My mother was smart and beautiful.
I know, I know, all of us think our mothers are smart and beautiful, but not all of us are as right as I am about this one.
I wonder how Shakespeare could have known “the eyes are the window to your soul” without having stared into my mother’s eyes first. Mom had striking, enviable, cat-green eyes. They gave everything away. When she was mad they blazed indignant fury. When happy, they sparkled devilish delight. When sad …
When sad, those beautiful eyes spoke their loudest. They would pool with despair and wash over you like a wall of hurt. They told you everything you really, really did need to know, whether you thought you needed to — wanted to — know it or not.
I remember my mother’s eyes the morning after Martin Luther King Jr. was killed. I was a sandy-haired, brown-eyed lad grabbing for a lunch bag. I knew of King. My mother’s watery eyes told me I could never know enough about this man.
Like all mothers, my mom could say things that stuck to you like glue. The morning after King died, my mother simply let her eyes do the talking. Many, many years later, her words gave sight to something I could not see. It was during the Reagan years, when conservatism was Yankee Doodle Dandy and liberalism weak — un-American even. At least that was the prevailing wisdom of the majority at the time.
Anyway, I was buying it and apparently selling it, too, because when I made the pitch in front of my mom, her eyes flashed fury and then worse, they flashed despair. Then her words: “When did being liberal become a bad thing? It’s a good thing. I am proud to be liberal!”
I thought about that. And then I went back to being a little quieter about my ignorance. After voting Reagan twice, I voted for Bush the Smarter One twice and then against Bill Clinton one more time. And even when I was doing that, I thought about my mother’s words and those damn eyes. I just wasn’t ready to think as hard as I needed to.
It was ’round about 2000 when I finally started doing some real thinking. By the time we were contemplating a war based on cooked intelligence, my mom’s warm words finally found their way into my thawing heart, heating everything inside me with a new, stubborn brand of awareness. Rumsfeld, W., Cheney … They were wrong. Worse, they were very bad.
Innocent American kids were killed and wounded. Countries left in shambles. People lost their homes, their jobs, their hope, their dignity. It was a cold, scary time.
And not a minute too soon, hearts were warmed again when we got Obama in a landslide. By then my mom’s eyes were clouding up with Alzheimer’s. She would have positively loved the man. And she would have positively loved that I loved the man.
Today, Donald Trump is poised to become our president, and painting himself with three more coats of ignorant-ugly, is bashing John Lewis. Yes, that John Lewis. And, yes, on the weekend we celebrate the great Martin Luther King.
Trump is an awful brand of ugly we’ve not seen lurking around the top of our country. He is not worthy of Obama, much less Reagan. It’s all just too painful and disgusting to look at.
I miss my mother. I just don’t think I could bear to see her eyes these days.