My Blog

August 8, 2017

Elderly Mothers and Their Religious Beliefs

I attribute her attitude to arrogance.

Sunday after breakfast I decided Mom needed to get out of her room more. She has remained cooped up in her apartment getting out only for meals and an occasional 2 pm Ice Cream Social in the parlor. I suggested, perhaps a trifle forcefully, that she should go to the very nice and well-attended religious service here at Mom’s Residential Facility. Several of the lovely ladies had invited her to come, so I took her.

I parked her in the front row. I know, I know, no one ever sits in the front row. Baptists sit in the back, Methodists in the middle and the various other varieties of religious denominations scatter themselves on the fringes. Mom was in the front. I wanted to make sure she could hear.

The minister and his wife swooped down upon her, sitting on either side, introduced themselves and began chatting away. They asked questions, few of which she answered, and explained their ministry, their background, their history, their family, their dedication, their interests, and their aspirations for the group at the Facility. She just stared. I’m not certain how much she heard.

Mom is nothing if not eclectic in her religious tastes. I believe her parents were Presbyterian while they lived in Miami in the winter and on their sojourns in upstate New York during the summer. After Mom married my father and moved to Mexico City in 1945, she joined the non-denominational Union Church. It was a blend of all the protestant religions and it catered to the American community in Catholic Mexico. Who knew all the Protestant religious groups could get along?

By the time of my Mexican father’s death in 1963 and our relocation to the United States, Mom had begun work on her Master’s Degree. While she was in Michigan finishing up her final semester, she parceled us out among family. In my grandmother’s home town of Greenville, Kentucky, we attended a proper, staid Baptist church. I don’t think Mom had time for church in Michigan. When we regathered as a family in Miami, we returned to the Presbyterian Church of her youth.

Then, as she launched into a doctorate at the University of Miami, she began a peregrination into the wilds of Fritz Perls and Gestalt, T-Groups at Esalen, Guided inquiry, Mind explorations, Meditation, Eastern religions, and the Counterculture ideas of the ‘60s. Her explorations, to which we four siblings were exposed, certainly opened our eyes to the variety of religious and philosophical options.

Mom kept coming up with the latest and greatest philosophies which she would impart to us with the zeal of a convert. She introduced us to Vipassana and insisted we should try sitting for hours at Meditation retreats. She bought us books by Eckhart Tolle and espoused his ideas with a religious fervor, even before Oprah got hold of him. She tried Unity, and Universalist, and Unitarian Universalist. She was game for anything.

So, when I took her to the religious service at the Residence Facility, I expected her to be open to new ideas. When I came back from my church to see how it went, I found her lying on her bed, idly playing with her glasses and staring at the ceiling.

“How was it?” I asked.

“Horrible,” she said.

“Surely not,” I said. “It couldn’t have been that bad.”

She insisted. “Horrible. Terrible. Disgusting. The music was bad, the preaching was stupid, and there was no message.”

I stared in amazement. So much for open-minded interest.

Does she feel that she is above the intellectual ramblings of the preacher? Perhaps she feels superior to the others at the Retirement Facility. In her arrogance, she calls them ‘droolers’ not realizing that she herself is one. Is her sense of superiority why she doesn’t seem to be able to make friends? I thought it was her hearing. Maybe not.

Does she really want to discuss Fritz Perls or Eckhart Tolle with her fellow residents? I doubt if she even remembers who they are. Intellectual conversations are a dimly remembered activity for her. Perhaps she thinks she misses those discussions. In actuality, she has trouble following a thought for more than a few minutes.

But she isn’t making friends and she isn’t getting out to meet people. That was the whole point of being here at the Residential Facility. I didn’t want her to be alone at home. But if she won’t talk to anyone else she might as well be alone. Superior, but alone.

About Caroline Castillo Crimm
Retired Professor Emeritus from Sam Houston State University, interested in writing novels and speaking about topics such as the history of Latin American. Would like to share the AMAZING world of the 18th century in Northern New Spain, that's Spanish Texas and Mexico!
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