Ma's Face (English)

Ecrit par Ricker Winsor le 01 novembre 2010. dans La une, Souvenirs, Amour

Ma's Face (English)


I was in the first grade with the purple-faced Mrs. Reagan when my mother had the first operation on her face to remove a tumor. This wasn’t the one that took the facial nerve; that came later. Still, it was difficult for a little boy to see his mother’s fine, beautiful face all sunken in and scarred. It was not the same face, possibly not even the same person. Surgery fifty years ago was mean and rough ? no refinement. I can’t remember how much explanation I got about all this, probably not much. My oldest sister, Ann, knew that Ma was facing possible death. I remember she mentioned this but it didn’t sink in, at least not on the conscious level. During that operation, during the ones that followed, and even during the mastectomies that happened during my twenties, I never let myself think that my mother might die. And she didn’t, not until a long time later. We just didn’t go there ? consciously.

But I was conscious of that messed-up face. At that time I was in the first-grade play. I was grandfather rabbit on the big proscenium stage of that old gothic elementary school, Prospect Hill. And there was a certain importance and prestige connected with this. I didn’t want my mother with that ugly, sunken, messed-up, half a face to go to the play to see me in my magnificence. She would be an embarrassment and a source of shame. These were not feelings I could express because I loved my mother more than anything in the world. So I just started crying and kept on crying. Somehow she got it out of me by asking me questions? warmer, warmer, that’s it. I still remember the relief I felt to get this off my chest without, apparently, hurting her. This was the first time I saw my mother’s real strength, those clear gray eyes looking reality square on, straight up, unflinching. If it hurt her she never let me know. She went to the play but with a babushka around her face and it was ok.

From that time on I never let my mother see in my eyes that I saw her disfigurement. It was like a spiritual practice for me. I just looked to who she was as a person. And her face got worse. The facial nerve was taken. Plastic surgery was tried and failed due to a massive staff infection. That ate up the pound of flesh they took from her leg to put in her cheek. How long did it take for that thigh excavation to fill in? A long long time. We saw all that. My mother was not a modest person and was half dressed or completely naked in front of her children a lot of times. And the breasts, later, first one and then the other. We called her the”patchwork girl” from one of the Oz books. There were unpleasant things about her face. An eye would water since she couldn’t blink. Her mouth would not stay shut all the time when she was eating ? things like that. If I saw those things I never let her see that I was seeing them. I never slipped up, never.

One day when I was twenty or twenty-one and my mother was driving me to yet another doctor to find out why I seemed to have lost my life force, we stopped at the gas station to fill up. I got out quickly to go to the bathroom and was inside when my mother approached from outside to pay. She knew the people at the station for years. I was standing behind one of the attendants, a man of about sixty, an Irish, working class guy. And he was standing in front of the glass door, inside with me, as my mother approached to enter the station. For the first time in my life I saw my mother’s face the way other people saw it and at exactly that moment he said” What in the hell is that ?!” In other words, ”Who’s that freak?” All the blood drained out of my face and the pain and anger were so intense I thought I would faint. My mother must have changed her mind because she didn’t come in, but went back to the car and when he turned around and saw me he realized immediately what he had done. He moved away from me and said something lame like “I’ve known Mrs. Winsor for years.” I was looking right through him and I hate to think what my face looked like. It’s never been that way again. Then he said, “Hit me if it will make you feel better.” I thought about it, but turned and left. Back at the car my mother could see that something had happened. I didn’t say much and she didn’t press it.


Ricker Winsor

Bradford, Vermont

A propos de l'auteur

Ricker Winsor

Ricker Winsor


Artiste peintre


Commentaires (14)

  • Rowland Scherman

    Rowland Scherman

    11 novembre 2010 à 23:22 |
    Martha Winsor was our back door neighbor. We were pals, confidants, rock and roll critics, sometimes best friends. We were always so pleased to see one another! No matter how many days or, later, years we were apart. It's funny, but I was never in the least put off by
    her "disfigurement". I never saw it. I only saw compassion, intelligence, humor and charm in her face. It was so much fun to make her laugh. I still miss her.
  • Vaillant Sabine

    Vaillant Sabine

    03 novembre 2010 à 15:07 |
    I'm so moved by your Ma's Face. Thank you for this beautiful text.
  • Luce Caggini

    Luce Caggini

    03 novembre 2010 à 02:05 |
    Remember Ricker
    Your mother said one day :
    if you love , you can go trough fire
  • Luce Caggini

    Luce Caggini

    03 novembre 2010 à 02:02 |
    sweet images from Mary and myself working together and designing and tchatting and eating pastries and laughing loudly,
    how happy we were
  • Cathy Winsor

    Cathy Winsor

    02 novembre 2010 à 22:34 |
    I never knew my mother any other way. She was pregnant with me when the onslaught of cancer found her. But I was never embarrassed about the way she looked. I thought she was beautiful always. She did mention that Rick was very upset about other people seeing her and it broke her heart. I wanted to kill Rick for that until I realized he was just a little boy of 7 and, right at the wrong time for anything different. I wish I had seen my mother's face before it got ravaged. But she bore her burden with humor and a great happiness to be alive. This just hit Ricker at the wrong time. Ann, Mary, and I, along with our wonderful father thought her to be just about perfect.
    • Luce  Caggini

      Luce Caggini

      03 novembre 2010 à 18:53 |
      Dear Cathy
  • Ricker Winsor

    Ricker Winsor

    02 novembre 2010 à 19:29 |
    I am very moved by the reception my writing has gotten in France.

  • Martine L

    Martine L

    02 novembre 2010 à 10:01 |
    " I never let my mother see in my eyes that I saw her disfigurement" vous avez dit là, tout ce qu on devrait dire, et essayer de faire, pour, dignement; humainement, vivre avec des malades et des "différents" ; j'ai lu, avec émotion et compassion ,ce beau texte ! merci!
  • Eymard


    01 novembre 2010 à 23:19 |
    Your pared down prose makes this story not only sad but so moving and beautiful. After I've finished this reading I can't help thinking to my mother and her pride faced with some difficulties with her life
  • Jean-François Vincent

    Jean-François Vincent

    01 novembre 2010 à 20:35 |
    Beauty -like ugliness - is only in the eyes of the beholder.
  • Guerrier Elisabeth

    Guerrier Elisabeth

    01 novembre 2010 à 20:30 |
    Maybe something, it came instantaneously while reading.
    As an adult, did you ever share with her what her own experience was like?
    It is a terribly moving text Ricker, terribly.
    It makes me think of her, how could it be different?
  • Luce Caggini

    Luce Caggini

    01 novembre 2010 à 19:26 |
    Hi Ricker so good , all remembrance we have together,
    I m feeling rich with you and Francine and Richard and the others .
  • Léon-Marc Levy

    Léon-Marc Levy

    01 novembre 2010 à 19:22 |
    Thank you Ricker. Your Ma's face will stay deep in my heart.
  • OLIVIER EYQUEM as Holy Cow

    OLIVIER EYQUEM as Holy Cow

    01 novembre 2010 à 19:07 |
    Magnifique témoignage d'amour, et quelle chute. L'art du non-dit… J'espère que nous aurons d'autres textes de cette veine.

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