Saturday, November 12, 2011
Sister Margaret Anne
Photo taken yesterday whilst out and about locally.
She was a plain woman. Some might say ugly. A whiskered and misaligned face which drooped in chronic disappointment at life and those participating in it. Nature compensated her with beautiful hands, large, well formed and competent, the hands of a sculptor, and naturally blonde hair which she wore in a fluffy halo around her head. An incongruous appearance.
At the age of thirty-six, when her widowed mother died, she left her nursing order of Catholic sisters and reclaimed her birth name of Grace. She wrote to a man who had an advertisement in the lonely hearts section of the Catholic Register. Serious replies only, he said. Loyal, he said. Looks not important, he said.
How was she to know when he drove all the way from rural Saskatchewan to Brampton, Ontario to meet her and marry her within the month that he was a drunk and would beat her every Saturday afternoon and make her perform disgusting things in bed? She a thirty-six year old virgin and twenty years in a convent her only life experience?
She desperately wanted a child so suffered the daily indignities of living with such a man. And of course there were the vows of holy matrimony, and the leaving of the convent to consider. Pride? Yes, she swallowed it.
Her longed for child resulted in a great hulking daughter with the bright red hair of her father who outweighed her own mother by her tenth birthday. This was the year Grace left her husband and had a restraining order placed on him by the courts. Her divorce and subsequent annulment on the grounds of unrepentant abuse and chronic alcoholism followed swiftly.
Her daughter moved out when she was barely sixteen. Searching, Grace found her living in a commune on Bathurst Street in Toronto, high on drugs and alcohol. Grace refused to speculate on the type of income that would support such a lifestyle and thought it best, after pleading with her, to leave her there. It had been a challenge to love such a child, a child who seemed like her father reincarnated in female form.
Grace drifted backwards, drawn more and more to the life that had been so safe and uncomplicated. She retook her vows of poverty, chastity and obedience and asked for, and was given, work in the wards of the terminally ill.
She would often say to me that she didn't know what that long intermission was about as all she was taught when she was out in the real world was how to hate the man who had abused her and the ungrateful daughter who was his seed through and through.
And I'd say - Hate? Is hate all you learned? Can't you let it go?
And she'd shake her head vehemently and her crooked mouth would settle into a grim straight line and she'd hiss:
You don't understand at all, do you? Hate is all I have left.