Tuesday, October 18, 2016
Triumph of an Old Lady (October, 2016)
The story came to me from a nun, Sister Marleny, I met some seven years ago in Huancayo, Peru, who often visits us when we’re in or summer home in Lima. She had stopped over the second Monday of October of 2016, during the evening. I sat back in my pillowed chair, by my computer, and books, a table between her and me, my wife Rosa made coffee, as I got up to make her an egg sandwich, then sat back down; she’s a tinge under forty, young looking and slender, and the director of a Catholic School, in one of Lima’s districts, which have many for a city of eight-million inhabitants. She wanted my attention, something was on her mind, I think often times she tells me things to clear her mind, and often they are very interesting stories, and this evening’s account would be just that.
She said, “I stopped over by a neighbor’s house, once in the house offering the daughter and mother, whom lived together with a dog, a fruit basket. I looked at the ninety-four year old woman, Elvira, she was weary, had a coat of grim covering her body and a nest of infested bugs in her hair, eyebrows, the old lady was glad of the chance visit, and when her sixty-one year old daughter, whom had a form of schizophrenia, left to go into the other room for a moment, she grabbed my hand, said ‘Don’t leave me here, take me with you’. The house was huge and at one time perhaps beautiful, but now the tiles on the floor were dark with human and animal excretions, and the house reeked with foul smells. Foods and cockroaches seemingly appeared to be smashed and embedded into the floors in the house like asphalt, one could not see the linoleum, or tiles, or rugs that were once part of the floor, showed only filth. You get awful feelings with such pools of filth on the walls and floors as if it was war-ridden” she inferred, “…there was a strangeness to the 61-year old Carmen, her moods in particular, and it grew more so and the anonymous: she believed that her dog was her brother.
“They had lived together a long while, like two refugees moving from room to room as if from a war-zone, to another war-zone, figuratively speaking. I called the police for help, and they refused at first, until I told them I was going to the media. The old woman had said, after being cleaned up and brought to our convent, ‘How did life ever come to this!’
“As the days passed, her daughter wanted to go back to her house, and be with her brother, the dog. Thus, she was brought to an asylum, and her relatives took likelihoods against that, and she ended up back in her home, lest they take the convent to court, and they voiced their concern on the nuns not trying to get ownership of the house, to which was more of a concern than their health, and so Carmen was brought back home.
“The old lady, insistently ate bits and pieces of food, seemingly all her awaking hours at our convent…” whom at this writing, remains at the convent. “Anyhow, after a week, she became sturdy and strong of body, talking during the evening of her once high positions in the community, as being director of two schools, and how proud her husband was of her. Yet one of her comments were: ‘Why did God allow me to end up like this?’” and so the story ended.
Faintly a notion came to my mind, and I asked sister Marleny to take a book out of my coat jacket that was wrapped around the top of a chair behind her, and hand it to me, and she did, it was a chapbook of sorts, in English and Spanish, I had done for the Huancayo cultural institutions. And I autographed the book for the old lady, saying, ‘…you were being tested, and you past God’s test.’ Inferring Job was tested in a similar manner. Then I told Sister Marleny: the old woman was given a gift, and the gift was that of old age, how many get to live per near a hundred years. And now that I think of it, it reminds me of a recent friend from High School telling me (Diane Smith): ‘We all have a story,’ how true that is, and perhaps Elvira needed to live long enough to tell hers indirectly, and now it is told.