Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Beholder's Eye Is Not For The Squeamish

Warning: The image below may be upsetting.

It will be the last time I think she is looking at me.

The upheaval of emptying closets unearthed the bag I stuffed into a corner five years ago hoping it would disappear on its own.  That only happens to the things you are looking for. The things you want to forget stay stubbornly in place waiting to be dealt with.

How to explain this piece of glass except to say it isn't one.  It is, if anything, the portrait of my mother, Florence, still as vibrantly alive as when it resided in her empty socket.


As a little girl, I didn't know this eye couldn't see.  All I knew was that she slept facing the doorway with one eye half opened, I assumed to make sure I didn't slip past her on my illegal expeditions around the house after bedtime and before breakfast.  Peeking into their bedroom, I'd stare back at her and if she didn't say anything, I'd wave, just to make sure she wasn't seeing me before scooting across the the open doorway and into the wild wild world of the quiet and empty living room.

My illicit activities didn't just end there.  When left alone in the apartment one day while she and my father were out and about, I, desperate to understand an angry silence between my parents and thus with me, went through all their drawers and closets.  Spying two beautiful ring boxes in her underwear drawer (right next to an odd disc made of rubber), I eagerly opened one, hoping for something special.  There she was, staring back at me.

On lots of walks home from Gramma's, my sister and I would ask, "What happened to your eye?" but she never said anything; she'd just glower and continue striding down the street. Later, my father would tell us that her father, who she never spoke to, said she was born with something wrong and that she was in the hospital a long time and not allowed to see her mother.  Hospitals did that in those days. Fearing it would be injurious to the little kids to be with their families, parents weren't allowed to visit their children for months.

But, years and years and years later, putting out the fires dementia makes, I had to call the place that made her eyes and I asked them, "Do you know what happened to her eye?"  And they said, "Well she said it was a gunshot accident." I think she was pulling their leg.  Although it was plausible.  Florence spoke of her neighbors in Bushwick making hunting mittens. 

When they first met, the woman she loved didn't even know that eye was glass. All she knew was Florence's hair hid half her face.  That woman, just introduced but knowing something different was happening, pushed the hair to the side and told Florence, "You look better this way."

There were also gentle moments of care, where, when in public, one of us would whisper "Wipe your eye" if it got too cloudy.  But that was as close as either of us got to her even admitting there was anything wrong.  Even at the emergency room of the Eye and Ear Hospital at 2:30 am, it was I who had to tell the attending doctor the eye that didn't have cataracts was glass.  She just sat there tight lipped and furious he dared to even investigate.

So determined to defy and deny her lack of sight, that when coming home from an operation on her one good eye which was completely bandaged up,  she pushed my hand away as we entered the Quartchyard and pretended she was seeing through her glass eye as she literally walked blindly to her front door.

The last year of her life changed everything.  Her knowing herself only as a child needing to hold hands made it possible for her to ask me if her eye was ok and could I fix it, which of course, I did. After fifty years of that glass being a wall between us, helping her put the eye in and adjusting it was like crossing the Rubicon.

On Thursday, this portrait of my mother will be donated to a project that refits glass eyes for those in need.   And before it is, I will look my mother in the eye one last time.

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Sunday Memories:  Home Where My Love Lies Waiting - Revisited

Sunday Memories: For My Sister's Birthday

Sunday Memories: Our Gods Eat These Foods

Dust To Dust And Then New Cities Rose

The Lionesses Rule The Pride 

What Remains

The Land Of the Quartchyard