Last night we watched the movie “Philomena”. It touched my heart and offered me a perspective that opened my eyes to what my mother must have felt when she, too, had a baby boy taken from her.
I’ve written here before about my big brother who I found out about after my mother passed away. I wonder what my mother thought about her baby. Did she, like Philomena, think about him every day? Did she wonder if he was happy and healthy?
Mom’s cousin was the only other person to know about my brother. She said that my mother was fearful that he would try to find her and upset her life. The world is such a different place today … and such was the shame placed on pregnant and unmarried women in the 1950s. Philomena Lee was powerless when her son was sold by the nuns. My mother felt compelled to “go away” and give away her firstborn child so that her life wouldn’t be destroyed by an unwed pregnancy. I’m certain that a girl from a poor family from “the wrong side of the river” (as my father not-so-kindly reminded her on a regular basis) felt that her reputation would be ruined and she had no choice.
My mother loved her family, loved children and animals and I’m certain that she thought about her baby boy every day. She thought about him when the seasons changed, wondering if he was warm when it snowed, when the forsythia bloomed; on Easter and Christmas and his birthday. On his first day of kIndergarten. When he turned 16 and learned to drive. I’m sure she wondered what color hair he had. Who he looked like. What he loved to do. (One of his passions was shared by mom – tennis!)
When Alzheimer’s Disease began chipping away at her memory in her late 50s, was it a relief? Did the pain of wondering and the fear of discovery lessen with the progression of the disease? Were my parents’ diseases physical manifestations of their secret? Dad suffered from depression, alcoholism and heart disease. Was his heart broken that this first son was given away? Did he drink to forget? Did it help to lessen the fear that their lives could be “disrupted”? Was it easier for my mother to just slip into her failed memory?
My parents took their secret to the grave. I will never have an answer. I can only imagine how they felt. Seeing “Philomena” last night helped me see the situation a little more clearly despite the similar and dissimilar situation.
I hope that mom is able to see him now, happily re-united with his brothers and sister. I hope she knows that he is happy, healthy and loved. Life is good.