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The elderly should be regarded

Sometimes you run across someone or something that has a powerful and unexpected impact on your life. It makes you ponder and ask yourself questions that may never have arisen if you hadn’t read a particular story or spoke to one specific person. This past week, I ran across a poem someone had posted on Facebook that gave me reason to think for a long, long time.
The poem is entitled “Cranky Old Man” and the Facebook post claims it originated in an Australian country town and was found after the death of a resident who had passed away. As the nurses packed the old man’s belongings, they came across a poem he had written. However, a search on the Internet reveals a woman may have written this poem more than 40 years ago. Regardless of when it was written or who wrote it, its message is universal. After reading it aloud to several different people, I realized each time there was a big lump in my throat as I fought back tears. Even though I try to be conscientious of other’s feelings at all times, “Cranky Old Man” had me reviewing my interactions with the elderly and the sick and asking myself “Do I do enough?”
All too often we forget that those we consider old have had a full life. They had a family, children, grandchildren and a spouse they shared life’s ups and downs. We may forget they may have served their country and left their loved ones at home to fight for our freedoms. We don’t consider that they once worked and may have been teachers, engineers, pilots or farmers. We don’t think that perhaps they may have lost loved ones and had heartaches and moments of incredible joy. We look at someone who may be in a nursing home, in a wheelchair, unable to even feed themselves and probably don’t consider that they are a mother, a father, have grandchildren, played an important part in their community, served the hungry or comforted the sick. We see just who they are at that moment, and not the whole picture and not the whole person.
How many times do we walk through a store and avoid eye contact with someone? How often do we walk past someone struggling to make it up and down the aisles in the grocery store and we don’t lend a helping hand or offer to carry their groceries to their car? We rationalize it because we think we are too busy to stop for a few minutes, or we don’t even pause to consider we could be helpful. How often do we pass someone in the halls of an assisted living facility, a nursing home, a hospital or even our own neighborhood and don’t bother to stop, smile and simply say “Hi there, how are you today?” How many times does someone sit in a crowded room and no one notices them, or pretends not to? How often do we walk past someone and don’t even acknowledge their presence?
This poem has given me food for thought, more than I ever expected. It definitely was an unexpected find.

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 10 with a father and mother,
Brothers and sisters who love one another
A young boy of 16 with wings on his feet
Dreaming that soon now a lover he’ll meet.
A groom soon at 20, my heart gives a leap.
Remembering, the vows that I promised to keep.
At 25, now I have young of my own.
Who need me to guide, and a secure happy home.
A man of 30, my young now grown fast,
Bound to each other with ties that should last.
At 40, my young sons have grown and are gone,
But my woman is beside me to see I don’t mourn.
At 50, 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!!