The Eyes of Our Savior

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"The neat thing about this picture," my Gramma used to explain, "is that no matter where you are in the room, the eyes of Our Savior follow you around the room."

This is her living room with the plastic covers on all the armchairs and sofas. The plastic covers have been there as long as I can remember. Judging from the style of furniture, it may be from the Sixties, the decade before I was born, maybe earlier. The cloth surfaces of the cushions have probably never been directly touched by humans in this house, and probably never will be.

When I was growing up, I rarely sat in this living room. We would talk and play and visit downstairs in the basement or in the kitchen. It's not a room to live in, more of a place to sit with guests and look at smiling pictures of all the grandchildren, statuettes of The Blessed Mother or Saint Francis, and the portrait of Our Savior.

A few years ago, I became more of a guest than a family member. I brought my nervous wife to meet them, and my nervous grandfather invited us to sit in the living room. Grampa would talk about the big mall that some people wanted to build in the swamp behind his house, the businesses that came and went in nearby storefronts, news and investments and how he has been able to keep that car running for twenty years now.

Gramma would sit in a chair and blink. She could still talk when I brought my wife to meet them for the first time. Not totally coherent, sometimes working around a sentence from every angle, using full words but unable to come to a point. Gradually it became word salad, stammering, incoherent. Then it was gone. I think I heard her say, "Thank you," once during a visit a year or two ago. At the time, Grampa said that she would speak a phrase almost reflexively now and then, but rarely.

These days we visit in the basement. Grampa has moved their beds downstairs. He says it's easier to wash her in the shower down there. Too much trouble getting her into that tub upstairs without tripping on the rim.

We sit on the plastic-covered couch downstairs. Grampa holds Gramma's arms and shuffles her into a chair, pulls up his own chair, and we talk about the new pharmacy across the street. He liked the way they built the place, that solid storm drain they put in, bigger capacity than they'll ever possibly need. So he bought some stock in the company. Gramma blinks, or just closes her eyes for a while. She sleeps more and more. From the people he has talked to, Grampa learned that she'll sleep all day if you let her, and that it will be better for her muscles, maybe better for her condition overall if he gets her up and around, just moving a little bit every day.

The plastic is aged on this couch downstairs. I suspect they've gone through several plastic covers for this and the other cushions that see regular use.

If no one visits that living room upstairs with the portrait of Jesus, will the eyes of her savior ever follow anyone again? Or can He see us through the walls? Can He see Gramma downstairs? Is that person downstairs really Gramma, or has she already gone?

Did He save her from anything? Why didn't He save us from seeing her like this?

Which pair of eyes have less life behind them, those of Our Savior following you around the room, or what's left of Gramma blinking at the ceiling?

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