My grandpa Sidney was a character. He was definitely one-of-a-kind; a wonderful businessman, a good provider, a strong-willed, successful and respected person in St Louis and around the United States. He loved being a grandfather and was proud of his grandchildren. Grandpa Sid was not the monster that this post will make him out to be; he is a part of my history and my family, and while I am still learning how to love him and accept that he loved me the best way he knew how, I can not tell my story without talking about our relationship. It wasn't pretty and he is the cause of a lot of the issues I struggle with everyday. But, I am ready to forgive--and to move on--and to try as hard as I can to remember the times where I felt that he loved me.
My grandpa hated having a fat granddaughter, and he wasn't afraid to hide it. He himself struggled with a weight problem for several years, and managed to lose 60lbs before I was born and keep it off for the remainder of his life. To him, being overweight meant you were weak and undisciplined, and far be it for him to have a member of his family who was anything like that. From the time I was 3 years old, he made comments about my weight and how ugly it was; he would poke me in the stomach with the ends of cooking utensils and would repeatedly tell me that I would be better off if I was skinny. There were times when I would bring him straight-A report cards and he would tell me that good grades don't matter when you're fat. He would shake his head when I walked into the room, asking me why I wasn't beautiful like my other cousins. There were multiple times when he would beg and bribe me to lose weight, offering toys, new clothes, money, cars, etc., saying it was best for me and my health, and telling me how proud he would be WHEN I LOST WEIGHT.
It didn't seem to matter what I did, or how hard I tried; I could never make him happy. Every time I tried a diet program he was involved; the worst times were when I had to call and report how I did at Weight Watchers every week. He would expect my phone call, and couldn't hide his disappointment whenever I gained instead of lost. He would ask me what I ate that week and told me that desserts and treats weren't allowed in the week to come, because he didn't want any more phone calls like this. He also put me on any new diet plan he could find. I still remember the taste of the chalky "chocolate" flavored meal replacement pills he made me eat in the 3rd grade, and his excitement when explaining that I could drink "milkshakes" (i.e. Slim Fast) for breakfast and lunch a few years before.
I tried and tried, and yet NOTHING seemed to work. He seemed to enjoy putting me through this vicious cycle, making me promise this diet will work, and clearly expressing his disappointment whenever it didn't. I tried and tried, and nothing worked, and the numbers on the scale kept going up and up and up. The older I got, the more he tried, the more disappointed he became, the more he seemed to be ashamed of me. All I wanted was to please him, and in turn I consistently disappointed myself and grew to hate myself more and more.
Grandpa Sid died when I was 17. I remember being at the hospice the day he died as we were all saying our final goodbyes. I stood next to him silently, cursing him inside my head, not mourning HIM, but mourning the fact that he never cared to know me as anything other than a body. He never cared about my singing, my passion. He never cared about the activities I was involved in or the good grades I brought home. All he cared about was the number that was always too high, and I was furious that I never told him how angry I was. I was upset that I never stood up for myself or forced him to hear the voice that was raging inside of me. I couldn't bring myself to throw dirt on his coffin at the funeral, which I don't regret today even though it is seen as incredibly disrespectful, especially for your own grandfather.
There were plenty of other instances I could talk about, and maybe I will sometime. I sometimes wonder what would have happened if he hadn't tried so hard. Would I view myself differently now had he told me I was beautiful and special and talented and wonderful as I was growing up? Would my issues with men be what they are today had he treated me more like a treasure and less like a number? Or maybe, just maybe, would I have outgrown my weight problems as a child had they been handled differently? Maybe not, but I can't help but think about it sometimes.
If I learned anything from my grandfather, it's what I will do and say when I have children and grandchildren. Especially if I have girls. I will tell them that they're beautiful, whether they are a size 2 or a size 20. I will tell them they are completely and unconditionally loved just as they are. I will tell them that they come from a long line of strong, healthy people, including their great or great-great grandfather. I will tell them to believe in themselves and the power of their dreams, and that if they want something and work hard, they accomplish anything. I will remind them that we are all created in Gd's image and have the power to let our inner beauty shine through and count more than our outer beauty.
From this point forward, I choose to think that my grandfather would be proud to call me his granddaughter.