In December of 1991 my mother fell in her apartment and this time (she had fallen before it turned out), she could not get herself up. And so, miracle of miracles, she used her Life Line. We spent the entire day at the hospital in the emergency room, finally in the evening getting her checked into a room. She seemed to be doing fine (as fine as one can do when in the hospital) when I left. The next morning I returned and encountered nursing staff on my way to her room. They told me she was not talking to them, would not eat, and refused medication. Holy crow. In I went to see if I could discern what was going on. As I recall I did get her to eat something – perhaps even to talk to me, but by this time the hospital staff had determined she would be best served by being transferred to a geriatric psych unit in another hospital. (I will not go into the details of the transit because it will only get me worked up again all these years later – but it was ugly).
So there I was, the only child, and the only relative east of the Mississippi dealing with a geriatric psych setting. Talk about navigating uncharted waters. My mother was there for three weeks, three weeks of me “pulling teeth” to get my mother to cooperate with the plan so she could get out. However, in those three weeks I came to appreciate the staff, and, more significantly, I had my beginning insight into the lives that stood behind and within the older folks I encountered there. I think this experience was my first sense of “call” to minister to elders. While I was visiting my mother there I tried to engage in whatever ways seemed appropriate, other patients. I discovered I had an interest in learning what I could about them – to hear their voices, see their smiles. Once I get my home situation settled I hope in the new year, to get involved in some volunteer work with either elders or developmentally delayed adults – I am excited by the prospect. But first things first.
These words are by way of prelude to something I came across recently – either in email or on Face Book, I don’t recall. It is my hope that as you encounter older people, as I encounter older people – maybe one day as we encounter one another! – you/we will keep in mind that each person has a history…”his”- (or “her”) story. Those stories hold all that yours does – fears, joys, sorrows, losses, pain, discovery, relationship. Bless you.
Cranky Old Man
What do you see nurses? … What do you see?
What are you thinking … when you're looking at me?
A cranky old man, … not very wise,
Uncertain of habit … with faraway eyes?
Who dribbles his food … and makes no reply.
When you say in a loud voice …. 'I do wish you'd try!'
Who seems not to notice . . .the things that you do.
And forever is losing … A sock or shoe?
Who, resisting or not … lets you do as you will,
With bathing and feeding …The long day to fill?
Is that what you're thinking? ... Is that what you see?
Then open your eyes, nurse .you're not looking at me.
I'll tell you who I am … As I sit here so still,
As I do at your bidding, … as I eat at your will.
I'm a small child of Ten … with a father and mother,
Brothers and sisters … who love one another
A young boy of Sixteen … with wings on his feet
Dreaming that soon now … a lover he'll meet.
A groom soon at Twenty … my heart gives a leap.
Remembering, the vows … that I promised to keep.
At Twenty-Five, now … I have young of my own.
Who need me to guide … And a secure happy home.
A man of Thirty … My young now grown fast,
Bound to each other … With ties that should last.
At Forty, my young sons … have grown and are gone,
But my woman is beside me … to see I don't mourn.
At Fifty, once more, … Babies play 'round my knee,
Again, we know children … My loved one and me.
Dark days are upon me … My wife is now dead.
I look at the future … I shudder with dread.
For my young are all rearing … young of their own.
And I think of the years … And the love that I've known.
I'm now an old man … and nature is cruel.
It's jest to make old age … look like a fool.
The body, it crumbles … grace and vigor, depart.
There is now a stone ... where I once had a heart.
But inside this old carcass … A young man still dwells,
And now and again … my battered heart swells
I remember the joys … I remember the pain.
And I'm loving and living … life over again.
I think of the years, all too few … gone too fast.
And accept the stark fact … that nothing can last.
So open your eyes, people … open and see.
Not a cranky old man …
Look closer . . . . see …ME!!
p.s. I posted two new poems on the poetry page that seem fitting for the living of our days!