Sharp Cuts…

We moved to Michigan in 1987. This was by far the best thing ever for our marriage. Put some distance (about 750 miles) between me and the folks. We still saw them often. Mom and Dad were in a competition with each other over our kids, odd quirk of their marriage. They each preferred to visit us alone. Mom came for a visit, Dad stayed home. Whenever one of them returned to Rock Valley, they would make each other jealous by repeating cute grandkid stories, weird, but that’s the way they did it. When Dad came he usually had an ulterior motive. Yup, me and the fam were in hot competition with 7,000 inmates at Jackson’s prison. We lost every time, but he was happy and fulfilled. He planned months in advance for a speaking engagement there on a Sunday. When he was visiting he often helped with improvements on our house too. Always a good handyman, except for those odd steps of his.

Lots of trees and leaves. Jackson, 1988…

In 1990, after 25 years of a very bad habit (one of them anyway) John and I decided to quit smoking. Tough time on each other, tough time on the kids (though not as bad as second-hand smoke, but we were not very nice to anyone for the next few crabby months). Over the next 4 years, the after-affects of that decision, I picked up 25 unwanted pounds. Man, everything smelled and tasted so good without nicotine. In ’94 we moved 150 miles west. Shannon had graduated from MSU. She and Ariana were living in Lansing. Josh was a freshman at MSU. Adam was 15. To help with some of Josh’s college bills, I got a part-time job at McDonald’s. Geez, they give you free food when you’re at work. Long story short, gained 10 pounds a year over the next 4 years. Should mention here that this was during that difficult decade I suffered through called menopause (which was still at fault for everything bad). Even so, whatever the name, or where ever I placed the blame, the pounds were stuck on ME.

Ari 3 fishing on Muskegon Lake, 1994…

John was diagnosed with Type II diabetes in 1998. He went to nutrition classes, me being chief cook and bottle washer tagged along. When I saw what they proposed and strongly encouraged, plus how we were eating, I knew he couldn’t and shouldn’t do this alone. Doctor said if he lost a few pounds he might be able to control his diabetes without medication. OK, I’m in. Gave up my favorite 2-all-beef-patties-special-sauce-lettuce-cheese-pickles-onions-on-a-sesame-seed-bun. The fries too, (cried a lot over the fries) except for rare occasions when they just came out of the fryer and were the perfect color golden brown. Then only a dozen with lots of Heinz.

Started walking after I got home from work. I’d lay down for a bit, called it a power nap. You’re kinda aware of what’s going on, but in a zone. I was getting up very early for work, needed to rest the feet and chubby legs before attempting something so radical and dangerous as mild exercise. Soon both of us were losing weight, slow and steady. I decided not to tell Mom I was on a diet. I was going home in a few months and would surprise her. She was quite prejudiced against “heavy-set people.” Not hard to see the disgust on her face when I walked in the door the last 8 years. She would be ecstatic and so proud of me. No one at our house was ever to say that I was out walking (then doing about 5 miles a day). Use any excuse for where I was but never mention “diet or walking” when their grandma called.

By the time we headed to Iowa I had lost about 50 pounds. Legs had muscles from walking. Wasn’t thin, but looked pretty good for not-quite-48. Mona and my best friend Char were at Mom’s when I walked in. Mona immediately said, “Wow, you’ve lost a lot of weight!” “I’ve been on a diet for months and walking everyday to get back in shape!” I preened. She and Char went on and on, then Mona just had to ask how much I weighed? Mom had not spoken one word since I walked in the door and said, “Hi Denise.” I said about 150 and had just started a maintenance program so I wouldn’t keep losing or start gaining it back. Mom asked Char (always slim, trim and perfect in her eyes) how much she weighed? Char hemmed and hawed, then finally said about 140. Mom looked at me and said, “Denise, I’ve always thought you look your best at 130.” Thud. Oh Mom, you’re killing me here. Nothing like a slam-dunk-one-liner to negate my 6 months of hard work and just shoot it to hell.

I had loved her with all my heart my entire life. Liking her was much harder to do. I knew she had some mental health issues which I was desperately trying to take in account here. All in all though, pleasing her was impossible. I would never be able to measure up to her expectations. How I wish I would have known that sooner…


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