a mouth is not a voice

Every afternoon around 3, my mother falls asleep in my deceased dad’s old ugly green frayed recliner. I let myself into her apartment to throw my laundry into the dryer, and she doesn’t hear me. (My apartment is too small to fit a washer and dryer.) She doesn’t even wake up when the dryer coughs into its grating hum. I stop and take a moment to make sure she’s still breathing. Shallow. But, yes.
I have seen a lot of dead faces in my life. My dad was an undertaker and we lived above the business. (Like in that move, My Girl.) Totally relaxed, my mother’s face is getting that look — that lips-tight-against-teeth, waxy-skin look. I make myself watch her. It’s how she’ll look someday in her coffin.
When my dad was dying from cancer, it was his eyes that I watched as they grew more and more sunken. It wasn’t his mouth; it was his eyes, hungry and despaired and so, so, sad. So much unspoken.
And now it’s my mother’s mouth. Closed.

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