her eyes

Although it doesn’t feel right to my body, dawn is here. Plate glass windows and the annoying din of airport announcements shatter the calm light that filters through low, New Jersey clouds.

Last night I left my mother, kissed her tissue-paper cheek and rubbed her white, mink-like hair atop a head that seems impossibly large for her frail body. She’s thinner than I’ve ever seen her—too thin, I think—eating bird-like portions throughout the day and never feeling fully satisfied, stuck in the craw of a hungry mind obsessed with food. She incessantly fiddles and fumbles with cuffs and collars, napkins and newspapers, scratches sores into her face in the absence of the latex and cotton gloves she must wear around the clock to prevent the self-inflicted wounds. Her pretty eyes are that of an ancient soul: milky and weeping, set into thin, red, chapped skin the texture of bark or beef jerky.

I didn’t say goodbye, just goodnight, but I felt she knew I was leaving, her eyes that of a worried child staring out from a drawn face. These trips kill me: so great to see her, yet heartbreaking to note her decline, torturous to let go not knowing if I’ll ever see her again.

Yesterday, my sister took me boogie boarding off Coronado Island. I’d never tried it before and it agreed with me—a rekindling with my beloved Pacific since having left it for the first time eleven years ago. A few years back, when Mom was eighty, Caron had waded into the same sea holding Mom's hand, put her on a board of her own and shoved her onto the crest of a wave. This year Mom stood tentatively—trembling slightly—in a few inches of surf propped up by two daughters, her arthritic knock knees touching in an unnatural way painful to watch.

I wonder if this might’ve been the last time I’d walk Mom on the beach, or down the block stopping to look at the neighborhood’s flowering shrubs and gnarled trees perhaps as old as she. Would it be the last time I’d tuck her into bed, sit with my arms around her or hold her frail hand and look into her loving eyes?

Now, the sky is a bright blanket of clouds and the gate is full of strangers plugged into their electronics, napping on each other’s shoulders, eating breakfast sandwiches with sodas and slurping down designer coffees. I’m tired and eager to see my boys: Calvin, Michael, and Rudy. Mom is home asleep between purple sheets under a purple cover inside the purple walls of her room. And when she wakes up I won’t be there to hug her, but hopefully she won’t remember enough to spark sadness in her eyes.


  1. There's nothing more melancholy than leaving. I'm glad that you had this time with your family, though, glad that you swam and surfed in the beautiful Pacific.

  2. The circle of life. We take care of our children and then our children take care of us. It's sad, but beautiful.

  3. I'm wondering if you have heard the song by Liz Longley "Unraveling"? It might speak to you.

  4. no malinda but i will look for it. xo