Grandmothers should be easy to love, I thought. But not mine.
I watched Ammah eat crab from its shell, the boiled egg sauce dripping down her chin.
My Chinese grandmother, or ammah, was visiting from Malaysia. She came after Grandpa died. Yehyeh had been easy to love. Always laughing, always joking, always singing. I never saw Yehyeh without a smile on his face. Ammah, however, had an expression of stone.
During her stay, we ate Chinese food every day. Don’t get me wrong, I love noodles and rice. But Ammah didn’t want orange chicken from Panda Express. She wanted bird’s nest soup and foul herbal brews.
“Elijaaaaah!” Ammah’s shrill voice reverberated from the living room, where she watched endless Christmas movies. I wasn’t able to use the TV during her stay, not even to play video games.
“Put these away,” she’d say, shaking a bag of shrimp crackers at me. Because she has always had a maid, Ammah did not know how to do household chores. I somehow became her personal servant. “Elijah, make my bed.” “Do my laundry.” If something needed to be put away, she would shake her finger at it.
Then it happened. I was washing dishes and there, on the counter, was my Super Mario Bros. heat-changing collector’s mug. That mug was precious to me. I never allowed anyone to use it—or even wash it. But there was My Precious, stained with coffee and crusty oats.
Blood rushed to my face. “Who used my mug?!” I yelled. But I knew who it was. Ammah started each day with a handful of oats stirred into coffee.
All eyes turned to me. Except for Ammah’s.
I felt like my head was going to explode. “Lord, You have to help me love her,” I prayed.
Having Ammah in the house challenged me. She never expressed any sort of love to me, and I honestly never felt any love toward her. But love isn’t a feeling; feelings don’t last.
I thought of 1 Corinthians 13— “Love is patient… It bears all things.” If Jesus could bear the Cross, then I could bear this. I knew what He wanted me to do.
He wanted me to eat Chinese food instead of pizza. He wanted me to watch Christmas movies. He wanted me to do laundry and serve Ammah coffee with oats in my favorite mug.
Ammah may never love me the way I think a grandmother should, but I know that loving her is the right thing to do.