Whilst sorting through a box of keepsakes the other day I came across a bundle of letters my daughter Julia had written to me whilst she was away doing her Nurse training. One of the envelopes was thicker than the others and on further examination, out fell a few sheets of neatly folded note paper on which was written a poem she had wanted me to read. The memory of this poem came flooding back and as I read the words again tears began to fill my eyes. The words of the poem were particularly poignant to me at the time as my Mother was in hospital suffering with Alhzeimer’s Disease.
‘A Crabbit Old Woman’
What do you see Nurse, What do you see? What are you thinking when you look at me? A crabbit old woman, not very wise, Uncertain of habit, with far away 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 stocking or shoe, Who, unresisting or not, let’s you do as you will, With bathing and feeding, the long day to fill. Is this what you’re thinking, is that what you see? Then open your eyes, you’re not looking at me. I’ll tell you who I am as I sit here so still, As I move at your bidding, as I eat as your will. I’m a small child 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 build a secure happy home. A woman of thirty - my young grow fast, Bound to each other with ties that should last. At forty my young now soon will be gone, But my man stays 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 is dead. I look at the future, I shudder with dread, For my young are all busy rearing their own. And I think of the years and the love I have known. I’m an old woman now and nature is cruel, ‘Tis her jest to make old age look like a fool. The body it crumbles, grace and vigour depart - And now there’s 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 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 Nurse, open and see, Not a crabbit old woman, look closer - see ME.
I phoned my daughter and we had lengthy recall about the poem. I said I would like to post it on my blog. I asked how she came by the poem and how it affected her as a psychiatric Nurse. This is what Julia later emailed to me.......
During my 3 year training to be a Registered Mental Health Nurse in St Albans, Hertfordshire we were given a copy of a poem to study by our Tutor. We were told that this poem had been found amongst the few possessions of an old Irish lady who died in a Geriatric ward. The words this old lady had written, so impressed the nursing staff, that copies were distributed throughout the Mental Health Hospitals as a lesson to be learned.....In our second year we were required to undertake a 12 week placement on an Old Age Psychiatry Ward. Prior to this however, our dynamic Tutor set up an "Experiential Learning Workshop" where we as Students, were put into large, tilted back chairs we often see in hospitals, with trays bolted in front of us, and fed sweet, milky tea by some of our fellow students. They proceeded to speak loudly over our heads about what they had been up to the night before-letting the tea dribble down our necks. We were not asked if we took sugar or milk, or even if we were thirsty. It was 10 AM and 10 AM meant, everyone had to have tea!!We were blindfolded (as some of our patients were partially sighted) and led around in a rushed fashion, plonked in front of a TV showing children's cartoons, or subjected to noisy pop music on a radio.These experiences, together with the beautiful yet sad poem assisted us as nurses to really think about how we cared for our elderly, disorientated patients. It offered us the opportunity to treat our patients with individual respect whilst maintaining their dignity.This was soon to pay of in my case!!
One afternoon shortly afterwards, on a trip out to a local garden centre it was my job to accompany a wonderful, elderly lady by the name of Daisy. After an hour of admiring the rose and flower beds she needed to visit the ladies room. Due to unfamiliar surroundings she got into a muddle and locked herself in. I had no option but to climb over the top of the cubicle door to undo the lock for her. I will never forget her wrinkled smiling face peering up at me whilst announcing... "Thank you my dear, you really are an Angel Without Wings!! " It bought tears to my eyes. - Julia
Reflection Through The Seasons
I live in a small Welsh village which is situated in the southern tip of the Snowdonia National Park. Its an area of true outstanding natural beauty. We have the Cambrian mountains to the east of us and the coast of Cardigan Bay out to the west. My husband and I moved to Wales from The Cotswolds in England 19 years ago. We bought the old village Police Station, which we have worked tirelessly renovating ever since. You could say its a real labour of love. I have retired after working many years in the travel business, this now leaves me free to pursue the many things in life that I enjoy.