Her eyes are blue like the Pacific Ocean, in the morning before the mists have been burned off by the sun, a moody, windswept blue, that, like the ocean, doesn’t see me.
Her hair is longer than I’ve seen it in decades, but unkempt, gray, though not ugly. A cozy, grandmotherly kind of hair.
She is supine, in a hospital style cot that’s been set up on the main floor of the house I grew up in for several years now. She’s bundled up, but still looks cold. A blanket, crocheted I think, rests across her shoulders, and she pulls a bright orange corner into her mouth and chews as if by habit. I wonder when she developed pica.
“Hi Mom. It’s your daughter.” I wave to her on the screen, but the internet connection isn’t great on either end, and I have no idea if the image is coming through with any clarity. I just know her blue eyes don’t focus anywhere near me, staring mostly straight up – at the ceiling, or at something only she can perceive?
I’m not really there, after all. She never learned how to use the internet, let alone a smartphone. How can she be expected to comprehend the little box in my brother’s hand with my face on it? My voice must come out of nowhere for her, but she doesn’t recognize it. I speak, but she doesn’t seem to register or respond to me. She responds to the people in the room, but only sometimes.
Other times she responds to something none of the rest of us can see or hear.
“I hate this,” she says, her voice a low mumble that drops more often than not into inaudibility, incomprehensibility.
That, I can empathize with. Unable to move, hardly able to think or speak… It is a cruel and unusual punishment that no one deserves.
“I love you, Mom,” I say, trying to smile for her, trying to let her understand that I am with her as best as I can be.
“What are you doing to me?” she asks my brother.
He reassures her that he’s just leaning on her pillow, or touching her hand.
I want to be there for him, and for my dad. I don’t know that she would even realize I was there if I went. If I went, it wouldn’t be for her sake – or mine.
If I went, I’d be leaving the frying pan for the fire, when it comes to rates of infection. I’d have to quarantine upon arrival and quarantine upon return – not to mention flying in an enclosed metal tube for several hours with a planeful of strangers.
Not going is the logical choice.
I hate this.