On Thursday, Grandpa refused to leave his tent to be prepped for surgery. This time the problem was that he’d been served a red fruit juice first thing in the morning — a bad omen, he explained. If they had brought him coconut milk instead, then he’d be willing — maybe — to go.

The time slot for his operation was fast approaching, and his two gifted grandchildren, who had filled themselves with the white man’s knowledge and even held bachelor’s degrees to prove it, had no idea what to do.

“Leave Grandpa alone,” Eldy told them. “He doesn’t want an operation.”

“But Mami!” Bernadine was in tears. “The doctors are leaving today!”

“Yes, the doctors are going away, back to the white man’s lands.” That fact perturbed Eldy not a bit.

“He’s got to have the surgery, whether he wants it or not,” Joe said quietly to Bernadine. “Come on, let’s get the anesthesiologist here, put him to sleep, and get him to the operating tent. When he opens his eyes, he’ll thank us.”

Bernadine looked at him in horror. “You can’t give a person medical treatment without his consent, except to save his life,” she said. “You know that as well as I do, Joe. It’s unethical!”

“Unethical? It’s unethical to for us to give him his eyesight back, but it’s ethical for him to insist on being blind and make the whole village take care of him? It’s ethical to make fools of us in front of the whole world when the film crew shows up — any minute now — to document the climactic moment of this whole project, and they find out that our grandfather isn’t going to have cataract surgery after all? Are we going to stand by and let that happen?”

Eldy and Frank were listening, trying to understand the rapid, highfalutin English. “What did Joe say?” Frank demanded.

Bernadine switched to Tok Pisin. “Not good Grandpa stay blind. People in village have to help him do everything.”

Frank grabbed Joe by the shoulders. “You’re talking?” he roared. “You help Grandpa? You take him to the river, you take him to House of Spirits? You help him dress, bring him meal? You do nothing! You run away to Port Morseby. You fly away to Jerusalem, to be a white man. Who help Grandpa? Frank! Frank, Mami, Moses, Mary, Elson, and Barbie help him, not you!”

That was painfully true. Even little Elson and Barbie waited on Grandpa more than he did. Disarmed, Joe wondered what tactic he could try next.

“I have to go,” said Bernadine. “I’m late for my shift as it is. Yana’s going to be mad at me.”

Joe was left to fret alone on the beach, kicking at the sand under the coconut palms.

Then he saw them coming. The film crew.

“Hi, Joe!” James the cameraman called to him. “Is your grandpa ready? We want to get some good pre-op footage. How’s he feeling? Where is he?”

He selected a lens from his kit and screwed it into the camera. “This’ll be one of the big scenes, huh?”

 (Excerpted from Mishpacha, Issue 725)