In junior year of high school, I remember skipping lunch because I hated eating in front of people. I ended up sitting alone – which is completely normal for me, so I had no problem – and I would eat my lunch… sometimes.
Sometimes I would skip and tell my mom, “I forgot”, when in reality, I didn’t (but do be honest, there were times I forgot and headed to the school library automatically).
Then it got to the point I would skip lunch for consecutive days and no longer feel hunger. My excuses? “I don’t like lunchables anymore.” “I forgot.” “I had a test.” “I had a meeting.” “I really wasn’t hungry.” “I had to study.” “I had to do [insert whatever other thing you can think of] instead.”
It didn’t really affect me, but to tell you the truth, my mom’s words always bugged and irritated me: “You’ll get ulcers. That’s not healthy. Rocky, we don’t have money for your hospital bills.”
Don’t have money for your hospital bills – that’s what my mom was thinking of?
It made me upset and go on a rampage. I would storm off into my room after eating a little bit of dinner.
“Are you doing it to lose weight?” my mom asked me. “You’re so skinny already. Go eat your lunch.”
I wasn’t doing it to lose weight. I just hated the idea of eating lunch. But my mom’s words bothered me. Why? Just a week before that, she said I needed to lose weight.
Then, when I shut the door to the world, a knock.
I dreaded the knock. It was my mom, no doubt. I didn’t want to speak to her about the lunchables I put to waste, the ulcers I would get, and the money I would use.
But it wasn’t my mom.
My grandmother walks in the room, her wrinkly hands at her sides, showing her old age and hard work. She looks to me and speaks quietly – the type of voice she made when she spoke about a serious matter.
“Rocky,” she says, “why aren’t you eating lunch?”
The sudden softness compared to my mom’s overt anger shocked me, unnerved me. “Oh, I just forget to eat lunch,” I say in a high-pitched voice, the voice I use when I say a joke or when I talk about something jokingly to ease tension.
“Uh,” my grandmother says, trying to find the words in English. She sighs. “As I always say, Rocky, ‘Health is wealth.’ ”
“Oh,” I say in a high voice, still trying to process that for the first time in my entire life, my grandma is lecturing me.
“Money comes later,” she says. “Your health is needed to live, to do things. So…” Her voice trails off as she tries to think of more words. “Health is wealth.”
“Yeah. Health is wealth,” I repeat in a high voice.
“Okay,” she says with a smile on her mouth and in her eyes. She turns around and heads for the door, feeling accomplished.
The next day, I ate lunch.
“Health is wealth,” I whisper as I sit at a table outside and take out soup my mom made specially for me. “Health is wealth.”