May 8, 2005
Mother's Day


I stood at her bedside, the morning after her double lung transplant, and watched her sleep. 

It would be at least another day or two before she regained consciousness, so for those first few days after the surgery there was nothing to do but watch her sleep. We would go into her room in shifts: leaving our 'outpost center' in the  adjacent waiting room, in groups of two or three, we would go down the hall and buzz ourselves into the IC unit. At the door to her room -- under the watchful eye of the surgical nurse on duty -- we would wash our hands with disinfectent soap and slip into a pair of purple plastic gloves, then cluster quietly around her bedside to watch her swim in unconciousness, for a few minutes at a time. As I stood there watching her, I was bombarded by a thousand thoughts/feeling/emotions: love, worry, nostalgia, guilt, relief, amazement, thankfulness. But there was another, weirder thought process going on in *my* muddled head, as I watched her sleep for those first couple of days.

All of a sudden, I couldn't remember what color her eyes were.

Logically, I knew that this was temporary amnesia, born of worry and fatigue. My mother's eyes were almost certainly blue ... like my eyes, like my sister's, like my brothers'. 

But I wasn't 100% sure.

As the afternoon passed, it became sort of an obsession with me. Why couldn't I remember her eye color? While I sat in the waiting room with my family, between trips to her room, I opened up the laptop I'd brought along with me on the trip and flipped through old family pictures in the photo album program. My brother Timothy thought I was doing it simply to pass the time, and at one point he scooted a chair over to the table where I was sitting and watched over my shoulder. I showed him pictures of the Tots as babies ... photos from our wedding, four years ago ... scenic shots of the glorious 2,002 in 2002 bike riding adventure. The whole time, of course, I was secretly looking for one good clear, close-up shot of my mother's face. Preferably in COLOR.

But no such luck.

On the second day after her surgery, one of her eyes opened a little. She was still unconscious -- still deeply pinned under by anesthesia and medical trauma -- but the eye opened, seemingly of its own accord. It was the pale, milky blue of a newborn baby's eyes, before they achieve their permanent color. Not particularly definitive. I spoke to her, through the fog of her unconsciousness ... calm, upbeat, unimportant blather, intended to comfort and reassure us both. I told her stories about David and The Tots. I described my flight to TicTac, a few days earlier. ("They don't even give you peanuts anymore," I said. "Now it's trail mix.") I brought her up-to-date on the doings at The Dirt Company. I was never sure if she could hear me ... later, she told us that she hadn't heard anything: "I was in a different world for those days," she said ... but speaking to her seemed like the natural thing to do.  As I spoke to her, the half-open eye seemed to behold me with bemused affection.  

But I still wasn't 100% sure what color it was.

On the third day -- Sunday, the day I was due to fly home to California -- Jaymi and I were met with thrilling news when we arrived at the hospital: Mom was awake!  Fully awake this time, too, not merely floating in that place between consciousness and unconsciousness.

And she was waiting to see us!

I dashed down the hallway and initiated the familiar ritual of washing/disinfecting/sliding into gloves ... then, with a joyous heart, approached her bedside. She was definitely awake!  And her eyes -- her huge, gorgeous, cornflower-blue eyes -- fastened on me tightly.

"Hi Mom," I said, and I smiled at her.

She smiled in return, regarding me silently for a long moment before she spoke. Then she blinked and opened her mouth, lips trembling slightly. "You  ...  " she said, in a tremulous voice, her eyes never leaving mine. She stopped for a moment, licked her lips, swallowed hard.

"You  ...  have the most beautiful eyes," she said finally.

"That's funny," I said to her. "I was just thinking the same thing about YOU."  And I reached over, across her hospital bed, and took her hand.

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happy mother's day, mom.
i love you!