The Other within Us: Feminist Explorations of Women and Aging

By Marilyn Pearsall | Go to book overview

2
PORTNOY'S MOTHER'S
COMPLAINTS

Pauline Bart

A young man begs his mother for her heart, which a betrothed of his has demanded as a gift; having torn it out of his mother's proffered breast, he races away with it; and as he stumbles, the heart falls to the ground, and he hears it question protectively, "Did you hurt yourself, my son?"

-- Jewish folktale

Mrs. Gold is a young-looking Jewish housewife in her forties. A married daughter lives about 20 miles away. Her hyperactive brain-damaged 13-year-old son has been placed in a special school even farther away. After his departure she became suicidally depressed and was admitted to a mental hospital. I asked her how her life was different now, and she answered:

It's a very lonely life, and this is when I became ill, and I think I'm facing problems
now that I did not face before because I was so involved, especially having a sick
child at home. I didn't think of myself at all. I was just someone that was there to
take care of the needs of my family, my husband and children, especially my sick
child. But now I find that I -- I want something for myself, too. I'm a human being,
and I'm thinking about myself.

She was dissatisfied with her marriage; their mutual concern for their son held the couple together, but when their son entered an institution this bond was loosened, although they visited him every Sunday.

-25-

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