Her Papal Obsession

My mother is obsessed with the Pope. Of course she is. She’s 86, Catholic, and Polish. She’s had the Global Catholic Network filling the television screen full-time since Wednesday, when the Pope began his visit to his homeland.
Hey, we all have our obsessions, and she’s certainly welcome to hers. But what’s driving me crazy, is she tries like crazy to make it mine. She wants every episode of his trip videotaped, but, of course, she doesn’t know how to work a vcr, even if I set it to the channel and tell her to press “record” when she wants to start taping.
And it’s not just the Pope. It’s everything she believes that I don’t; everything she sees as desirable that I don’t. It’s been like this all of our lives. So, why, my friends often ask me, am I doing this.
Why do I live across the hall, almost constantly available to someone I wouldn’t have as a friend if she weren’t my mother? My only answer is — because she is my mother. When I needed her financial support she was there for me. When my kids got sick and I had to go to work, she got on a train and came up to take care of them. She’s my mother. In my family, we take care of our old people for as long as we can.
It just seems so bizarre to me these days. My country’s a mess. We are on the verge of destroying the planet. Yet, each day of my life is a separate reality, a world unto itself — decisions to be made, appointments to keep, food to prepare. I do what has to be done and find small ways to give myself something to keep myself going. I blog. I take sewing workshops (just started making a “bog coat”). I get ready to sell my shawls and hats at what probably will be my last craft fair. I begin taking over a partnership in a local dance magazine for which I write — which will mean more writing, more editing, learning how to do some things in Quark, and getting out to cover dance events in the region. I keep trying to create a life that has creative meaning for me around an existence that has at its core major responsibilities for taking care of someone who adds very little to what my life is or can be.
I tell my friends that, if there’s such a thing as karma, I’m building up some major stash of it. And, if there isn’t, well, I guess I will feel that I’ll have done what I believe was the right thing to do. Because I do believe in the golden rule. Because I can’t save the world, but I can make one person’s life — at least the last part of it — a little easier.
But I’m sure glad this Pope stuff is going to be over today. Then she can just play the tapes over and over again. She does know how to press “play” and “stop.”

3 thoughts on “Her Papal Obsession

  1. ELF:
    I disagree with you. Taking care of your mother adds quite a lot to “what your life is or can be.” It has added polish to many aspects of you — tolerance, patience, strength, humor (every time the office gets together you have another funny “senior” story to tell). We do what we have to in life, but you are doing it with grace and love and that has to add to what you life is and will be. Besides, you are my hero since you at least got your mother to use a vcr — mine still can’t figure out the digital clock!

  2. Heh. For my distant blogger friends who might wonder what ELF is, it’s my initials, and I used to use it to sign my memos at work, so my former colleagues (like the above Bonnie) still call me that. And yes, I get together with my old office cronies for lunch once a month because the camaraderie we had is not something I want to lose. We were (and they still are) a shining example of what an office full of women (only some Legally Blonde [see discussions over at Blog sisters]), in a stuffy male-dominated agency — can accomplish together.

  3. What a great post. You know, there’s nobody on the planet who’s known you for as long as your mother. And even if there’s NOTHING else, that’s something.
    Perhaps you do it out of a sense of duty, but I think it’s more than that. For my part, I’ve gotten to know my own mother a lot better since the death of my father. Despite some BIG issues I’ve had with her since adolescence, I’ve come to see that she loves me in a way, and with a stalwartness I feel it’s probably unrealistic to expect from anyone else in my life. She loves me in a way that only a mother possibly could. And ultimately, that bond is one that is not easily broken. I’ve spent years, long years, of my life feeling that I’ve broken it. But it’s not broken. That love goes both ways. I’m grateful that in my lifetime, I’ve had the opportunity to express it. I only hope that when the time comes, I’ll be able to be there for my mother in the way that you’ve been there for yours.
    Fanstastic, Elaine. Thanks for the post. I’ve had a great evening, and your post has made it that much better.

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