“Do my eyes look normal now?”
I looked into my mother’s yellow, jaundiced eyes, trying not to let the truth show on my face. It was the same question she’d been asking every day for the past month, and my answer was also the same: “They look better than before.”
That had answer had satisfied her earlier. But no more.
“They’re never going to be normal again.”
I stared at the window, not wanting to see the anger and disappointment on her face. Nothing would be normal again. Almost in an instant, the whole world had changed.
She looked over at the little restaurant on the road; it was more of a food shack, a common feature on the streets of Calcutta.
“What’s he doing now?”
Another typical conversation. From her hospital bed, my mother would watch the activity at the restaurant, asking me what was being made that day. Sometimes it was some sort of egg curry, sometimes vegetables. Every morning, fresh flatbread would be cooked on the griddle. And every day, my mother and I would discuss the meal service. It was a way to keep herself occupied, and it saved me from having to lie to her about her eyes again.
She would question me about what I had for dinner the previous night. My uncle had taken it upon himself to bring me food while I stayed in the apartment by myself; my dad spent his nights at the hospital and my brother couldn’t yet join us in India because of some issues at work.
My mother and I talked about mundane, ordinary things during that time. My dad was usually busy during the day, running errands and taking care of hospital bills. In the evenings, the three of us would sit together until it was time for me to go home. As always, my mother would tell me to leave before dark, so I’d be safe.
And so it continued, until the end, which came much too soon. There was so much left unsaid.
If I had known how little time we had, would I have done things differently? Could I have said anything, done anything to make those last days more bearable for her?
It’s the same question I find myself asking often, and the answer is also the same…there isn’t one.