Here I am waiting for my hour-long spin class. The class is not normally held outside but that day it was and I am not sure why. The class is already brutal with us alternating between standing and sitting while pedaling fast or slow to the beat of the music, so having it outside in front of everyone on that particularly hot afternoon was humiliating torture. Having finished with “the Great Purge” (or rather stopped by my family when they found me dragging the couch out) and with nothing else to do at the “sad” hours (the hours I should still be with Gus) I spin away.
I took up spinning when Gus was in the first grade but not with this kind of rigor (at least four times a week currently). By then, I’d gained a lot (I mean a lot) of weight. It had crept on slowly, almost imperceptibly in a conspiracy with my mirror and aided by my over-self esteem. “I am tall and wear my weight well” – I told myself. The truth was that I was fat. There were reasons for this – legitimate ones – completely understandable. First among them, was that my legs really hurt when I exercised. I’d been a basketball player in high school and even then when I was at my thinnest my legs hurt – actually burned – when I ran, walked or even bicycled. The doctors had no explanation other than suggesting that I drink more water and then later – to lose weight (it is kind of difficult to exercise when your legs seize up). Then there was the stress of having two kids while still in college (architecture school no less) followed by the stress of buying a fixer-upper house. When Gus was born, the older boys were twelve and ten, at the height of their million activities and I had no time. I liked to sleep between working full-time, the kids’ sports activities, fixing the fixer-upper house AND a new baby. The added “baby weight” settled in nicely – everywhere. Then Gus got sick the first time and I ate nothing but fast food for the entire year he was in treatment. I ballooned into a 287 pound fatty.
By the time Gus was in kindergarten, I no longer thought I could look good. I just accepted my “curves”. Then little Gus would sit with me when I combed my hair, read to him, watched TV or made dinner for the family and staring into my face say “Mom you are so beautiful”. Then, turning to his brothers who were in high school and never so much as looked at me, added “just look at her face! Isn’t she beautiful?” One day he added to the “Mom, you are so beautiful”, a “but maybe you could get smaller” with his little hands gesturing that my circumference could shrink. Knowing full well what he meant I responded “Gus. You want me to get shorter? I can’t. I am tall.” He’d walked away shaking his head.
There is an odd kind of vanity in sharing that my son thought I was beautiful. Sort of pathetic. Didn’t her husband think she was beautiful? Didn’t he tell her? Don’t all kids think their mothers are beautiful? I suppose so, but until Gus, my other sons had never considered what I looked like – or if they did they’d kept it to themselves. And while my husband often told me he still found me beautiful, I was fat and therefore I thought he was just being polite or in need of something. Sex? Unconditional love? Trying to get out of trouble? But Gus already had my devotion and if anyone should have ignored me it was him. He who had already been through so much should be the last person concerned with my looks or health – he should be singularly focused on himself and his needs. He was the baby, the one that had been so sick, the one we all doted on. But Gus was not like that – he was always very aware of others.
I resolved to be the person Gus saw and do exactly what he wanted – “get smaller”. I eliminated the pain in my legs with NAET (Nambudripad’s Allergy Elimination Techniques – look it up it works) and acupuncture. I started walking and then I discovered spin. That first day on the bike, rubbed raw you know where, my legs felt rubbery and I could barely make it back down the stairs but I was hooked. Cycling indoors to music? How can it get any better? Over the next two years I lost fifty pounds. But then Gus got sick again and I gained some of it back (almost twenty pounds).
I don’t think anyone would have blamed me if I’d gained all the weight back and then some. I’d lost my precious baby boy. But then one day, as I wondered what more to discard, I remembered Gus sweet face. The sweet face of the little boy who thought I could be better. The glowing face of the slightly older boy who’d lost his final battle with cancer but was no quitter. He’d endured his treatments with a smile, constantly comforting me – “Mom, don’t cry I’m fine”. So I got back on that bike. I’ve lost the sixty pounds so far – with another thirty to go. Gus’ mom is no quitter either.
Me & Gus just before he got sick the first time.
Me & Gus’ after his first bout with cancer.
Me & Gus – after I discovered spin.
Me and Gus during his second battle.
Me now – sixty pounds lighter.
See Gus – Mommy IS smaller!