Caring, Sharing and Making A Difference

Continuing the theme on our elderly and how they are viewed in parts of our society, particularly the care system, I’d like to share with you a poem which speaks volumes.

I have friends who come from other cultures and, during chats about life, they express amazement at how in the West we don’t respect our senior citizens for their wisdom and sometimes fail to act with gratitude for all they’ve given for us.  I’ve countered saying family structures are different with emphasis being more on the nuclear rather than extended family.

I think it’s a pertinent point to acknowledge the many thousands of ‘children’ who’ve dedicated their lives to parental care to the extent that they’ve sacrificed what might have been for themselves.  Unrelenting, 24/7 care keeping them anchored, tired and restricted.  Having said that, the love and care is given freely and with a generosity of heart.  Or those caring for elderly family members while raising their own family – I have the T-shirt for this one.

Anyway, he’s the introductory passage and the poem:

When an old man died in the geriatric ward of a nursing home in an Australian country town, it was believed that he had nothing left of any value.

Later, when the nurses were going through his meagre possessions, They found this poem. Its quality and content so impressed the staff that copies were made and distributed to every nurse in the hospital.

One nurse took her copy to Melbourne.  The old man’s sole bequest to posterity has since appeared in the Christmas editions of magazines around the country and appearing in mags for Mental Health.  A slide presentation has also been made based on his simple, but eloquent, poem.

And this old man, with seemingly nothing left to give to the world, is the author of this ‘anonymous’ poem winging across the Internet.

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 . . . 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 vigour, 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!!

Remember this poem when you next meet an older person who you might brush aside without looking at the young soul within . . . we will all, one day, be there, too!

It’s certainly thought-provoking, n’est pas?  To close this post, here’s a whooping great THANK YOU to all family members, carers, nurses and neighbours who share their love and time brightening the lives of the silver-haired in times of solitude, sickness and celebration.  Bless you – the difference you make is beyond price.

  • SallyKirkman

    I haven’t seen this before, Janet. Lovely poem, very evoking. Have retweeted. Thank you.