I have had umpteen visits to hospitals in the past 15 years, some due to the need, some by virtue of being employed in a hospital and some visits definitely by choice. Every visit has given me experiences which have been unique and thought provoking. Young men and women, the middle aged, the vibrant youth and the old, a complete rich diversity. Some were being wheeled in from one room to another, some under sedation, some conscious and unaware of what is next. I have seen children crying out aloud, screaming and screeching at the sight of their parents not being close to them… after all you are taking away their sense of security from them, the people with whom they feel most secure and calm.
On one of those visits, rather a stay at the hospital, I recall seeing an old man who had been there on a bed for 15 days. We were just opposite to him in the same room and he had no visitors or relatives to see him daily. During my 5 day stay while I was attending to my mother, I happened to observe him very carefully. The old man approximately around 70 to 72 years, had a fringe of white hair around his baling, mottled scalp. A wizened face, feeble tone and such deep wrinkled skin that seemed to carve a map of his life. His eyes were as young as a teenage child only to be framed by thick white eyebrows. A stubbled chin that hadn’t been trimmed for quite some days.
I decided to engage in some conversation only to realize that he had the resigned look of one who knew that life was soon giving away. With each movement he tried to make there was only the sound of creaking old bones. After a lot of attempts he smiled at me once, raised his hand as a sign of reciprocating back to me to let me know that my attempts would not go futile. I felt, his memories both warmed and haunted him, sometimes he smiled at all who came by including the nurses who fed him, took care of him , the helpers who bathed him, got him dressed; and sometimes he would lay there sobbing tears. I never heard him talk but could make out his voice was too low and stumbled on words.
I wonder what this old man’s journey was before he got in here on this hospital bed. I am sure it definitely must’ve been an incredible one. His forehead told of worries deeply engrained of the past and the present. To the moment he stood beaten and forlorn, rather dismissed as “old” when he was so much more than the sum of his parts.
I would now like to share a simple, but eloquent poem. This is not written by me. It was shared by a friend just as a poem but today when I recall this old man (I don’t know what happened to him after mum was discharged, probably he may not be alive today) it reminds me of him and rather transports me to another place and time that he would have lived before he became just another “Cranky Old Man”!
What do you see lady? 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, co 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, which 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 around 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 and 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 a 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 and 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!
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The best and most beautiful things of this world can’t be seen or touched. They must be felt by the heart!