My co-worker's words hung in the air. Thick. Murky. Choking. Choking the words out of me. It was all I could do to merely nod.
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The conversation started with a ring, a turquoise ring that I had worn during a meeting the previous day. It had caught her eye as department heads gave their daily reports. From my finger, her eyes traveled up my arm to my toned biceps and defined shoulders - the result of diet, exercise and lots of BODYPUMP.
She complimented me and I said what I always say to things like that: "Thank you. I've been working hard."
Quite obviously, she had replied. I had been working at it since she has known me, since she met me eight years ago when I began this job. At my heaviest weight.
"It's like I've seen you grow up," she said. "Your mom would be proud."
I know she meant it sweetly but all I could think was, "Really? I wouldn't be so sure."
The truth is: I'm not certain my mom would be proud.
◊ ◊ ◊
I've often thought about what my mom would think of me now. A me that almost doesn't look like the me she knew. A me who used her downfalls to struggle to climb to the summit and then reach for the sky. A me who did things that she never could.
I most definitely know what my mom thought of me then, and it wasn't all good. The few months before her death were spent in silence or in shouts as we battled over things said, unsaid, perceptions and reality. While we had reconciled a few weeks before her heart stopped, those weeks made it clear that our relationship was forever changed. It seemed she preferred my now sister-in-law to me, couldn't wait for she and my brother to have babies, to share and do things with J. She shared reservations about Mark and his family and seemed to mourn that she had lost me.
And the truth is, she had. Years of fighting over her weight and what I considered a lack of responsibility for her health had caused me to distance myself from her. I thought I had done better, was better, than her and didn't want her shame, the shame I'm sad to say I felt about having her as a mom.
We all know that I wasn't better than her. In fact, in many ways, I was no different. I was eating poorly, not moving and justifying choices. It took huge changes to my diet and general way of life to move forward.
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The changes I made were unlike any I had made during previous weight loss efforts, which were supported by mother. Then, she understood walking and eating less. She understood the excitement of being in a size 14 and shopping in the misses department. I was healthier but still heavy and not so different from a girl she had been.
I don't think she would understand running more than a few miles, eating lentils and buying a size 2. I can't picture her on the sidelines of a race holding water or a pair of dry socks. I don't see her going to a Weight Watchers meeting with me. I am certain she would tell me that I'm too skinny as so many other members of my family have. I think she would, at least on the surface, disapprove. Be resentful. Distant.
I think. I don't know. It agitates me that I can't, deep down, really know how she would feel. Like I never knew her. It's especially frustrating because I'm certain of how my dad would feel. My dad, who died when I was 15 ... I can see him riding his bike alongside me during a long run. I can see him getting excited about a race. I can see him, dare I say, being inspired to pursue his own athletic endeavors. A century, perhaps?
◊ ◊ ◊
"Your mom was proud of you from the very beginning. She loved you both very much. When she was diagnosed with diabetes, it threw her into a 'poor me' mentality."
I asked Grandma what she thought about the conversation with my co-worker and whether she would have any insight. Of all the people in my life, my grandma knew my mom best. Knew my mom and me best.
Grandma talked for a bit, hashing out things I've had to hash out a million times before as I struggle to really understand things. Still. It always comes back to that mentality. It had left her to blame others, to become more depressed, to become more troubled with herself. It caused her to lash out and to spiral. To push people away. Push me away.
"She would have been jealous," my grandma said. "But, no, she would have been proud."