Sunday, August 19, 2007

My Mother, the Sister © by adrian

Twenty-one years old, decked out in my ever present ascot and beret, sophisticated, svelte. I'm in a fancy restaurant/bar I frequent named the 5th Avenue, where I'm so well known, I even get my mail sent here. I'm a good looking boy, all the waitresses treat me as their darling and I frequently date some of them. The restaurant's owners often sit at my table. I am invited to the kitchen for New Year's and other special occasion celebratory toasts. I am on top of the world.

I'm sitting with my three older sisters drinking a liqueur and espresso. At the top of the landing I notice a Roman Catholic Nun standing there with a large battered suitcase at her side. She is dressed in the full regalia. Habit, head covering, huge rosary dangling at her side, a tattered black prayer book in her hand. The outfit she's wearing is blue in colour, signifying a different order in the hierarchy of the Church, not the traditional black you may be familiar with. We all turn to look at this woman of the cloth who is so obviously out of place. As if rehearsed, we each exclaim in unison our own personalized variation of "Holy Fuck!", and our jaws drop.

Listen to this...

None of us has seen or heard from the woman we're staring at with our mouths open in over six years. The nun standing at the top of the landing is our mother. I'm not talking some symbolic Christian mother here. We are her spawn. This is the woman from whose loins my sisters and I were wrested.

She bellows out across the restaurant "I knew I would find you here."

I am mortified. Concerned that I will never be able to explain how the goateed, libidinous, dark and intense young man women find so fascinating ended up with a mommy who is a nun. I am a mere twenty-one, and my life is now completely, irrevocably ruined, I will never be able to set foot in this place again.

My mother is a large woman, this is magnified by the enormous outfit she is wearing. She picks up the worn suitcase and trudges towards us. She looks like a huge blue Penguin. As I watch her, I quickly realize this will not be the problem I first anticipated. I will simply tell anyone who asks, "Oh her? she's my mother." and everybody will laugh and say what a card I am, and that will be the end of it. Who would believe such a thing!

Women have always been extremely kind and giving to me. There have only been three women in my life who have ever caused me any difficulty. There was the sister who tried to stab me in my back with a pair of scissors. After that event, we were able to officially forgo the pretence of sibling love and move on. There was another lady along my path that caused me pain. As an existentialist, in order to congratulate myself for all the good things that happen in life, I am determined to accept responsibility for most of my misfortunes. I understood that I contributed to that experience by mixing my life with hers, and survived.

My mother was the third. It started in her pregnancy. We were at war long before I was born.

I had what is called RH-factor or hemolytic disease, which simply means that my blood is RH-Positive, hers is RH-negative, and they do not mix. Her immune system saw me as a foreign object and for her protection produced antibodies to try to destroy me. Because of our incompatibility, I wasn't able to get any nourishment from her body and was slowly wasting away. We spent the entire pregnancy trying to kill each other off.

This incompatibility is not a problem these days, medical procedures deal with it fairly easily, but in 1939 it was an almost certain death sentence for one or both of us. As it turned out I was one of the first in the world that a new procedure was tested on. Immediately after birth the bad blood was drained out one leg as new good blood was pumped in the other. When I was young, I would proudly display the scars on my legs to show where the pumps that gave me succor had been attached. I loved the image that my belly button had in effect been attached to some Frankensteinian machine, and not to my mother.

As she descends on the table, there is much shuffling and moving about. None of us knows whether to flee or make room for her, she's never really batted a home run with any of my sisters either, but for different reasons. We take the easier choice, and shuffle over to make room for her. I have a brief image of us bolting from the booth in different directions as this lady of the cloth arrives.

She now hovers over the table and while staring at me, screams, "Well? How are you?" I intend to answer "Good, thanks." in my finest enunciated voice. What I hear tumbling loudly from my mouth is "Gooth." as I glue bits of the words together. I have been struck dumb by a minion of the Catholic church.

My mother and I have never forgiven the other for the physical suffering we both endured during and immediately after the pregnancy. Every time we face each other, we are forced to re-learn we are part of the same flesh. So, here we go again, only this time, I seem to be stuck on, "When is the sound of a blue nun not German wine?" and "Is blue nun a German wine or a virgin ?" Have the Catholics accidentally sent me a Zen Koan? Am I about to receive enlightenment? Should I order another espresso?...

I am thirteen years old, my father and I are going to church. I have been commanded to attend a meeting with my mother and her spiritual advisor at the church she attends twice daily. It seems because of my age I am the only thing standing in the way of my mother's wish to obtain an annulment . If she can prove my sinfulness to the church she will be allowed to formally request her marriage be dissolved. She desires to remove herself from the drudgery of parenthood so she can become a more religious and saintly being. We meet in the Bishop's office. After ten minutes of my mother and father shouting at each other the bishop orders them to stop. I expect to be asked questions about my beliefs, or lack thereof. I wonder if he will ask my name? I wonder if he knows I'm even in the room? Having not spoken to me, the Bishop announces "Seeing as the boy has obviously already lost his soul, I understand completely there is no point in maintaining this marriage." He looks at my mother and says " I will send my approval of your request to the Holy See in Rome." He stands, smiles, makes the sign of the cross, and blesses my already lost soul. He dismisses me saying, "Go in peace." and I am sent from the room.

Catholics don't allow divorce, in order to get around the sticky business of marriage breakdown they grant annulments. In the eyes of her church, they sort of pretend the marriage never took place. With annulment, they are able to comfortably claim that the marriage was essentially invalid from the beginning. My sisters and I were born in a marriage the Catholics deem didn't, or shouldn't have, existed.

When I last saw my mother six years ago she had been granted her annulment, and was on her way to Rome for a special audience with the Pope. No Bishops this time, she's going to see the Boss. If she can get Him to agree to her new request, she will be given a special dispensation that will allow her to join a convent and eventually become a nun.

Her wish has been granted, and she now belongs to an order that wears a blue Habit in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary. What a perfect choice for a women with four children. She has arrived at this restaurant with impressive armament... She wears uncontestable proof that God is on her side!

My mother now sits with us, her children, wearing a costume of her faith, dressed as a representative of chastity and virtue. Rome has seen fit to dismiss her marriage. Her children are no longer a hindrance to her calling. Her virginity has been restored by a decree of the church, and she is a nun...

I promise myself I will write a story someday...

Everything is empty. Everything is full. Surely in this moment I could start my own religion!

Submerged in the shock of seeing my mother as one of the Sisters of the church I sense there must be something of great gravity and significance that I should say. That I must say! I must find something so profound, so esoteric, so meaningful that it will be written about in history books for eons to come. Could I trust that life will ever allow me to face such a mystical opportunity again?

Yes! Yes! I have it. There is no other choice. I know now exactly what I must say!

"Would you like a pastry, Mom?"