I take communion every week to a lady named Bertha. Although she can’t always remember exactly how old she is, she consistently cites 1912 as the year of her birth. So I feel confident that she’s 97 years old, soon to be 98.
“You know how old I am, don’t you?” she says every time I see her. I say I do, and then I say her age, yelling it into her ear, and she cackles with satisfaction.
Then she goes on to complain about her relatives who won’t let her use the phone, won’t take her to the hospital, won’t let her move into a nursing home, and whose names she claims not to even know. “They’re just trying to get my money!” she snarls, rubbing her fingers together. She spends pretty much all her days moving between her crowded bedroom with the TV turned up all the way, the dining room right outside her door, and the bathroom.
One would expect to feel sorry for Bertha, but I don’t, or not much. She has created a drama in her head, in which she’s made a part for herself and everyone else. She’s the good person (“I don’t care for no wrongdoing”). I’m also a good person, in her book, and the people caring for her are the bad guys. Every week she tries to get me to take her to the hospital or sign her up for a nursing home. I have learned, however, that when you even begin to call Bertha’s bluff on these matters, she backs down.
She thrives on making trouble. She thrives on complaining, and she doesn’t seem unhappy at all (though sometimes her caregivers do). She seems downright delighted with herself and the living theater with which she amuses herself.