Saturday, November 06, 2010

103


I was a tagalong today on a visit to an Old Age Residential Facility. I was in the lobby when I remembered the woman who used to own the old house my daughter now owns here was a resident of this home so I went and visited her.

She is 96 years old and reminds me so strongly of my beloved Auntie Francie that my heart broke just a little when I greeted her.

She is as sharp as a tack. I told her we loved the house she had lived in and my daughter was slowly renovating it. She was delighted.

I know very little about her apart from the fact she got married very late in life to a long time bachelor and "they danced in their kitchen every night of their married lives."

I told her my daughter had put a lovely photo of herself and Benny her husband on the dining room wall. At the mention of Benny she started to cry and told me she missed him every day, he made her so happy. Late gifts were all the sweeter when you waited so long, she said.

To distract her a little I asked about her childhood.

Her mother died when she was 5 she said and for 14 years she was put in a Catholic orphanage in St. John's. The Belvedere, run by the Mercy sisters. And didn't get away from there until she was 18 when her father demanded she come home and take care of his aging mother and him which she did.

"You know," she whispered to me, "I can tell you the secret names of all the girls in the Belvedere".

"Secret names?" I said.

She began to list all the names, ordinary names, Annie O'Brien, Mabel Riordan and so on.

"They don't sound like they should be secret names," I said, smiling at her.

"Oh my darling, but they were, they were. We just had numbers there. I was 103."

20 comments:

  1. OMG Numbers ???
    I guess i learn something new every day and sometimes it is not good.

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  2. The nuns yet again showing that they had no mercy, or indeed charity!

    I am glad your friend found happiness.

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  3. I've been going over your last three posts. What a sensible and sensitive woman you are. Except , of course, for going to get a tint. What possessed you?
    Black, for heaven's sake. Have highlights, they don't show up so much.

    I thought you might have gone off me for being rude about the D.M. and professing my love for darling Stephen. I still can't believe it.

    Hateful Catholic children's homes. I am/was a Catholic too.

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  4. Shocking that the girls were known only as numbers. Not even any point to it except sadistic dehumanisation. But it's good that she's lived to a ripe and happy old age despite the way she was treated when she was young.

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  5. So glad she remembered the "secret" names - I can imagine the nuns I knew doing that sort of de-individualizing. I left the church long ago. Glad too, that "103" became a happy wife and got to dance in the kitchen.

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  6. Shades of Molly Child Number 583, eh? I never cease to be amazed by the sheer sadism of those so-called holy women, the nuns.

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  7. 103, ah, what a beautiful woman. She danced every night in her kitchen, in spite of those who would have marginalized her. Thank you for this story.

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  8. What a sad story. It's amazing that poor woman was able to find happiness at some point in her life.

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  9. What a gift she shared with you. Thanks for passing it along to us. She is a testament to the resilience of the spirit. Dance on fair maiden, if only in your mind.

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  10. Twain:
    Many of the orphanages run by the holy brothers and sisters did this, dehumanizing the children and the rest we won't talk about today.
    GM:
    If anybody deserved it, she did.
    Friko:
    I bow my blackish head. And your opinions are always delicious and welcome!
    Nick:
    It was a bonus of living in those 5 star children's homes. I wonder has anyone kept track of what happened to those poor children afterwards.
    Pauline:
    It is hard to comprehend in the light of today, isn't it. And I am so glad she rose above her debasement.
    Tessa:
    It gave me shivers too when she said it. I must take down her whole story, she is an amazing woman.
    Sharon:
    I love to think of her dancing in the kitchen.
    Marcia:
    Oddly enough, she met him at a funeral, maybe it was her old Granny's.
    Brighid:
    I will always think of her dancing.
    XO
    WWW

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  11. ...and it was a sin not to have children.
    Thank you for sharing a true, but sad story.
    I too, hope she and her beloved continue dancing in the kitchens of heaven.
    Helen

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  12. Those nuns (and the priests) will have the hardest time come judgment day.

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  13. Helen:
    The whole illogical brain patterns of the church hurts my head.
    Damned if you did, damned if you didn't.
    XO
    WWW

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  14. Nora:
    If there is a judgement day. Which I doubt.
    And I agree: these are the truly evil.
    XO
    WWW

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  15. How heartbreaking!
    I'm so glad that she was able to find happiness after such a tough start.

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  16. Jo:
    From all accounts they adored each other. She certainly deserved the happiness.
    XO
    WWW

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  17. Guess I have had the good fortune to know some really incredible women who were (and are) nuns. Easy to use one brush but just all of us, they weren't all the same.

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  18. VP:
    I have close friends who are nuns too.
    This story has nothing to do with them.
    XO
    WWW

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  19. Numbers? Real names as secret names? It would be funny if it weren't so sad. Orphanages should be places of love, kindness, and support, not depersonalised institutions like the village in The Prisoner.

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  20. Stan:
    It happened a lot in these institutions, the dehumanization process. It encouraged docility.
    XO
    WWW

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