Rose Schwartz was a beautiful woman with dark, penetrating eyes and auburn hair. She married Harry Schwartz who apparently was a philanderer. The two fought incessantly; it was not a happy marriage.
Rose was unable to have children until she had a surgical procedure which she had performed, unknown to her husband who was away, presumably on business when the operation occurred. Delmore, born on December 8, 1913 was the couple's first child. A brother, Kenneth was born in 1916. As a grown man Delmore came to believe that his mother had had children in order to hold on to her wandering husband. Eventually his parents were divorced in 1927 following a four years of separation.
The relationship between mother and son turned out to be just as unhealthy as the relationship between wife and husband. Delmore referred to his mother on different occasions as long-winded, verbal, self-righteous, possessive, harsh and nervous.
In his short story "The World Is a Wedding" Delmore offers a sketch of his mother, disguised in the story as Aunt Leah.
Aunt Leah brought out the worst in him, she made him say the kind of things that she said, she made him rise to an intensity of accusation and denunciation of which he was ashamed, and which made him feel guilty, for he knew that there had been little in Aunt Leah's life, she had had nothing but frustration and disappointment, she had never had a good time or any satisfaction, and if this was her fault (and Richmond said just how it was her fault when he was angry), nevertheless it was true that she was very miserable and very unhappy and had nothing but an empty life
Aunt Leah knew that there was this center of pity and remorse in Richmond, and she used it, she appealed to it, and she made it grow, but Richmond's pity and remorse did not keep him from being brutal and violent in what he said to her.
Upon hearing the news that Delmore planned to get married, Rose threatened to kill herself. As it turned out she had to be carried up the Synagogue's steps to the wedding, claiming she was too ill and weak to walk.
When Rose died in 1962 Delmore, who hadn't seen her in a year, did not attend the funeral. Instead he sent flowers and a card which said, "Oh Mother forsaken your son." The card's message was a slightly altered quote from James Joyce's Finnegan's Wake. Delmore had substituted the word "mother" for "father."