Our Mothers’ and Fathers’ Keepers (click on link to listen to podcast)
So she set out from the place where she had been living, she and her two daughters-in-law, and they went on their way to go back to the land of Judah. But Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go back each of you to your mother’s house. May the Lord deal kindly with you, as you have dealt with the dead and with me. The Lord grant that you may find security, each of you in the house of your husband.” Then she kissed them, and they wept aloud. They said to her, “No, we will return with you to your people.” But Naomi said, “Turn back, my daughters, why will you go with me? Do I still have sons in my womb that they may become your husbands? Turn back, my daughters, go your way, for I am too old to have a husband. Even if I thought there was hope for me, even if I should have a husband tonight and bear sons, would you then wait until they were grown? Would you then refrain from marrying? No, my daughters, it has been far more bitter for me than for you, because the hand of the Lord has turned against me.” Then they wept aloud again. Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her. So she said, “See, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods; return after your sister-in-law.” But Ruth said, “Do not press me to leave you or to turn back from following you! Where you go, I will go; Where you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die, I will die— there will I be buried. May the Lord do thus and so to me, and more as well, if even death parts me from you!” When Naomi saw that she was determined to go with her, she said no more to her.
And that is what the soldiers did. Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, “Woman, here is your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.
by Sharon Olds
The doctor said to my father, “You asked me
to tell you when nothing more could be done.
That’s what I’m telling you now.” My father
sat quite still, as he always did,
especially not moving his eyes. I had thought
he would rave if he understood he would die,
wave his arms and cry out. He sat up,
thin, and clean, in his clean gown,
like a holy man. The doctor said,
“There are things we can do which might give you time,
but we cannot cure you.” My father said,
“Thank you.” And he sat, motionless, alone,
with the dignity of a foreign leader.
I sat beside him. This was my father.
He had known he was mortal. I had feared they would have to
tie him down. I had not remembered
he had always held still and kept quiet to bear things,
the liquor a way to keep still. I had not
known him. My father had dignity. At the
end of his life his life began
to wake in me.
“His Stillness” by Sharon Olds, from Strike Sparks. © Random House, 2004.
Taking Dinner to My Mother
My mother sits on the edge of her bed,
a scarf on her head to hide the gray hair
she can no longer manage to dye black,
her flesh falling away from the frame of
her face and shoulders, loosened by the loss
of weight when the body betrays the soul,
when the body’s pain forbids all desire.
But tonight she is hungry, and I have
come bearing corned beef and pastrami, bread,
sour pickles and a kasha knish.
I help her to the table in slow, small
steps, a pas de deux we have carried on,
I realize, for almost sixty years, and
I think of how, some time before, I held
my daughter’s hands, bent over, as she learned
how to walk – the fact of balance, which we
live with until it abandons us – and
how my mother, in a photograph, held
me in the same way. Earlier today,
I had stopped at a café and, sitting
still for a moment, looking up from my
book, I watched how, at a nearby table,
a new mother fed her infant daughter,
who sat up in her baby carriage, some
bits of crustless bread held between thumb and
forefinger, while her grandfather talked on,
the smell of her mother’s hand mingled with
this first food, a small bird in her nest. At
my mother’s table I fix her sandwich
and tell her about her granddaughter who
met a boy for a moment in a flea
market, who is now a first love, but my
mother’s eyelids are starting to lower,
her head nodding forward slightly, so I
gather her up and walk her back to her
bed, sit her down and swing her swollen legs
up and then under the covers, turn off
all the lights but one, close and lock the door.
“Taking Dinner to My Mother” by Burt Kimmelman, from As If Free. © Talisman House, 2009.