Chapter 22 Recalling My Mother – The Woman in My Life

I have some times referred to my mother. Since I owe so much to her, I would like to repeat and amplify how I am indebted to her.

My mother lived for me. I was her only son and I was aware that she sacrificed herself for me. Though it is nearly fifty years since I spoke to her as she was dying in Dublin of lung cancer in 1958, she is still dear and present to me.

The last words she spoke to me on 5th October 1958 was: “ Go back to the seminary!” Her instinct made her feel she was dying. She did not want to infect me with death! My sister dutifully gave up her position as private secretary to the manager of a five-star hotel to be with her for the last six months of her life.

Olga Cosmatos was born in 1911. She was the last of ten children of a Greek family in Cairo. Her father was in business and did well but had no time for her. Her mother only paid attention to her five sons and had little time for her four daughters. I heard this time and time again, as my mother shed tears of self-pity that her parents were not interested in her!

Studying in a Catholic primary school run by Franciscan Sisters, she loved her school which taught in English and French. She never learned to read or write Greek, but spoke it in her family.

Her brothers were a source of fascination and wonder to her. Nicholas the eldest was the responsible head of the family; he was the manager of an English company dealing in luxury bathroom fittings. This is how John Ward, who worked there, married her third elder sister Fifi in 1924. This eventually led my father into the family. Tragically John Ward died two years after marriage, and eventually Fifi married one of his friends, Jack Rowe, who was a friend of my father.

Three of her other brothers were a bit like “play boys”. They eventually got into the insurance business. One became an English secondary school teacher. Alex was younger and different, and my mother’s favourite, who was just a year older than her. He was always well dressed and acted like a gentleman. But unfortunately she had little contacts with him, in days before the telephone and easy travel. Her eldest sister was Nellie, who married an Italian building contractor and had three sons, all of whom grew up in Italy. My mother considered Nellie “crazy” and there was no love lost between them. Mary married a Croatian and had only one son who died young. My mother considered her odd and withdrawn and she had no dealings with her. But it was Fifi who was her support and real friend from 1934 to 1952. It was Fifi who introduced her husband’s friend, Harold Naylor, to the Cosmatos family, and eventually arranged my mother’s wedding. Following the wedding, my father brought my mother to Damascus in 1929.

From that day on, it is a fact that my mother had virtually no contacts with her family. In Damascus, I was the centre of her life. Her friends were French families with young children. There were no English speakers around who had families. My father’s friends were all unmarried.

From the earliest days, there was always a lodger in our home. The first who stayed until 1937 was a New Zealander called Jack Pickard, who worked with my father in Nairns. With that extra income in her hands, my mother moved us to a bigger apartment. My mother was always dressed in modern style, and she kept a beautiful home.

Fifi would cheer my mother up with her funny stories and what is more she loved me and continually showered gifts on me. And it was through Fifi that Peter Carroll, twelve years younger than my father and six years younger than my mother, came to be our lodger from 1940-1946. Fifi and her husband Jack Rowe were close friends of my father.

Cut off from all her family, my mother in Damascus was in her twenties and entertained my father’s friends at home and was very social. She was a very beautiful woman always dressed stylishly. She kept a colourful modern home. She was always at home, and I was her priority in every way.

While in Jerusalem, the only time she left her family circle was to join a choir. She loved singing and music. It was her disappointment that I did not take to playing the piano.

I remember my mother always saying the Rosary at the picture of Our Lady of Lourdes in her bed room. I was sickly, so she often took me to Church and lit a candle for me at the Altar of Our Lady. And she always took me to Sunday Mass. Priests were often visitors for tea at our home, and she had many Religious Sisters who were her friends.

My sister, Patricia, was born in 1938,and was the centre of my father’s life. I liked my little sister but also treated her as a bit of a nuisance. I was always bossing her around, as she was seven years younger. She resented this and also my position as centre of my mother’s life. I was intelligent and she felt inferior. Everything I wanted was done, but she was sidelined. I was always right and she was put in the shadow. Our relations became more strained with our step father after 1948. I liked Peter Carroll and got along very well with him- she disliked him.

Fifi came to visit us in Damascus, when she moved to Jerusalem in 1935, and lived with Kazia. When we moved to Jerusalem in 1940, we lived next to Fifi and her husband Jack Rowe, and Kazia and her son Michael, whom I looked up to as my older brother and hero.

My mother loved singing, and often cried in my presence as she regretted not taking the offer to join an opera company when she was fifteen. Her family would not accept such a future for her, but she found joy and fulfillment in singing and music.

I felt very important. My mother told me all her worries and plans. She trusted me completely, and would follow any ideas I had. I felt an adult well before I was nineteen.

She repeatedly told me that she was the best friend I would ever have. She had complete trust and confidence in me, which was wonderful. She told me everything in her heart and I did the same. She warned me about girls and unmarried women. My future was to study well and be a respected man as a medical doctor. I was to play with other boys and be careful in my dealings with women, especially unmarried women, whom she said all wanted to get married and have children!

As I look back, I see how wise she was with finances. Very early on, she insisted in having her bank account. She arranged that a good portion of what my father earnings was put into her account. My father’s expenses were simple, and mostly on drink. My mother was thinking of my future educational expenses and also of buying a home when we went to Ireland.

Then she was also thinking of retirement. My father was content with a simple life, like a glass of bear and a game of billiards. And he would never think of return to England. Jerusalem in the 1940s was a dangerous place. The British were between the Palestinians in their struggle with the Israelis. My mother saw no future for us in the Near East and wanted to go to England, but my father just would never go back to England as he saw his future in the Arab world. Fortunately she had the finances, as my father was very generous in paying most of his salary every month into her account. Thus we could live, and eventually we bought a house in Dublin.

My mother finally took the initiative and moved us to London in June 1947. This was a year before the end the British Mandate of Palestine in May 1948. She contacted my father’s family and we were made welcome.

Fortunately, Peter Carroll finished his life with the Palestine Police in February 1948. He eventually married my mother after my father’s death in May 1947. He was a close protegee of Fifi’s and was a close family friend in Jerusalem since we moved there in 1940. He also accompanied us to Dublin, where I was to study Medicine and we were to look after Michael’s mother.

My mother saw that my heart was to be a priest and Jesuit. Eventually she accepted my determination in 1951 and supported me to be a Jesuit. I was very consoled by that. She was very proud of me, as all the neighbours regarded her as heroic, as her son was a Jesuit. My mother had often told me that she looked forward to me marrying and then she could have grandchildren. But now she accepted my determination, which she always respected.

After I entered the Society of Jesus, she adopted a one year old boy in 1954, whom we called Nicholas. I noticed that she changed to be like a young mother. However, her health declined and she died in our home on Thormamby Road, Howth, Co. Dublin on 8th Oct 1958.She is buried at St.Fintan’s Sutton. The adopted son was taken by my step father to be brought up with his sister in Liverpool, and finally emigrated to Australia as a psychiatric nurse in prisons.

My sister Patricia married two years later in 1960 and our house was sold. My sister has ever since lived near where my mother is buried, and brought up a happy family of three, who are now all married.

I must tell a story about my mother in the years of 1953-6, when I was at University as a Jesuit. In those days, becoming a Jesuit meant leaving your home to be completely dedicated to God. The Jesuit practice was to allow a monthly visit to parents. When I was a novice forty miles away, my family came on a Sunday from 10am to 5pm. When I was at university, we were allowed home for a visit once a month from 10am to 6pm. But I had a secret meeting with my mother every Tuesday at lunch time!

As young Jesuits, during term time, we cycled into lectures at 8am and after three lectures returned to the seminary for lunch at 1pm. But I had laboratory work at 2pm, so I had lunch in the College of Science and then laboratory work until 5pm. On Tuesdays I would slip out of the university during term time and meet my mother in a lonely lane, where we would have a cup of tea and she would give me an apple or pear. We talked for 45 minutes, as she wanted to know all the details of what I was doing and thinking. I felt her complete support for my Jesuit vocation.

Though years pass, I think of my mother as a beautiful mother, who lived for me, trusted me, and was intimate with me. I pray for her at every mass I say ever since. I look forward to be with her for all eternity. (1931)

erusalem 1943 with My sister and My mother

y real family! (from left to right: my step father Peter Carroll,

Me, my sister, Fifi, jack Rowe and Kazia Dublin 1954)

With my mother 1944 Mother, Sister and self 1942

ichael and me 1936

第二十二章 憶吾母 - 我生命中的女人




我母親Olga Cosmatos,於一九一一年生於一個在開羅的希臘家庭,是家中十個孩子中最幼的一個,她的父親是一個商人,生意做得很好,但沒有時間照顧她,她的母親衹關心六個兒子,而很少時間照料四個女兒,我聽母親自憐的流著眼淚說了很多遍。

我母親在一間由Franciscan sisters修女開辦的天主教小學讀書,她很喜愛她的學校,學校用英語和法文教書,她從未學過讀寫希臘文,但她在家堿O講希臘話的。

舅父常為我母親帶來迷惑和驚奇,Nicolas舅父是長子,也是一家之主,他是一間英國高檔浴室用品公司的經理,那是在一九二四年John WadeFifi姨母結婚,最後,也使我父親加入他們的大家庭,John Wade不幸於結婚兩年便去世,Fifi姨母後來嫁了她的朋友 Jack Rowe同時他也是我父親的朋友。

母親的三個兄弟,有點像花花公子,但後來他們都入了保險行業,其中一個舅父當了中學教師,Alex舅父比母親長一歲,母親最喜愛他,他時常穿得整齊,行為舉止像一位紳士,可惜,母親與他已少聯絡,因那時代電話和旅遊,並不容易。母親的大家姐Nellie姨母,嫁了一個義大利建築承建商,在義大利養了四個兒子,都已長大成人。母親認為Nellie姨母「瘋狂」,但她們之間仍然相親相愛。Mary姨母嫁給一個克羅地亞人,祗生有一個兒子卻很年青時死去。母親覺得她古怪和隱退,與她沒有來往。在一九三四年至一九五二年期間,Fifi姨母一直支持著母親及是她的真正朋友,也是Fifi姊母介紹她丈夫的朋友,Harold Naylor 到母親Cosmatos家,最後安排母親的婚禮,接著我父親於一九二九年帶母親到大馬士革去。



我妹妹Patricia於一九三八年出生,她是我父親生命中的中心,我很喜歡我的妹妹,但我覺得她有點麻煩,她比我少七歲,我時常把她差來遣去,她對此很不滿,而我也是母親生命中的中心。我聰明,她自覺能力不高,每件我想的事都能做到,但她是在側旁,我時常是對的,她時常被放在陰影下。一九四八年之後,我們與後父Peter Carroll的關係拉得很近,我喜歡他,與他相處融洽,而妹妹不喜歡她。

Fifi姨母於一九三五年搬到耶路撒冷,她來大馬士革探我們,Kazia姨一起住。我們於九四零年搬到耶路撒冷,我們住鄰近Fifi 姨母和她丈夫John WardKazia姨和她兒子Michael,我視Michael哥哥為大哥哥和英雄。






幸運的,繼父Peter Carroll於一九四八年二月,退出巴勤斯坦警察部,他於一九四七年五日我父親死後,與我母親結婚,他是自一九四零年我們搬到耶路撒冷開始,一直是我們家庭的親密朋友,他隨同我們一起去都柏林,我那媗祁戭魽A及照顧Michael哥哥的母親。