by Cindy Hasz
American Reporter Correspondent
San Diego, Calif.
December 31, 2001
AN ELDERLY MOTHER'S 'VIA DOLOROSA'
SAN DIEGO -- "Sometimes I feel like a motherless child," the song goes. We all recognize the feeling. And sometimes that sense of real or existential abandonment can be compounded.
Sometimes you can feel like a childless mother.
Myriad are the older women I know and care for whose children have abandoned them. They tick off rosary beads for solace between bent arthritic fingers or say litanies to Our Lady of Sorrows. Some find no solace anywhere. All live with a gnawing pain that mostly goes wordless.
The errant fruits of their wombs have plausible reasons: they live across the country, are too busy even in the same town etc. A few, I am quite sure, just can't handle old people -- even Mom, maybe especially Mom. It is hard to see the woman who held everything together for you falling apart, but many of them simply shun their mothers because they harbor some unresolved anger about their childhood past.
To some mother's physical failing only salts old wounds. Wounds that fester in unspoken accusation towards the woman whose body first carried them to these perilous shores: "You were never the mother I needed you to be and now you are leaving me once again."
It is no longer a childish whimper or wail; it is a frigid whisper that chills already brittle maternal bones to their marrow.
When you are old, alone and needing comfort in the twilight years, the animosity of your own children is exquisitely painful. It is worse than arthritis or chronic wheezing, worse than bad circulation or cancer.
One of my mother's best friends bears the heavy burden of such anger. She is 88 and going strong in spite of failing lungs and knees. Her children never see her, never call her. She doesn't usually talk about it with us, but she did this Christmas.
Sitting around a candlelit table with my mother and I, she spoke of the pain of her children's rejection. We sat silent in that silent night, feeling reverence for the magnitude of her disclosure. She is one of those women who know intimately her own Via Dolorosa and the sword that can pierce a mother's heart.
The glories of Bethlehem long since passed, life has become her Golgotha. In her story she was not immaculate, but then -- regardless of tradition -- I doubt that that young Jewish girl was either. Mary's pregnant exaltation in the "Magnificat" is nothing if not a canticle of personal redemption. The immaculate cannot appreciate such tender mercies.
Nearing 90, this woman pines for her children's forgiveness and over the years they have withheld it. We don't know what exactly happened and maybe we never will, but I know she aches for the kisses and loving hugs of her grandchildren.
Whatever it was she did, it was long ago. She has suffered purgatory long enough. If I could talk with her son and daughter I would plead with them; surely there must be redemption for sinful, sorrowing mothers who regret the past.
She longs to be included in a family so we've made her part of ours. It will never take the place of her own but it can soothe the deep spasms of pain. Especially at holidays.
Even such a tiny golden stitch in an old woman's broken heart is no small thing. Sometimes just such small mercies are all that hold the world together.
Cindy Hasz is a nurse and writer living in San Diego. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.