Just as I had settled down at the poolside table for lunch with the boys, here she came. I could tell she wasn’t having a good day by the rapidity of the questions she was plying me with. She started off with the usual questions: “How many children you have? Two boys?”
“Yes,” I told her for the hundred and fifteenth time, keeping my replies short and devoid of any sign that I wanted to talk to her more.
“Wah, your children can eat this spicy food…so hot.”
“Oh, this dish is not hot, Aunty.”
I turned back to my plate of food, hoping she would go away.
“Hey you are very fat, huh? You’re getting really big-sized.”
Trying to keep my tongue from giving her the lashing I wanted to, I said emphatically,”No, Aunty, I’m having a baby.”
“Oh,” she laughed. “Doesn’t look like you’re pregnant. I thought you were just getting fat. Usually people can tell if you’re pregnant…”
I was insulted. I knew I shouldn’t be. She was an old lady, hanging on to life by only a few mental threads whose mind took her mouth to places she would not otherwise have gone. I should be able to let all these questions slide off my back, knowing she means no harm. But how? The “fat” comments had tipped the scales toward complete irritation.
Later I began to regret my bad attitude and wonder what it was like for her daughter and son-in-law whom she lived with day in and day out. And then my wonderings went a step further–What would it take to love a person like this? A woman who was trapped by dementia and facing the end of her life in a confused state.
Then–epiphany. My own mind dredged up a scene from a novel I’d had to read for one of my university literature courses. I can’t remember many details from Graham Greene’s The Power and the Glory, and my old copy is probably halfway round the globe in my parents basement…but there remains this vague recollection of a priest who has been kidnapped by this disgusting acting and looking man. And the kidnapper is leading his victim through the jungle, the priest began to ponder the idea that man, and even this man, is created in the image of God.
This kidnapper was a tormentor to a much greater degree than this lady suffering from Alzheimer’s and yet I found myself pondering the same truth that all of us are made in the image of God…and I was convicted and challenged to go deep and to love the unlovely.