What Color Are My Mother’s Blue Eyes?

My mother’s eyes.


And I am anxious, as a writer, to describe that blue exactly:

The complex sheen of a blue jay feather?

The polychromatic blue of a dying match?

The sharp blue of a crisp autumn sky?

The iridescent blue of a mussel’s inner shell?

The mercurial grayish-blue of snow at dawn? blue trees

The blue stretched taught across crimson in one of my mother’s paintings? crimson Her own whorled interpretations of blues? bluemom Whenever I sit up close to her hospital bed, I seek depth in my mother’s eyes. Eyes I have looked into all my life. Across tables at dinners of shared favorite appetizers, mussels with lemon grass, as we’d talk of the latest gallery exhibits, my latest novel I was drafting; talking avidly over bottles of wine at her kitchen table….

In her studio she could ask: “What do you think?” Looking at me – directly. Into my eyes. Looking to me for my opinion about her latest work-in-progress, a dab of camdium yellow she had her doubts about.

Looking to me for an opinion she has always respected, though I never felt quite deserving of such respect; she was the professional artist, I her student, informally trained without her registering that she has always been my teacher, from the time I was a child, when she encouraged me to fill the page.To be bold and unafraid.

And it was she who taught me exactly that, how to see: “Oh look at that,” she could gasp, in reverence to a muted sky, on walks along the beach near her house: mutedblue

With one of her sweeping hand gestures, she would draw my attention to the way light could at once seem strained and gently filtered, excited by such paradoxes. She taught me that, how to see past the obvious of the perfect sunset to the complexity of the less obviously exquisite in nature.

That was a different kind of seeing. How we always had looked at each other. To each other. A seeing  all of my life I have taken for granted.

Until now.

When I’ve never before thought about what it means to really look into another person’s eyes.

Not as consciously as I peer into my mother’s own. As she lays dying a slow and agonizing death of gangrene, of bed sores.

Of dementia.When my mother’s eyes seem not to receive and reciprocate the seeing.

I sit by her bed. She stares at me. Blankly.

“It’s me, Mom.”

She blinks. Once.

And I am desperate: “Mom can you see me?”

No change of expression. “Yup.”

And that may be the extent of our communication.

She blinks. I stare. Try to penetrate the blue. One pupil seems smaller than the other. One small black moon. One larger black moon. But both spheres perfectly symmetrical. Black moons against shallow blue skies.

And I want to grant and honor that blue as more complex than the shallow blue of pool water. As that complex sheen of a bluejay feather. That polychromatic blue of a dying match. That sharp blue of a crisp autumn sky. That  iridescent blue of a mussel’s inner shell. That mercurial grayish-blue of snow at dawn. That blue stretched taught across her own crimson. The subtle gradations of her own seeing.

But no.

The staring – is she unthinking? I don’t know. Is she merely dazed from pain medications? I look for alternative explanations other than the one that I see: Dementia.

And I wonder: as the mind fades, so does the soul? I can barely ask that question, silently, even to myself, never mind try to answer it.

So I lean on her hospital rail which she clings to as she is so afraid of falling.

And I immerse myself in her blue. Unseeing and seeing eyes.

And I face up to the truth: their light blue is shallow. Because the complexity of her intellect has become fragmented. Simplified into the flat toneless blue of pool water.


I am graced.

Because she is still here, in body perhaps now more than in mind.

And so I can gaze into my mother’s eyes and envision those pupils as black moons against blue skies. Perhaps, yes the shallow of pool water. But still. To me, the boundless of blue sky. My mother’s skies.

About Sandra

Author;editor of The Woven Tale Press at thewoventalepress.net; mother; weaver
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8 Responses to What Color Are My Mother’s Blue Eyes?

  1. Jo Heroux says:

    How beautiful. Your mind keeps finding the beauty, the wonder and the bond of mother and child. You are so aware and so afraid and so sad and it all filters through your words. The agony of this slow and painful death is as painful for you as for her, I believe and your mind is still aware. I am so sorry for all of this. Makes me wonder why she hasn’t given in. There’s a reason…only she knows.

    • Sandra says:

      Thank you Jo. She is tenacious and has said she doesn’t want to die but doesn’t want to live like this in more lucid moments. But she does not want to leave this earth. So she is holding on, though eating less, and yesterday we thought she was actually taking a turn. But she is back to eating today.

  2. I_B_Nosey says:

    There are no words to express how this touches me. I’ve lost both my parents. Daddy died 19 years ago on March 11. Mom followed him the next month April 11. But their passing was quickly which I’ve always been grateful for. I feel so much for you and your pain. Thank you for sharing this journey with us, your readers.

    • Sandra says:

      Gosh that must have been tough the two so close together; my dad died 20 years ago on March 5th. His was a long demise too, of alzheimers or dementia hard to know which, over a period of 13 years. But one day he just had heart failure and that was it. Nothing like this. No real mental anxiety kind of suffering, nor the physical for which there seems no relief. My mother is just always in such discomfort one way or another, it seems like torture.

  3. Susan Kane says:

    The color of your mother’s eyes—a new perspective.

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