When I’m an old lady and end up in a care facility, I sincerely hope my personality and attitudes don’t relegate me to the category of “that crabby old lady in Room 210.” Have you visited someone in a nursing home or hospital and had the distinct feeling that the patients were treated like numbers or medical cases? You know what I mean: “the urinary tract infection in 4A” or “the decubitis in South 6.” Wow, that’s a horrible thing to consider for myself: the history of all my years on this earth being characterized as a medical condition or an intolerable behavior resulting from that condition.
What about my history of being a pretty darn good mother/wife/business person/neighbor/community volunteer/friend? Doesn’t that person still exist within the body occupying that bed?
Let’s all take the time to read this poem that depicts such a scene. Gender-wise, this could be about a crabby old man as well.
What do you see nurses? What do you see? What are you thinking when you’re looking at me? A crabby old lady, not very wise, uncertain of habit with faraway eyes? Who dribbles her 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 two.
Who, resisting or not lets you do as you will, with bathing and feeding a 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 girl of ten with a father and mother; brothers and sisters who love one another. A young girl of sixteen with wings on her feet. Dreaming that soon now a lover she’ll meet.
A bride 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 a secure happy home. A woman 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 man 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 husband’s now dead. I look at the future and 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 woman and nature is cruel, ’tis 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 girl still dwells, and now and again my battered heart swells. I remember the joys, I remember the pain, and I’m loving and living my 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 crabby old woman, look closer, see ME!
– Author unknown