â€śYou will never see me again!â€ť I screamed. I knew I was running out of time as we approached the airport. â€śIâ€™ll die there! Iâ€™m never coming home.â€ť
â€śAbby, stop. You are getting yourself all worked up and we have to go inside now.â€ť My father parked the car in the dismal parking garage. Ignoring my residual choking on tears, he got out of the car and began to extract the suitcases, careful not to get any grease on his jeans.
Daddy always looked sharp, one more thing I hated about myself. In the last several years I had become more of a skeleton freak show than an attractive daughter he could be proud of. My face was gaunt and haggard and wore the look of an aging smoker. My breasts were flat and my waist curve-less, like a prepubescent boy. I wore sea-foam green sweat pants with the word â€śSPIRITâ€ť in block letters down my right leg. The sweats hung around my thighs like a tent missing poles, but I liked them because I felt small inside them. A sloppy white t-shirt blaring â€śSPIRITâ€ť as well, topped the ensemble.
â€śAbby, get out of the car.â€ť
I debated for a moment, but knew that Iâ€™d never win. The wildest of my tantrums were no match for Dadâ€™s strength, but until now, at least in the battle of wills, I had triumphed. Two days prior my parents played their trump card.
â€śWeâ€™ve tried everything.â€ť My parents had me cornered in their bedroom. Mom spoke because I listened more calmly to her. â€śWeâ€™ve been patient while youâ€™ve promised over and over to try. We are really, really worried about you.â€ť
Momâ€™s voice broke there. Dad turned and glared at my little sisters eavesdropping from the bedroom doorway. Two sets of chocolate brown eyes and one blue pair ducked back into the hallway. Then he shut the door and stepped forward.
â€śYou promised to gain ten pounds in two months.â€ť Dadâ€™s voice was taut. The six-foot-four man that I once thought invincible slouched beneath a heavy burden. â€śOver a month ago, you agreed to the ultimatum that you would gain eight pounds. Youâ€™re nowhere near that. You need help and this is not a discussion. Remuda Ranch agreed to admit you, and we need to be there the day after tomorrow.â€ť Daddy turned and left the room.
I slumped to my knees on the floor. â€śPlease, please, please, Mom! Donâ€™t send me away. I canâ€™t be gone for two months. You might as well disown me. Iâ€™ll die there!â€ť
Forty-eight hours later, Daddy and I walked silently into the Oklahoma City airport. I had begged for Mom to take me. She was more compassionate and not fully convinced that inpatient treatment was the only option for my progressing eating disorder.
Dad carried both suitcases; he knew all my tactics: Burn extra calories by carrying extra weight. That morning I had snuck in 500 jumping jacks and 500 sit-ups in the bathroom. I knew that all exercise would be forbidden when we reached the ranch.
â€śIs she okay?â€ť the flight attendant asked as she eyed me suspiciously and then turned her gaze toward my dad. We had settled into row 17. Dad always sat in the aisle seat because it accommodated his long frame. Glancing at me, he waited for me to answer for myself. Crying had accentuated the perpetual bags beneath my eyes, and they glared red from both anger and the effort to dam up my tears.
â€śYes, sheâ€™s fine,â€ť Dad promised. â€śMay I get a Dr. Pepper? Sheâ€™ll have an orange juice.â€ť
As soon as the stewardess walked away, I shot Dad a look that said, â€śHow dare you! Iâ€™ll never drink those 120 calories and you canâ€™t make me.â€ť
Leaning my head back against the too-straight headrest, I closed my eyes, determined to ignore Dad for the rest of the flight, harboring the satisfaction of having had the last word. But inside, my mind tossed and turned like it would never find rest again.
How on earth did I get here?
This is what I remember...