This morning Facebook brought up a picture to remind me of what I was doing 6 years ago. Normally when Facebook does this, I glance at the picture, either say to myself, “oh, I remember that day,” or surprisingly as I have gotten older I say, “wow, I don’t even remember that!”
If you are reading this, and fall into the “older” category you may be chuckling right now.
This morning, however, the photo took me back in time and brought a wave of memories and feelings. The first thought I had was, “my dad is standing.” Something he can no longer do. In this picture, he was just shy of 80 years old, still healthy, no signs yet of what was to come. I went to Tennessee to be with him for Father’s Day and also to begin planning his 80th birthday party scheduled for that September. His wife, Dene, mentioned some troubling symptoms he was experiencing, but I saw no evidence that anything was wrong. I didn’t want to see that he was uncharacteristically quiet, that he seemed to stay closer to Dene and more dependent upon her presence. Looking back, I didn’t want to see that my super strong, fiercely independent, keenly intelligent, delightfully corny-humored father was beginning to be slightly less himself.
But he was.
A few months later, we had his 80th birthday “hoedown” and my once agile, footloose dad, struggled a wee bit during the square dances to follow the caller. I noticed… but dismissed it as age.
I was wrong.
He had Parkinson’s Disease.. but we didn’t know that then. It would be several more years before we would hear those words.
Today he is a mere shadow of his former self, cannot walk, barely can speak, still cracks a joke (one-liner) on occasion, and requires full-time care. Though once nearly 6 feet tall, the last picture I have of him standing next to me, while I held him, he was shorter than me.
It’s been an emotional journey to watch him as his body and mind fail him. Yet, he is still Dad, and his big personality still shines through from time to time. It is hard to watch a person you love fade away.
It is much easier to be in denial.
The second thing I noticed about the picture was me. My legs. My body. Me.
After this picture was taken, I threw out those clothes, because they made me sad. Of course, we all know the clothes didn’t make me sad… my body, the fact that how I looked in my mind’s eye didn’t match the picture is what was making me sad. But throwing out the clothes was the path I chose to deal with it.
I had already been on Weight Watchers at the point this picture was taken, and was feeling better about myself, walking 3 miles on the back country roads each day I was there, and yet, the photo made it undeniable that my efforts were not getting me the results I so desperately wanted.
And so yes, the answer was to throw out the reminder and even though I didn’t decide to give up.. I gave up.
Denial that something was wrong.
A few years later, I tackled the problem again. Losing over 80 lbs, and doing all within my power to “normalize” my body. Once again, through will, determination, and hard work I had beat my body back into submission.
I could look at pictures of myself and see that I looked better. But not “normal.”
My legs and arms were still “wrong.” I measured them with a tape measure every week. No change. “How is this possible?”, I would ask myself.
I didn’t know about lipedema, so I kept telling myself to lose 20 more lbs and my legs would finally disappear. Nope. My weight was stuck, regardless of how hard I tried.
Denial that something was wrong. Denial that there was an explanation.
Today, after 3 lipo surgeries for lipedema, I am happy with me. When I look at photos of myself now, I see “normal” legs. They still shock me.
Denial protects us, until we are ready to deal with reality. I denied that something was wrong with my body that I could not fix on my own, much like I denied that something was happening to my Dad that I had no ability to stop or fix.
Life lesson. Accept. Tackle. Conquer
Too bad that isn’t an option for my dad. .