one of whom was praying out loud. I think the Hail Mary, 1 (hysterical) mother, 1 (panicked) father, 1 Uncle, 2 cousins, 1 housekeeper, 1 cousin-in-law and I think someone else. My dad picked up a wrapped sanitary napkin and starting furiously fanning me with it, like a man possessed.  When he realized that wasn’t working—maybe because I was looking at him like he was stupid, he got a fan. Out came the—get ready for this cause it’s a good one—the smelling salts. Yes kids. Smelling salts. Smelling salts were followed by a demitasse (cause we’re fancy) of sugar water.

The mad mob of Haitians, force the sugar water, which was really more a simple syrup if you ask me, down my throat.  I will grudgingly admit that this helped perk me up some and I’m was feeling a bit more like myself. This is when I realized that I needed to, you know, take care of business (i.e. wipe my ass). Here’s the breakdown:
Me: I have to wipe.  (No one makes a move) So I say it again, louder and en francis.
Me: I have wipe myself.
Everyone: OK so go ahead.
Me: NO. I need some privacy. They reluctantly leave the bathroom, expect for my aunt.
Me: Ummm you need to go.
Aunt: Oh.
She actually didn’t leave, but just barely, turned her back. I had very little fight in me and figured that was the best I was going to get. I took care of what I needed to and got up to move towards the sink.
Aunt: What are you doing?
Me: Washing my hands.
Aunt: Oh (But somehow giving me the impression that she wished that I was less concerned about washing my hands.)
Uncle: (In the background) April’s feeling better. She’s being smart again.

While I was battling for some semblance of pride, a decision was made to take me to the hospital.
Me: I need to put a bra on.
Everyone: NO you don’t. Let’s go.

So off I go, tits bouncing and swinging. In the car: My mother, my cousin, her husband and the dude who works for my family. First stop Urgent care. Fail. Urgent care closed. Next stop hospital in next town. Cousin-in-law driving like a lunatic.
Me: You drive to fast and you’re on the wrong side of the road.
CIL: Sorry. (But not really listening to me at all)
We get to the hospital and usual happens. My mother—teacher by trade, not a medical professional, pulling a Shirley MacLaine in Terms of Endearment telling the nurse that I need an IV.
Me: I don't need an IV.
Mom: Yes you do.
Me: (Defeated) OK then.
Nurse, maybe just to shut my mom up gives me an IV—which after about 15 mins, even though I hate to admit it, helps me feel better.

Hop, skip jump, got a few stitches, some pain killers, antibiotics and back home I went.  More embarrassed than anything.

For the rest of the trip my family have been force feeding me Gatorade (think those fois gras ducks) and asking me to eat. In the entire history of my existence no one has begged me to eat. EVER.

I’ll tell you this, it touched me to see my mother cry when telling the story. I do, however, feel like every time she tells it, I get closer to being in a coma. My family loves me and they were concerned. I get it.

While I am feeling better, I don’t quite feel myself and have an appointment to see the doctor this week.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Homeward Bound...

I thought this was fitting, as I feel that Haiti is my other home. 

Homeward bound, I wish I was homeward bound. Home where my thought's escaping, Home where my thought's escaping, home where my music's playing. Home where my love likes waiting silently for me. - Homeward Bound; Simon and Garfunkel 

This year I decided to go to Haiti to ring in the new year with my family.  My wifi was spotty so I didn’t post as much as I thought I would, though I did do some writing. My friend Jack has told me he thinks my entries are too long so I’ve broken them up. I had a great time and my trip was pretty eventful.

Traveling with Mother: 

Traveling with my mother is something that I either never want to do again or need to do every time she goes to Haiti—in order to try and keep her in check.  She is NOT a good traveler.  Generally speaking, I think that my mother has a lot of anxiety.  Some of the anxiety trickles into travel. The problem with that is when I travel with her, her anxiety becomes my anxiety. 

Last year my brother traveled with my parents and had a melt down at the airport. They had pushed him to edge. So I knew this might be an issue. However, there are somethings you need to witness for yourself.  So now you’re wondering what exactly is it that she does that makes me want to take up hard liquor or maybe even hard drugs? Its actually hard to explain.  She seems scattered, unorganized and easily frustrated. She is also, a bad, horrible, not good, terrible packer. Now, full disclosure—I inherited the bad packing gene. I’m an over packer. I’m the what-if-I-get-there-and-find-that-I need-this-beaded-ball-gown packer. Mom seems to over AND under pack at the same time. She also likes to bring food.  Now listen. I know what you think you know about Haiti. And while some of that is true, let me tell you that my family is VERY lucky. We live, not only comfortably, but very well indeed. There is NO reason for my mother to bring the bagged brussel sprout salad from Costco. Sure it’s tasty. I like it myself, but we don’t need to bring it with us. We can have, I dunno, maybe a different type salad? Sorry. (#sorrynotsorry) I’m not bringing SALAD to Haiti. Furthermore my father—a man who missed his calling and really should have been a gentleman farmer has a vegetable garden that it epic. He’s got something there that will make a nice salad. I have flat out refused to be the person who brings in a loin of pork or a fillet mignon in my carry on. Why do I mention those particular items? Because, dear friends, more then once, next to the wedge of brie, I’ve had to wrap the meat in my favorite pair of jeans. 

She also is one of those people who needs to get the airport real early. Because she’s anxious about getting there on time, what she may or may not have forgotten and just flying in general, she’s yelling, and rushing me to move faster. I think 2 hours is more then sufficient. I loathe waiting at the gate. But when traveling with with mother, I wait at the gate.  

Stay tuned for more… 

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Musings of 2014...

I'm on vacation in Haiti and my wifi has been spotty. I've been writing but haven't gotten the chance to post... 

“…it’s the eye of the tiger. It’s the thrill of the fight! Rising up to the challenge of our rival, and the last known survivor stalks his prey in the night and his watching us with the eye of the tiger…” - Survivor 

Yeah. I know it's pretty bad and a cheesy choice of song. But It's all I could think of, and you have to admit---it's catchy and it invokes the image of Rocky doing his thing. 

Today is Monday December 29th, and I’m currently mid-flight on my way to some fun in the sun.  2014 has been a year of change for me.  I’ve known it but every now and again, something will happen and it hits me really hard.  Today it happened on the air plane. I buckled in and didn’t need a seat belt extender!  I remember as if it were yesterday the first time I had to ask for one. I wanted to die from embarrassment ing and those change and decided that I would try and piece together my feelings about my weight loss journey this past year.  A few weeks ago, on December 12, 2014, was the one year anniversary of my WLS.  Over the past 12 months, I’ve lost more than 100lbs from the surgery itself and about 130lbs from my highest weight of 300lbs.  I have about 20 more lbs to go.  It’s really unreal to me.  Though I haven’t posted, I’ve been thinking about what I would post and jotting down notes.  Below is is a post I wrote while in class—it was either write what I wanted to or fall asleep. 

One year ago today I took a momentous step.  I did something that I knew (hoped, wished and prayed) that would change my life.  By far it was the best, hardest thing I’ve ever done.  Looking back, I have no regrets. What a difference a year makes. That day I was a tight size 24, and I weighed 280lbs. Today I’m a size 12, tip the scales at about 170, and am 20lbs away from my goal. I wasn’t sure where I would be a year ago. When I started this process, I was determined. I really have no words to describe how sick and tired I was of being THAT heavy. I felt tired, ugly, worn out and unattractive.  As I got closer to surgery I realized that I was  was scared.  Not scared to die or anything like that.  But scared that it wouldn’t work.  What if my stomach grew back? (I know I know) What I was one of THOSE cases? You know those people people you see on “My 600lbs life”? Who have the surgery and don’t loose weight afterwards?  What if I was some kind of freak of nature and was able to eat MORE after WLS?  What if I figured out a way to sabotage myself and just start eating again?  Listen, I know that it all sounds crazy, but those were my fears. Rational or not.  Looking back over the year, I will say that the process has been all at once, difficult and easy.  At times I’ve been shocked at how easy it was.  I often have feelings of guilt.  Like I took the “easy” way out.   Other times I’ve wanted to scream with frustration, at how hard it’s been.  There are days that I just want to eat.  I want to eat my sadness, my joy, my anger, my boredom, my pain. In short I want so badly to eat my feelings.  There have been days when I want to eat so bad, I can feel myself becoming almost irrational.  The killer is that most often I’m NOT eating because I’m hungry, I’m eating for lack of something else to do.  I’m eating because I don’t have anything else.  The inability to eat, has at times, almost driven me mad. 

I wish I had seen a therapist through-out this process.  My therapist changed careers right before my surgery.  I miss him, and think that it would have done me good to see him.  Perhaps it wouldn’t have made a difference.  Sometimes I’ve considered that I should have tired to find someone else, preferably seeing a therapist who was equipped to handle someone going through a change such as mine. I haven’t always known what do with my emotions. 

I wish I had exercised more through-out this process. I did a little and I know it helped, but once a fat lazy bitch always a fat lazy bitch I had dropped out. I know that I have do something. I just don’t know how to motivate myself into getting into it int he way that I should. In addition to helping me loose those last 20 some odd pounds, it will just be good for me.  I feel weak, and I hate that shit.  Also, I want reconstructive surgery on everything, and I know that will help.  A casual acquaintance has turned into a body builder—she was never fat, but now her body is SICK. I go on her Instagram account and just look at her.  She looks unreal. I don’t want that type of body, but she looks so strong.  One of my closest friends—really the sister in my heart—is a triathlete.  Another one with a sick body.  She loves it.  She says it clears her head and she feels great.  Let me be straight with you guys. The idea of running 26 miles, biking 112 miles and swimming 2.4 miles, doesn’t excite me.  It makes want to take a damn nap.  My other friend took a tragic time in her life and decided to focus her energy on running.  She ran her first NYC Marathon this year.  She is someone, as far as I know, who always had a beautiful body.  However she wanted to prove something to herself.  She was able to prove to herself that she was able to do something amazing. These women leave me awestruck. To say I wish I was like them is an tragic understatement.  Where is the “fire in MY belly?  I’m in awe of these women.  How I wish that the desire was just there.  It’s not.  I don't know how to create the want.  I swear that in 2015 I will discover that want.