Mama’s Eyes

Once again it is May. Seems to come every year at this time. Winter’s grasp finally gone. Somewhere Corn flowers and Stargazers are in bloom. Somewhere a baby Blue Jay is spreading its wings for the first time. Days get longer, evenings warmer. Salty ocean air feels good on my face.My Mother and Me

So why is there a pall hanging over me this month? Why do I feel this heavy pang?

Oh yes. This is the month my mother died. A shock, a jolt, a stupefying blow to my gut.

I didn’t see it coming.

A thud as she hit the linoleum floor of the bathroom in the Florida ranch house she and my father had moved into just two years earlier, after escaping the hubbub of New York. Her fingers must’ve twitched as she felt the electrical current course through her body, and the series of spasms that reached helter-skelter to her extremities.

It was another seizure. She was always having them in those days. Too many to count, they could happen at the drop of a hat. Yet she’d always open her eyes afterward.

Why was this time different, Mama?

Maybe it was the way she fell to the ground this time, landing smack on her head unable to use her arms to break her fall. I wasn’t there but she must’ve hit her head good. Like when Bugs Bunny got hit on the head with a frying pan and saw stars in his eyes and birds flying around her head.

The fall must’ve jarred her brain something awful, because unlike all the times before, this time she didn’t open her eyes at all. My brother heard it. The force with which she fell, the sudden impact that shook the wall between the bathroom and the hallway. Like someone cutting down a tall pine with an axe. Timber!

He heard it all the way from the kitchen, on the other side of the house, where he was sitting with my father who was eating his breakfast of plain oatmeal. In two shakes, my brother was at her side, which is saying a lot because usually he’s as slow as molasses. He crouched beside her, knowing better than to move or lift her, and begged her to open her eyes.

“Open your eyes, Mama. Open them!” He said again and again.

She didn’t. Though she was still breathing and he could hear a long moan from deep within her. Yet she wouldn’t open those blasted eyes. Not so much as a wink.

“Fooled you!” He wanted her to say as she’d sit upright, eyes wide open.

But no, that didn’t happen.

The ambulance came and took her away. My father couldn’t finish his breakfast. Suddenly, it tasted cold and dry. He got up from the kitchen chair and weakly made his way back to his usual spot on the living room couch. Make that dying room couch. Three days a week of dialysis was taking its toll.

Losing my mother was the thing I had feared most. The older I got, the scarier the thought had become. I could bear anything–heck, I was unemployed and going through my divorce–but not being able to speak to my mother anymore was something I could not fathom.

Please don’t die, Mama. Be here to see my children grow up. Please always be here for me!

How frivolous I’d been with time in my twenties, when I’d come and go as I pleased with nary a thought to how much time we’d have together. I lived with the assumption that there would always be next time. Next time. How hollow that sounds.

Then I moved across the country and saw her less.

Please let me see you again, Mama.

If I close my eyes I can see how things once were. I am home again in our suburban home on Long Island. I can hear her call my name, beckoning me to the kitchen where once she held court. I’d sit at the kitchen table while she did her business, preparing the evening meal as she regaled me with “chismes” (gossip) from Venezuela. Each of her many sisters would write with family stories and peccadilloes, and she couldn’t wait to share them with me.

Her eyes would light up as she’d spin a yarn in mesmerizing colors of red and gold, knowing exactly how to unfold a story for maximum impact. A gifted storyteller she was. Even when I didn’t know who she was talking about I’d listen with rapt attention. My eyes never letting go of the sight of her, following her as she scurried from the sink to the fridge to the stove and back again. I knew it well, the rhythm of her steps.

Open your eyes, Mama, and tell me another story. Just one more.

With every year that passed, with every move I made–to Boston, to D.C., to Seattle, I secretly worried about losing her. But then I’d shake the fear away, rationalizing that she still was young, and we still had plenty of time to spend together, however, I wasn’t counting on Alzheimer’s. That took her away from us long before her death did.

Alzheimer’s is a living death. You watch as she slips away and there’s not a damn thing you can do about it, because Alzheimer’s is poking you in the eye and gleefully saying, “She’s mine now!”

Mama, don’t you remember? It’s me, your daughter. Stay with me, Mama. Don’t leave!

She was already gone, lost to another world that was locked in the innermost crevices of her brain. Still, when she hit her head, when the seizure and the fall knocked the wind out of her, silencing her brain once and for all, I wasn’t ready. But I was never going to be ready, was I? And that’s the crux. What I dreaded most was here. Losing my mother.

The other day, I was interviewing a professor emeritus from a local university, who is from India. He told me that in his culture mothers are placed above God. This is how it is, he said. Mother, Father, Guru (teacher), and then God.

Mama, did you hear that? I always knew. You’re always first in my heart.

Today, I am spending Mother’s Day with my son, but I’ll be remembering my mother, too. For this month is the 20th anniversary of her passing. Twenty years, but the wounds still feel fresh.

Treasure your mothers while you can. To all mothers everywhere, Happy Mother’s Day. To all who have lost their mothers, I’m thinking of you, too.

Feliz Día de las Madres, Mama. Thank you for all you did for me.



38 thoughts on “Mama’s Eyes

  1. Wow! This was so moving. You had ME in “rapt attention” as you shared intimate moments of you and your dear mom with us. The images are very vivid – the more pleasant, and even the not-so-pleasant ones. Very heartfelt and impacting. Now I know from whence cometh your ability–a gift, really–to weave a good story! 🙂

    • Thank you, SommerE. So glad you liked it. My mother was not only a good storyteller, she was a prolific letter writer. When I went off to college, I’d get letters every week, filling me in on life back home etc. my father, too, was a writer, but mostly he’d write poetry. Yep, between the two of them, they made sure I got a good foundation of writing skills.

  2. Gosh, Monica, this post took my breath away–so stunningly written, so poignant, such an amazing tribute to your mother! Sorry that you lost her so long ago. And a belated happy Mother’s Day to you, dear Monica!

    Hugs from Ecuador,

    • Thank you, Kathy. I wish she were here–and cognizant–now. What might she say about how far I’ve come. I was still married when she had her memory. By the time I was going through my divorce, she was far gone from us. But one of the last things she said to me in her cognizant moments was that she didn’t feel comfortable around my husband. Looking back, that was one of those foretelling moments I let slip by.

  3. What a wonderful post. Your mother would be so proud that you have inherited her ability to tell a story in a way that is so thoughtful and full of emotion. What a gift! I’m certain she’d also be so very proud of the mother you are to your kids. 🙂

    • Aw, nice of you to say so. As far as my kids go, I have no idea what I did except spend massive quantities of time with them as they were growing up. I just feel like I got lucky. They were easy to raise.

  4. I cried, I smiled and felt pain. How beautifully you write. I’m so sorry Monica. I’m sorry Alzheimer’s took your lovely mom. It is never the same again – everything changes.
    I still have so much pain at losing my dad 18 years ago now. Not a day goes by when I don’t miss him. I go about my day and I look at his photo. But a void exists. A friend told me recently, when you lose a parent, your compass shifts.

    I hope you spent a beautiful day with your son! Happy Mother’s Day my dear friend.

    • Alzheimer’s is a cruel disease. No one should have to go through it, yet as a nation we don’t put enough money into Alzheimer’s research. Considering how many people get it, that’s a real shame. It’s way underfunded.

      Sounds like you lost your father at a very young age. I’m so sorry, MM. Thank you for your kind words about this post. I always value your input.

  5. Hi Monica, I always feel the same about my mother–that I can deal with anything but losing her. I am so sorry for your loss, no matter that it’s been 20 years. This is such a beautiful tribute, so sad, though. I did not know you lost her twice: once to Alzheimer’s and then to the fall.
    I hope you have had a peaceful Mother’s Day and enjoyed the time with your son.

    • Alzheimer’s is a wretched disease, Lisa. My mother got it at a time when it still couldn’t be diagnosed except after death. There were no pills to take to delay it, as there are now. Living in New York, her home for more than 40 years, was fine. But moving to Florida caused the disease to spiral out of control. It was painful to watch as it took over her mind.

  6. I just read a blog previous to yours where the blogger lost her mom 3 months ago. So tough a time for you both, whether 3 months or 20 years. Blessings.

    • I feel so sorry for the recent losses. I’ve gotten used to my loss, but there was a time, I’d break down easily. One time I burst into tears over a postage stamp. It was a pretty stamp, one that she would’ve liked. She had an informal collection of stamps, and that one would’ve made her day. I cried all because I knew she’d never get to see it. Seems silly, but sometimes that’s all it takes. Something so meaningless can evoke such strong feelings.

  7. Doggone it, Monica, now I’ve got to round up a Kleenex! What a beautiful tribute to your mom. You’re fortunate, you know. Writers having gifted storytellers for parents and role models are especially blessed! She left you a solid legacy. I’m sorry she’s been gone so long, sorry you had to mature without her, sorry she isn’t here to relish the splendid woman you’ve become (but I’m betting she KNOWS!!)

    • Debbie, my father loved to write, but my mother was the storyteller. I loved those times when I sat with her in the kitchen countless times, listening to her stories. It filled us both with joy. Those were indeed special times. It’s been a long time for sure, and yet it feels so recent. I can’t believe it’s been this long, frankly.

  8. This post was beautifully written, looking at the picture of you and your mother, you can see you’re your mothers daughter. Through this post I can feel your pain.

    Thankfully my mother is still here and we see her at least twice a week. I hope this will continue for a long time.

    Death is always a shock to those left behind irrespective of wether it’s sudden or expected. Neither way is any easier than the other.

    Enjoy Mothers day with your son. I am sure he will enjoy it with you.

    • Robert, I’m glad for you that you have your mother. You seem to be a good son, always attentive to her, visiting her. I don’t think she can ask for more than that. Have a good week, my friend.

  9. I can really feel your pain on losing your mother. Tears from this one, Monica. But you’ve captured the emotions beautifully. I guess we are now part of a sad club of motherless daughters. At least we had them for as long as we did. I hope you find peace and enjoyment in this day. I haven’t gotten there yet, but…it is my first.

  10. Happy Mother’s Day and to all the wonderful memories we hold dear for the Mom’s we don’t have with us anymore.

    • Here, here. And Happy Mother’s Day to you, too, Mary. (Btw, that was my mother’s name. Mary. Not Maria, as some tried to call her, but Mary. A very beautiful name.)

  11. Monica, I read this as I was writing, I needed a break. Would it be terrible of me to tell you I love you, you break my heart with this yet you remind me also of all the reasons I remain hopeful. This was beautiful, poignant, heartbreaking and still a loving tribute.

    My tears stream. Sending you wishes your day is filled with love and you make wonderful memories with your son.

    • Thank you so much, Val. Sending love your way, too. So much pain in the world, I treasure and value acts of kindness, like you’ve shown me here. Hope your Mother’s Day was simply beautiful.

  12. Tears … beautifully written. Inspiring .. Thank you ! Trying to remember the good things I seem “to push away” (nikky44) … trying to accept that she is “gone” before she will leave me, us… So hard !

    Thank you for helping me to “accept”, with your beautiful words, your thoughts …. I know I need to, in the name of love … And still I cry out in silence … “Mama, don’t you remember? It’s me, your daughter. Stay with me, Mama. Don’t leave!”…

    Happy Mother’s Day, Monica – and Nikky.

    Sending love … ❤


    • Happy Mother’s Day to you too, Georgette ..:) did not see your comment when I wrote this ..

    • Thank you, Brigitte. I wrote this in the hopes it could inspire reflection, and hope for others who have lost their mothers. I know I’m not alone in my feelings and neither is anyone else.

  13. It’s so beautiful how you remember her with all the positive and beautiful memories. Last month was the 12th anniversary since my mother passed. I used to always think and remember her sickness, her absence, her death. Whenever good memories came to my mind, I would push them away. Tonight I remembered the good things and I decided to only focus on all that she is to me, and she is everything. Happy Mother’s Day!

    • Nikky, we had some hard times, too. But overall, the goodness far outweighed whatever difficulties we had. Besides, those tough years were in my teens. As I got older, i was able to appreciate the many sacrifices she made for all her children, and the many opportunities she gave us, despite any financial difficulties we had. She scrimped and cut corners a lot, but then she also took us to the theater, to lunch in the city, to the beach, where I received swimming lessons. She made things happen for us.

Comments are closed.