It started with a pair of knickers my mom had made for me. I remember the ordeal. WHY am I having these made for me? (in luscious cords of course!) Let's go shop for them. By 7th grade I learned that clothes that fit me came from old lady golf stores. Yes. Truth. I tried on some of the neon yellow skirts and fern print pants. I had those pumpkin harvest sweater vests that make you laugh on my body and considered their purchase as they fit and little else did. I was an over weight child in a house with 4 growing boys, a size 2 mom, and a very understanding father.
Not trying to get too maudlin, but the tears of the clown comes from truth. I can make you laugh. It comes naturally to me. It is my armor- the shell upon my back that I turn quickly towards you, as my underside is thin skinned and vulnerable. I went as far as I could with my humor...smiling while holding my lunch tray aloft, looking, searching...where to sit.
Where to sit.
Where to sit.
Nowhere to sit.
My thighs rubbed together. My clothes, so few of them, were on a rotation. Scheduled as to prevent few repeats a week in the land of Benneton, thin, and plenty. I had to start wearing glasses that had cheek marks on them. Greasy half moons because my face was so large under the owl styled tortoise shell. And my hair was large. Bon Jovi-esque. Overbearing when the weather held humidity.
In short, I was fucked.
Can I say that here?
It is the truth.
I have mentioned in a previous post my father.
How he held me together and got me through my childhood, puberty, and everywhere up to my 25th bday. That was a remarkable ride. Herculean.
It would start with my teddy bear, Mary (now held tight in a sleep's embrace by my middle child. She needs her most.) Dad would come in my room, 11pmish, hearing my cries for the past hour and pick up Mary. Dad would look at the bear, and the bear at Dad and he would say, "Hello Mary. (He would make Mary wave back) Mary, what is going on with my girl?" And I would hold my breath. I would yell in my mind- Tell him about Sarah! Tell him what she does to me in the hallways. Tell him that I can't go back. That I am alone at lunch. Tell him that I need a note that says , "Please excuse Kate. She is fat and has no friends." Tell him that the nurse is trying to take away my lunch card. Tell him that they don't see me and they do see me. Tell him I love Peter Nebauer. Tell him that I must stay home....
I don't know what Mary actually told him every week. He would lean in close and listen to her. He would then lean back, looking in to her eye (the other eye was a victim of the red wiffle ball bat) and say, slowly, like he heard it and believed it,"Ohhhhhhhhhhhhh." And then he would look at me and say, "Kitty Kat." and I would let go of the breath and cry again.
He heard it all. This man who grew up mercilessly teased for being over 6 ft. For having a hunchback. For being 90lbs. For wearing the thick, overwhelming glasses like mine and having the acne that was about to sprout upon my own face. He heard it all. He knew it all. He hated what I knew. And I looked at him and hated what he knew. And he would say, from experience! he would say, "Kate, this will make you a better person. This will make you the person you should be." And though I was a child, I did believe him. I did. There was no other purpose in this life if that were not true.
I love my dad.
(Picture posed by my dad)
I am close with my mom, but she will never know the side that I share with my dad. The pain. The rejection. The character. The words. The growth. The perspective.
And there are days I am with him and look into his eyes....and they are losing the memories. And perhaps they are also losing the words. But I know that we shared them. I know no matter where he retreats within himself with age that we have this, together. That he got me through grade school. That he guilted me through high school. That he danced when my acceptance letter arrived from Mount Holyoke. Danced. On the driveway. On the train platform when he would pick me up from break. In my dorm room when he would visit.
He guided me through it all with love.
(Da and Colleen. Da is telling her that she matters. She always listens to her Da.)
He has written letters to my children, making sure that they understood that on the day they were born he was happy they were in the world. Like a sigh of relief that they were here! That the world can now be the better place for their existence. I can't even read those letters for the aching they cause. It is like my father makes it ok for one to exist. It is so big for me. And he praises me for my raising of his grandchildren. For my guiding them through life's winding and hilly road. I have just begun this journey with them.
All the self worth I have ever felt, came from his voice within me. And though he couldn't manage to make my size unimportant, he made it so that I was more important than it was. That I was everything to him. And if I could be that for him, I was that for myself by default.