The Eyes Have It

Eva Martine Neighbors — Oct. 12, 1930 – Mar. 14, 2012

I don’t like “favorite” questions. Don’t ask me my favorite color, or favorite book or movie. I freeze up… suddenly I can’t think of a single book or movie title and the only color that will come to mind is probably the color of the shirt you are wearing.

I have a similar reaction to “best” and “most” questions. What’s the best “this” or the most “that?” I don’t like ‘em. Don’t usually answer them. Just ask Lorie if you don’t believe me.

But this past week I have allowed myself to ask the question, “what will you miss most about Mom?” And after much reflecting, I would have to say the answer is, “her eyes.”

She had the most amazing eyes.

As an actor, you learn a lot about eyes and the role they play in communication. Eyes can say so much, sometimes more than words can ever express. Our words can hide things and be deceitful… not so easy to do that with the eyes. I learned a lot about acting through my mother’s eyes.

Some people have squinty eyes. Like my dad. It’s hard to read a squinty-eyed person. You never really know what they’re thinking. If they are happy or if they are sad, the eyes don’t change. You have to look for other clues, like their mouth–up, happy–down, sad. If my mom squinted it meant the sun was in her eyes or the milk was bad.

My mom had what I will call saucer eyes. And sometimes they got so big maybe “plate eyes” would be appropriate. They could totally take over her face. And they could speak volumes.

Sometimes she would give me the “stink eye.” This was the look that told me I was in deep doo-doo. It was often accompanied by “Charles Gordon.” The times she spoke my first and middle name together were almost always accompanied by the stink eye. It was a look that said, “I know what you did.” Where my dad might raise his voice to reprimand me, all my mom had to do was give me “the look” and I was busted. And it had power from a great distance. Mom insisted that I sing in choir at church. It was not something I always wanted to do. Clayton and Jim were the singers, I was the actor… but if I tried to play hookey and hide out in the back pew on a Sunday morning, I could feel the presence of “the eye.” I would look up and see that eye and like a magnet it would pull me all the way up to the choir loft. No words were needed. Amazing, powerful eyes.

It was her eyes that encouraged me. I think every child wants the approval of their parents and there are many ways to express that approval–with words and gifts of course–but it was the look in her eyes that I wanted. The look that said, “I love you and I am proud of you.” I never stopped wanting that and needing that. Those eyes communicated love, deep love for her husband, her children, grandchildren and the family and friends she cared for so deeply through the years.

Those eyes were closed daily in prayer. Mom believed in prayer and was a fervent prayer warrior. I will miss her prayers.

There was a transparency in her eyes that filled in the blanks. I don’t like telephone conversations too much in general, and with Mom, I never felt I got all the nuances over the phone that came with a face-to-face conversation. She said as much–maybe more–with her eyes than she said with her words. In the long battles with her health these last few years it was often the words “I’m okay” combined with the eyes that said “I’m not doing so well.”

Living on the other side of the country and coming for visits I loved the “welcome home” look in her eyes and so dreaded the saying of goodbye as those eyes were always, always filled with tears.

If the saying “the eyes are the window to the soul” is true, then when you looked into my mother’s eyes, I believe you could see her soul. The soul of a mother who lived a life of love for family and an unshakeable faith in her Lord and Savior.

My theology is uncertain on whether or not our loved ones in heaven can see us while we are here on this earth. It is a nice thought… although I am not sure I want to feel her “stink eye” when I do something of which she would not approve. But I do believe her eyes are full of joy at being together with my dad, and my sister Loretta, and all the others who have gone before her. And I am confident her eyes are full of wonder and awe as she is able to gaze into the face of Jesus. The eyes, ah yes, the eyes have it! I will miss her eyes.

6 thoughts on “The Eyes Have It

  1. Mallory Neighbors says:

    This is great! Even though I didn’t get to see her but once I would definitely have to agree with you! She had amazing, loving eyes!

  2. Chris Poppelreiter says:

    What a beautiful tribute to your Mom. Can’t wait to meet her in the clouds!

  3. Robert Coons says:

    Perfect! Having seen her only occasionally through the years I hadn’t realized it until you gave it voice, but that was her “most” compelling trait! Whenever I would see Aunt Martine it was her eyes that hugged me first.

  4. Amyelker says:

    Chuck, what a beautifully written tribute to your mother!

  5. John Welton says:

    Chuck, I loved the tribute to your mother. It reminded me of my mother’s pointed finger when I was off base. In church, if I got tickled at something, she would point that finger at me and I just knew lightning would come out of it and strike me, even if I was several pews away from her. Thanks for renewing that memory of her and her loving reprimands.


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