Monday, March 22, 2010
We managed to wake her up a few times so that she could swallow a spoonful of jellied water (she rips out the iv’s). She opened her eyes, saw us, closed them again, dutifully swallowed. When asked if she wanted more, she mouthed "non". I asked her if she was really sleeping and she mouthed "oui". I asked if she was having pleasant dreams and she mouthed "oui" again, with the faintest shadow of a smile, a smile tenuous enough to be just a memory.
I reminded her of the time I had surgery, many years ago when I was a young mother with three kids. She came to the recovery room and sat by my bed holding my hand, just as I did yesterday. She was urging me to wake up, over and over. I remember hearing her voice from the bottom of a very deep and narrow well and I wanted to reply but I couldn’t because I was so far down and my voice wouldn’t carry. She kept calling and I kept answering in the silence of the well but I must have moved my lips as the tone of her voice lost its urgency.
She said “She’s waking up, I think” and indeed a few minutes later I was back in the world of the living. Yesterday, I remembered the well. So I talked to her. I told her about our drive to Italy, about how close we had been to Sestri Levante when the call came and we turned back.
She once spent a few days there with my Dad. He took a picture of her in a white peignoir sitting under the arch of an antique window overlooking the sea. I don’t know where the picture is today, maybe in the boxes we haven’t gone through yet.
Even as a little girl, I knew that this portrait of my mother was about love and passion and youth and that it was timeless, that a part of her would always be sitting there in a chaste garment under the old curved stone and that my Dad had captured with his lens something essential and eternal.
I recognize this young woman in my sleeping mother. Already elfin, she has lost some weight and the structure of her face is more visible. She looks beautiful. Her skin is very soft, almost transparent on her hands where the thin veins create a delicate estuary. She is tottering on the edge of time and we don't know yet whether or not she will pull back. But I whisper into the well and I know she hears me.