Keeping Watch


Prompt: My Mother's Eyes


Once, a handsome nurse entered my mother's hospital room while I was eating cake straight from its box. No big deal. That is how our hospital trips usually go. Overnight stay or not, we always have a picnic basket in tow. There are extra pillows and blankets because I like taking advantage of the 24- hour air- conditioning.

I grew up watching my mother's left arm get butchered when nurses or anesthesiologists find it so hard to hit the right vein for an IV line. Again, no big deal. It is just going be a few days of torture. Then we will all go on with our lives as if nothing happened.

This time is different, though. We are all squatting in the suite. It is big, alright. But the kind aides can only do so much to provide enough benches for seven people to sleep on for the night. So, every night, we take turns on going home. I remember when I used to sleep beside my mother in her hospital bed. Gone are those kinds of days because right now, she is sharing it with freaky monitors that alarm non-stop.

A month ago, on the same bed, my sister caught our father feeding her a piece of chocolate. There is proof. Complete with the bed rails used as hangers for towels and blankets. It is not for magazine covers, but it was spontaneous and unscripted. It was pure love.

It has been days since she has begun to be pumped full of drugs. But they are not enough to alleviate all the pain. Even with her eyes always closed, she never really gets a good sleep anymore. But when we announced that our sister is here- that we are complete again- she wakes up and smiles.

It is the last smile I have seen on her face.

I am singing in the shower for maybe an hour or so. I am singing to my heart’s content just like any other day. Tomorrow, I will buy balloons- those golden number balloons that say 66. Then a big Happy Birthday sign to put at the top of her bed. There will be flowers and all the right things to decorate the room beautifully. It is going to be her birthday in two days and tomorrow has to be the best eve ever.

I come out of the shower and see my brother prepare their makeshift bed for the night. No one is leaving the city tomorrow. Not one person is leaving the room tonight as per our mother’s request. We obey her and keep the routine as usual. We see her look over at us, scans all our faces one by one. One thing we all realized is that she does not want anyone out of her sight. My sister left the room once, and the monitor alarmed like crazy.

I do not see her smile, but I see her eyes. They are full of words that she can no longer say or even write. So, I settle for eye contact. The meaningful stare along with a nod when I tell her I love her.

Everyone, except my mother and me, is asleep when I pray the Holy Rosary loudly. I make the only noise in the room, but no one asks me to shut up. Then I must have drifted asleep, too. I fell asleep even if I was supposed to keep watch- volunteered for a graveyard shift because I find it hard to rise early. I do not know how many minutes have passed but when I wake up, there is a nurse, and my sister is awake.

Then I look at my mother and see her eyes slowly close.

I should have paid more attention because she never opened them again.