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Lilacs & Greensleeves: Tell Me

Sometimes when I am out and about, especially in restaurants, I find myself observing our seniors and I wonder what life was like for them throughout their many years on this earth.
I was having supper the other night at one of my favorite restaurants where many of their patrons are elderly. I love to ‘people watch’ anyway but as I sat there eating my salad, I saw a couple come in that dine there often. She walks with a cane and sometimes a walker. The need for either one was due to hip surgery she had several months ago.
He walks slowly, bent over and in my humble opinion he could also use a walker or at least, a cane. But he strides on behind her, keeping a watchful eye on his beloved. He sometimes stops and waits and then walks on.
When they come into the restaurant, they find their table, usually a booth. She sits down first and like clockwork, he takes her walker, folds it up and places it against the wall near them. While he does this, he is forever considerate of others as he sees to it that the walker is out of the way of other patrons and staff.
He sits down at the end of the booth and she slides herself near him. They eat well. An appetizer first, followed by a full plate of good home cooked food and then always dessert! I smile at the visual. You gotta love those two! I know that I do. I know them by name and they always wave when they arrive and they sometimes come over at the end of their meal to talk with me.
But all I know about them is the here and now, so I wonder….
I wonder what they were like as young children, then as young adults. How they met and what they did for a living. I wonder if they have any children and then I look at these two loving people, so devoted to one another even when he has trouble hearing her and she may let out a little ‘sigh.’ I again wonder, “Who are they?”
I marvel at the fact that they are out and about, even with their infirmities and their obviously painful struggles just to walk. And I can’t help but admire them and very much respect them for their drive, their togetherness and their love for one another.
And then last night when I again was having supper at this same restaurant, I noticed another couple who frequents this place. He is in a wheelchair and she is his devoted wife who helps him if he needs her but allows him to do as much as he can himself.
She sometimes looks very tired. Caregivers know that feeling and can easily identify that look in another active caregiver. I watched them as I ate and saw her smile as he looked up at her while she tipped his glass of water towards his lips. He looked back down at his food as he tried to place a piece of his meat on his fork and bring it to his mouth. She sat back in her chair and sighed but immediately regrouped as she leaned forward to once more give him another sip of water.
He glanced around the room with staring eyes that sometimes appeared distant and again I wondered. What were their lives like over the years? What all have they been through? The good, the not so easy and the very heartbreaks that many of us have gone through at one time or another.
I have often talked with them, acknowledging their presence when they come in or are already seated when I arrive. She smiles and waves. He looks over and smiles as he wiggles his fingers to say hello. He seems like a gentleman who enjoys having fun. At Christmas when we were both there at the same time, he had a Santa hat on and I couldn’t help but watch him giggle at all the attention he received from the rest of the patrons in this restaurant.
And when they are finished eating, his wife meticulously gathers her bag of ‘helps’ that all caregivers carry with them, she pays the bill and then she wheels him out to their van. I was leaving also and when I went out to my car, and as I sat there ready to assist, I watched to see how she got him into the van. She pulled open the door, pulled out the ramp and up he went into the van. She turned him towards the passenger area and secured him in. She had it down! She was organized!
And so the reason for this video, ‘Crabby Old Woman,’ is that it’s a wonderful reminder to me and maybe to all of us, that our beautiful elderly, who at times may appear distant, even angry or sad…could be looking back and remembering all of those joyful moments in their lives, those dreams of new beginnings and the laughter they experienced with those they loved and realizing that those days are gone and the ones who are caring for them now have no real clue who they are, how they lived and what they have been through. 
Even though the words to this poem often is seen as written by ‘Anonymous,’ it was supposedly penned in 1966 by a woman named Phyllis McCormack and according to her son, she was a nurse working in a hospital.

The poem is written to express the words of an old woman in a nursing home who is reflecting upon her life. Sometimes the word, ‘Crabbit’ is used with this poem and the word is supposed to be “Scots” for ‘bad tempered’ or grumpy.

This ‘Video from the Heart,’ touched mine as it strengthens the thoughts that I sometimes have as I observe our wonderful senior population and wonder, even when they seem grumpy or in a bad mood or look at me with sadness in their eyes…
What were their lives like throughout their years here on this earth and as we go about the day to day tasks of helping them in their need, what are they thinking?
As I ponder these questions in my mind, I find my heart softening even more, and just getting that ‘visual’ of who they are and what they have been through helps me to be a better person and more importantly to our clients here at Care4You, an even better caregiver.
Tell me…

Written by

Deb is our own Deborah McSherry, experienced nurse and caregiver extraordinaire. Deb has been with Care4You since 2009.