|Grandma on her graduation day|
I’ve been thinking of my grandma a lot lately. She’s been gone for several years now, but I still miss her from time to time, especially during the holidays. She was a wonderful and compassionate human being and did so much for the people around her. And she loved her family abundantly and unconditionally, and I can remember what it felt like to be the focus of that love, and I do miss it.
The last time I saw my grandmother alive and conscious was a week before she was placed into a medically induced coma. She’d been having trouble with her heart again, and angioplasties weren't cutting it anymore. If I’m remembering correctly (and I may not be—that whole week and the following month was a heart-wrenching blur), I went to visit her in the hospital the day before they decided she needed open heart surgery. She seemed so pale and small in that hospital bed. We talked. I don’t remember the whole conversation, but I do remember the topic of my weight came up. At the time I weighed just over three hundred pounds, and with the history of heart conditions and diabetes in my family, grandma was worried. I clearly remember the moment she took my hand into her own and asked:
“Will you promise me something?”
She was uncharacteristically serious as she asked, and I can remember the hair on my arms standing on end as I looked into her sharp, intelligent eyes. In that moment all I could do was nod because my voice had failed me.
“Promise me you’ll do what you can to take the weight off. Promise me you’ll take care of yourself. I don’t want you to go through what I’m going through right now. I don’t want you to have that kind of life. I don’t want you to be this sick. Promise me?”
“I promise.” I whispered. I was crying by that time, because I think we both knew on some sub-conscious level that maybe things weren't going to go so well the next day. They didn't. She didn't get to come home for Christmas, and she passed away after the New Year.
The crazy thing is, I forgot about that promise until recently. I’m not sure why I suddenly remembered it now. Maybe I willfully forgot because I couldn't stand the shame that came from trying and failing to keep that promise numerous times. The last few months have been a terrible uphill struggle, and the upcoming holidays are not going to make it easier. The addiction has come into full play. I find myself eating trigger foods full of salt, sugar, and fat and ignoring any and all attempts by caring friends and family to stop and think about what I’m doing.
It’s fine, that inner voice says as I indulge in these foods. You can stop whenever you want.
Then sometime last week I happened to look up at the wall next to my computer desk. My grandmother’s high school graduation picture is hanging on that wall, and my eyes were drawn to it, and suddenly I was reminded of that final conversation and the promise I made. I closed my eyes and I could see and hear her in that hospital bed. I could feel her fingers around my own, her skin dry and thin and her touch cool.
Promise me, she said. And I promised. I promised, but I forgot. But I remember now, and the person I am now doesn't make promises lightly. I do all I can to keep them. So I promise, Grandma. Even though I’ll still probably make mistakes along the way and have bad days, I promise.
I promise to pick myself up and keep trying, no matter how many times I may fall.