Eleanor Cowan


UC Observer Magazine - Carolyn Pogue - about my memoir

SIGHTINGS by Carolyn Pogue 

Dear Mother of Judas,

I know you walk among us, still. You, the mother of the turncoat, criminal, suicide. 

Your son's name is used as a metaphor for "wicked." How did it turn out this way? You must have asked that question a million times.

I see you in the haunted eyes of mothers and fathers who have buried their children, visited them in prison or detention centres or psychiatric wards. I remember you particularly during Lent, when we walk this winding path. I always walk these long, dark days with Mary and with you. I wonder, dear Mother of Judas, did you ever sit and have tea with Mary afterwards? Did you hold one another in the unspeakable deaths of your children? Did the other women gather around both of you — or just around Mary? Did you even allow them to offer you comfort?

I see other parents, too. On the news, sometimes, a parent stands in front of a microphone and tells the world that “no, the murderer of my child or my grandchild should not go free when I live in a prison of sorrow and my beloved lies underground. No fair. No fair!"

But rarely do we see the parents or families of murderers, rapists or pedophiles. That privacy is honoured, at least. I am glad that we allow them time to try to stitch new lives together from the broken, tangled threads that they have been left with. I do sometimes wonder about them, though. I occasionally send a prayer out for them that they do not feel alone. Being sad and being alone can be such a harsh combination.

I teach creative writing at Calgary’s Alexandra Writers' Centre periodically. 

That is where I met Eleanor Cowan, the author of A History of the Pedophile's Wife: Memoir of a Canadian Teacher and Writer. 

The title of the book, itself, took my breath away. Such courage.

The book goes a long way toward helping readers understand how women are drawn into relationships with men who are so sick that they would rape a child. It can help us to better understand what a pedophile might look for in a wife. Cowan leads the reader through her early life in a compelling way; I barely closed the book. Interestingly, she and I are the same age, and as she chronicles her childhood, early marriage and motherhood, she notes the books that she read at the time of an event.

Naming the literature created a bridge between us. For example, I would think, “Yes!” I read Margaret Laurence at exactly that age too, and Laurence helped me to see women's lives differently. 

Dear Mother of Judas, I know that you have seen it all and heard it all. What is new under the sun, after all? I wonder what book you would write about being in the family of your son who became so reviled? What words from your shattered heart would you share with us to help us to stand bravely with you?

Sending you gentleness this day,



Carolyn Pogue is a Calgary author and longtime Observer contributor. New posts of The Pogue Blog will appear on the first and third Thursday of the month. For more information on Carolyn Pogue, visit www.carolynpogue.ca..

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