CREDOS : No compassion — II

Arthur Magida

Hours later, I finally shooed my nephews out of the room, sat down next to my mother and delivered a two-hour monologue about our relationship and the pain of her parting words:

“You have no compassion” — This from a woman who saw me as an interloper and a destroyer: my birth had caus-ed such damage to her interior that she couldn’t resume sex with my father until she had an operation 12 years later.

“You have no compassion” — This from a woman who saw me as so distant, so aloof, so inscrutable that we couldn’t talk to each other until I was about 8 because of my severe speech impediment. After I’d gone through years of speech therapy, she finally didn’t have to ask a cousin who lived near us to run over and “translate” my babble to her. “You have no compassion” — This from a woman who had a hard time relating to my love of books and literature and ideas and always proclaimed, a bit too defensively, “I didn’t go to college, but you don’t need a college education to be smart.”

“You have no compassion” — This from a woman who elevated self-sacrifice to an art, self-effacement to a talent and scolding to a craft. That finger with which she motioned me to her bedside was no aberration. Throughout my life, when that finger pointed at me, I knew I was in trouble. My mother was not in the same league as writer Mary Gordon. In fact, she probably never read anything by Gordon. But the same apprehension that gripped Gordon when her doctor told her she was having a boy probably gripped my mother for many years after giving birth to me: “Oh my God! What will I do with one of them?” —