Monday, May 12, 2008

A post-- not fit for Mother's Day-- About My Mother

She plays the piano with gusto, waving her long fingers over the keys with astonishing speed. Like a snake charmer, she coaxes forth melodies composed by the piano itself.

Uninvited, Anorexia sidles next to her on the piano bench. With hot breath, it whispers promises in her ear with no intension of keeping them. It beckons her to follow, luring with a curved finger.

How can she resist? Her internal alarm should provide warning, but a thick layer of self-doubt muffles its clang. She sets off, in pursuit of lies too good to be true.

At first, she has the capacity to choose. She eats, then eradicates all traces of eating; only a few calories leak into her body. The results are impressive. Her chubby thighs, meaty biceps, and flabby post-partum belly disappear as if by magic. She is the magician.

The needle on the scale reflects her loss: 10, 20, 30, 40, 50, 60 pounds.

Then the pain starts. The imbalance of electrolytes causes leg spasms like hot knives searing into her calves. She seeks solace in hot baths, augmenting the temperature with boiling water from the stove.

Anorexia sucks the pink out of her cheeks, leaving them the pallid gray of dry cement. Dark clouds cover her sunken eyes. Her skin hangs from her bones like melting wax. With no remaining body insulation, she tries in vain to make up in blankets what she’s lost in fat.

Now she plays the piano only for a few minutes at a time, tucking several afghans around her small frame. Depressing the piano’s keys taxes her creaking finger joints.

Anorexia removes her ability to choose. Stealthily, it rewires her brain, distorting her body image and ridding her of insight. The scale says 87 pounds, but she is unable to discern its prophecy. In a fit of honesty, a relative tells her she looks “like a walking corpse.” She hears the description, but can’t reconcile it to herself.

Like her atrophied body, the world darkens and shrinks. Days bleed into years. She lies in a waterbed trying to find a comfortable position. Her life fits neatly within the four walls of her bedroom.

That’s where they find her, when they arrive home from school.

Her husband and two daughters remove their shoes and walk on the plush blue carpet, down the hallway that leads to her room. They see. Her body is in bed, but her mind has traveled to the dark, unknown realm of a coma.

She dies two days later.

The piano is silent, covered by a thin layer of dust.


Duck Doc said...

You are truly brave to bring out your "purple spots" for such an important day! You write so well about something so ouchy! I can't even imagine what it must have been like for you to grow up without a healthy mom. Your children will never know that pain or fear that you did. They have been blessed with all of the love that I bet your mama would have loved to be able to show you and couldn't....Big Hugs to you as you remember your mama! And Happy Mother's Day to the best mama those three beautiful, brilliant, challenging and adventurous kids of yours could ever have!

jen said...

oh honey. oh sister.

i don't have the words but i wish i could hug you right now.

Little Monkies said...

My friend, when I read this, I thought of sweet E and S and Tobin in the same situation and my stomach lurched, because surely you and your sister were as beautiful and smart and loving as they are and your father as gentle as Tobin. And I wished your mama peace. It's a hard thing to remember and an entirely different hard thing to forgive. I know you've done well to do both. You have come through this beautiful and strong. Your girls have walked down to other things (a baby brother, indeed) and when the time comes that they walk down the hall for the same reason, you will be old and grey, having taken every ounce of energy out of life with a million memories for them to cherish.

Love you sooooo much. And miss you.

Kendra Joy said...

I love how fearlessly you let your real thoughts and feelings out on this holiday dedicated to Mothers. Though painful, this post is oh so meaningful. It's odd to think that I lived so close to you as these events transpired, but I was so young that I was oblivious. Thank you for sharing part of our family history - your mama memory - so honestly and fearlessly. You are an inspiration for how well you have grown through this. Your children and husband are blessed to have you. Happy Mother's Day, beautiful cousin!

Lori said...

Oh, Ally. I had no idea. But how could I? This is heartbreaking. For you, for your mother, for everyone involved in this sad story.

You wrote about it beautifully- poignant, heart wrenching, and yet lovely. As it should be.

My heart is with you right now.

slouching mom said...

oh, ally. god, i didn't know we had this awful thing in common. my mom is a lifelong anorexic. she weighs 78 pounds right now. it amazes me that she is still alive.

anorexia is the pink elephant in the room. it is her most closely held secret. odd, then, that it's not a secret at all. anyone on the street would know in an instant that she's anorexic.

and yet -- she thinks she's hiding it.

how nuts is THAT?

slouching mom said...

p.s. many xx's and oo's to you.

Anonymous said...

Reading your post and SM's comment, I think how secret it is. No one talks about the children of mothers with this disease. We always talk about parents trying to save their children, not the other way around.

Amy said...

I read this again, slowly this time. It really is beautiful writing. It's ironic and bitter sweet that some of our best writings come from tragedies. (Like some of our classmates' work.) Thanks for sharing.

KC said...

Oh. hugs.

bgirl said...

oh ally,
i've always admired you, the woman you are, the even more. my heart breaks reading this as i'd imagine yours did living it.
big hugs to you.

Seattle Mamacita said...

i admire your strength ally your ability to convey what is difficult to write about and what is difficult to remember. you wrote about your mother a long time ago and I remember so many lines from that post still today because of your magical gift for writing.