Several years ago, I read a book called Room for One More by Anna Rose—a memoir about a family with three children who took in troubled teens. I picked up the book because I’d seen the movie when I was a kid. Cary Grant and Betsy Drake played the parents coping with the problems of their enlarged family. I remembered the movie being very funny and that Cary and Betsy, besides never losing their cool, were far more glamorous than my own parents.
The book, while humorous, was less glamorous and more insightful than the film. One situation I’ve remembered was the author confronting the 14-year-old girl who had stashed stolen money, clothes, food, and other items in a bag under her bed. When asked why, the girl replied, “So I can take care of myself when you kick me out.”
Knowing she could not convince a kid who had been abandoned by her natural family and removed from a series of foster homes that they would not kick her out, Rose told her foster daughter: “I’ll show you a better way to take care of yourself.” She took the girl to the bank and opened an account for her. “Now, you’ll always have money when you need it, and you can add to your account when you get paid for working.
I thought of this incident while reading Unlimiting Mind by Andrew Olendzki. In making the case for everything being transitory, Olendzki says:
To the young child in her crib, it is reassuring to know her mother does not disappear when her eyes are covered. But when she loses her to old age, sickness, and death, as she surely will some day, it can be even more valuable to learn that her own well-being need not depend on her mother’s continuing physical existence. It is the experience that is comforting, and the quality of a mother’s love for a child can be enacted at any time by covering the eyes and filling the heart with loving kindness.
I thought of losing my mother when I was 10. Promises that we would be united in heaven weren’t terribly comforting. I needed my mother now—not after I died. I might have found it more comforting if someone had acknowledged that my mother was gone—but the love, strength and courage she’d given me still existed within my own heart. I could feel her love and guidance by being still and listening. I could take care of myself.