I spent some of my creepiest nights in a convent growing up.
It’s no secret my mom’s sister, aka, Aunt Lucy was a Franciscan nun, and my mom, a devout Catholic. Sometimes we would visit her in Poughkeepsie when she was the principal of St. Francis School, and because of the distance back home, we would dine and sleep with the nuns.
The nuns were all kind and fawned all over me because I was little.
But, I could not escape the rickety-ness of everything in their very meager, old, musty smelling abode, laden with saint statues whose eyes seemed to be on me at every turn. I found solace in the itty bitty chapel, but when I slept over I used to hold my pee overnight so I didn’t encounter St. Rose of Lima by the bathroom.
There was no en suite toilet, and I had my mom walk me in the morning because I was scared. There was something about it that reminded me of the Haunted House ride in the Magic Kingdom. I expected spirits to join us at breakfast and I couldn’t wait to get in the car and split.
As I grew older and more mature, aware of the sacrifices of religious vocation, it wasn’t the décor or the saint replicas which threw me for a loop…it was the lifestyle.
Aunt Lucy entered the convent at seventeen, and never looked back. I understand loving the Lord…my devotion falls just slightly short of moving in with a horde of same sex devotees for the rest of my life, so I understand her passion and her devotion…but no man is an island.
I remember peering at her once when she didn’t see me, when my niece Jennifer was born in 1977. We went to visit my sister in Sherborn, Massachusetts. With nobody watching, she took Jenni out of the bassinette, just to hold her. No fanfare. No noise. No crying. Just her and this little newborn. That moment is etched in my brain, and on my heart for 44 years.
When I think about it, there must have been a craving for motherhood, because for most of us, parenting is natural. A woman’s desire for a baby can override every thought, every importunity in life, and yet she chose, chose I say, to fight the natural instinct and human desire to be close to another life.
I knew she loved family. She loved our holidays, our meals, our stories, speaking Vastese with her siblings and sharing childhood memories, but how do you walk away from that after a few hours and not need a mate…someone to rehash, recap, uncoil with? How do you go to bed alone without a good-night kiss, and “I love you.”
It must be lonely. It must have been lonely, but she would never admit it.
How do you spend your existence with other nuns who have nothing to really contribute to your existence except the same day to day devotion, which is beautiful, don’t get me wrong, but that’s it.
How do you not want to hug someone after a long day, your partner, your equal in life, your coparent, whether your day was good or bad, and look forward to that moment when they walk through the door. Yeah, I get it, not every day is “that” day, but there is some element to the comfort of a human hug, a kiss, normalcy of a homelife.
As I raise my kids now as a single mom, and I stress, with the RIGHT person, my BFFL, my companion, my confidant, I miss the adult comradery, the alone time, a dinner, and adult conversation with someone who has my back every day. I look forward to that eventually.
I realized the other night when I had a not so pleasant encounter in the teenage life of one of my kids, I was derailed, crying, emoting, and I needed logical back up. Someone to say, “Lin, this is teenage crap. Back off. Let it settle. Let’s talk. Let’s go for a drink or ice cream. Don’t be so emotional. Don’t be so dramatic. It hurts, but this is how it is.”
I didn’t have any of that, and I just cried in my room, like a room in the convent…and it sucked. I was alone in my thoughts, rehashing the ugliness of the last half hour.
Nobody sat on my bed, I didn’t feel the warmth of the body heat only another person can produce, the smell of cologne or B.O., or even a bad breath kiss.
Someone might say, but you are surrounded with love…you have eight children. And, I never take it for granted. But, it is not the same love.
Genesis 2:18, even the Lord in his infinite, primitive wisdom said:
“It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make him a suitable helper.”
Helper? Hmm…but the take home is that man, (as in mankind) needs a mate, a back up, a refuge.
It is also written, Proverbs, 18:22:
“He who finds a wife, finds a good thing, and obtains favor with the Lord.”
Let’s stress good wife, here. Like myself LOL.
Lonely can be by choice, whether it’s religious devotion like Aunt Lucy, or the proverbial bachelor, who just can’t commit.
Sometimes people, like myself tried so hard to make the relationship work, but it takes two people who want to make it work, who understand what it’s about.
But, in the end, we need “that person.” It’s unnatural not to have “that person,” in good times and in bad, venting about an ugly moment with the kids or shit that went on at the office.
And, “in sickness and in health.” My God…dying alone.
Not being cared for by someone who committed themselves to YOU…holding your hand through a scary procedure. Waking up from anesthesia and seeing your forever person there smiling at you because you just snored in the nurse’s face and farted uncontrollably for two hours. Or, taking the day off for your colonoscopy or mammogram because you are scared shitless.
Yeah, you can call on your best girlfriend to get you there and home, but when they go back to their families, you are alone in the convent.
Although we think we can make it alone, do it alone, and for the toughness I think I have, deep down I don’t. I don’t think anyone does.
Everybody needs somebody. God created us to procreate so we can have our own people, and give our people to someone else’s people.
It’s that simple. It’s that natural. It’s that beautiful.
So, as I reflect on my aunt, her anniversary coming up in August, if she could hear me, I would say…
“Aunt Lucy, you have to admit…it must have been lonely in that convent.”