Oh raggedy old woman with
Your weak and toothless smile
With folded skin and greying locks
Has life been such a trial?
Your groans, your protestations and
Your yells and grumpy do
Your shouting out so very loud
Disguising the real you
I wonder who you really are
Beneath your upset veil
What person did you used to be
Before you got so frail
Dressed in confusion’s linen and
Dementia’s shrouding cloak
What have those eyes seen in the past
What stories have you spoke
What person did you used to be
Before the clutch of age
Took hold with mask eclipsing
The oak’s sagacious page
And what conflicts have you witnessed
throughout your long long years
The battles, wars and struggles that
Still steel your heart and tears
The loves that came and loves that went
The jobs you did so well
I wonder what you great yarns you have
What history you can tell
For through the windows of your eyes
Your sweeter soul’s laid bare
I wonder raggedy old maid
Why no-one seems to care?
Recently, in hospital, there was an old woman. She was 92 years old – a raggedy old lady, confused, frail, but clearly under the impression she was going home. She kept shouting and yelling down the ward at the nurses – sometimes nicely, sometimes rather impolitely but generally her lucidity was not what it would have been. I sorted her radio out to try and quieten her down for a bit to be honest but radio 2 didn’t seem to do much – no surprises there! She then got a severe telling off from the nurses for asking where the “bastards” had got to at the top of her voice in one of her muddled, confused, insane moments. The nurse went on and on about how much they have to put with, the abuse, the poor pay, the long hours blaming the old woman all the while for her indiscretion. And I looked on and thought just what a waste it was – that sort of lecture didn’t work; she couldn’t remember what had happened two minutes ago so how was she going to remember what this nurse was saying to her two minutes later.
Needless to say the nurse left and the old woman muttered sweet nothings in the air that went behind her – mumbling away to herself, still confused, still convinced she was going home and critically still alone. I went over again and spoke to her – I sat there in the chair and listened to her for some 20 minutes. I told her she couldn’t be naughty and had to wait her turn and then got her telling me stories about her life – her marriage, her children, her jobs, her homes, her romances, holidays. We passed 20 minutes of time but probably jumped between 6 or 7 decades of memories and slowly in that time she calmed down and started to refer to the nurses as “little angels”, “pretty girls”, “the charming young doctor.
Her aggression dissipated and it made me realise that we all judge far too quickly when we’re upset about how someone is treating us particularly when they don’t have too much nice to say but we don’t always take the time to get to know someone – to give them a bit of space and open the curtains on their lives so that the sun can really shine out of them. So from now on, I’m going to try really hard to do that so that I don’t risk keeping the drapes closed harbouring a rainy, stormy and to be honest rather grotty day.
And the old woman, well thankfully she then was so exhausted after her trip down memory lane, she dosed off for the rest of the day much to the relief of the rest of the ward I’m sure but you know I guess I’ll always remember her now! I don’t know her name but god bless her