Hector Garcia called himself “the worst-case scenario” for reasons clear to anyone familiar with the thorough and revelatory account of his last four years on earth, as compiled by San Antonio Express-News staffers Jessica Belasco and Lisa Krantz. Garcia started out as an overweight child and ended up weighing over 600 pounds and dying of an officially unspecified cause, though it was probably chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, as he himself had predicted. He was working on a memoir called “Life Behind the Glass,” relating to the idea he expressed like this:
I always pictured myself as a child with my head up against glass looking at life happening and I was stuck behind the glass. Because no one, no one wanted the fat kid.
That was a bit of emotional exaggeration. Hector Garcia was not shunned like a leper, or tarred and feathered, or ridden out of town on a rail. In actual fact, he had a slew of relatives who were fond of him, as documented by the reporter/photographer team. With such a large family, he was probably seldom alone, unless he wanted to be.
Of course, loneliness comes in various flavors, and he did miss out on other kinds of relationships. He told the news team how he regretted being unable to marry or father children. Technically, he could have done either, especially during the intervals when his bulk was drastically reduced (once by bariatric surgery and another time by diet and exercise). But Garcia explained that because of being an overweight child and teenager, he had never developed social skills, especially with girls. He had learned at an early age, he said, that it was better if he kept to himself.
The Bitter End
Still, it is not true that no one wanted the fat kid. His mother, Elena Garcia, doted on him. In a video clip, the two of them ride scooters through the aisles of a grocery store, symbolizing with grim appropriateness that for both, feeding Hector was a top priority. Still, there is something not just touching, but disturbing, about the photos of Hector and his mom tossing a basketball back and forth. Back home, on his 49th birthday, Hector embraces the cake, as his mother sings to him.
Of all the strands making up this tragic tapestry, the most devastatingly ironic detail is how Hector Garcia met his end – indirectly, through the mother who cared for him so devotedly for almost 50 years. Discharged from a short hospitalization, she did not call ahead but arrived home unexpectedly and rang the bell. Hector answered the door, his breathing labored as usual. Then he collapsed, turned purple, and expired.
The news story mentioned the various factors that make up the current “toxic food environment” in America, but never suggested the possibility of a toxic parent. It was not the job of the reporter and photographer to psychoanalyze their subject or his parents, diagnose their mental states, or even point out their human shortcomings, if any. To suggest anything awry in this family dynamic would be a serious overstepping of bounds. Sensitivity is always of primary importance when dealing with a bereaved family.
Unconditional love is a miraculous thing, and no one provides it better than mothers and fathers. Still, encountering a similar story to this one, a cynic influenced by Freudian theory might point an accusatory finger at one of the obese person’s parents. Feeding a son or daughter into a state of un-dateable obesity could effectively keep that child at home forever, with the parent never challenged by a rival. Surely, somewhere in the world there has been a mother so crippled by insecurity or a father so blinded by possessiveness as to carry out such a plan.
In the context of a movie based on a Stephen King story, the birthday cake scene would look pretty creepy. In this true-life documentary, the editor chose to place these words immediately before that scene. Hector Garcia says:
A lot of the times we’re like this not because we want to be but because certain circumstances in our life have set the table in a certain way. This is a path that we’ve almost been forced to follow, and we don’t know how to get out of that path.
He said something else that could be interpreted in more than one way:
I want people to know what happened to me…. I don’t want other people to go through the suffering that I went through.
Your responses and feedback are welcome!
Source: “A Life Apart: The Toll of Obesity,” expressnews.com, 12/27/14
Image by MsSaraKelly