Caring for that Complicated Person

In a recent post called “Nurse Ratchet Goes to School,” I wrote about caregiving and going to caregivers’ school, all in an effort to give the best care possible to my husband Tony who will celebrate his 97th birthday on October 10. In addition, I learned about the importance of self-care.

Happily, a health care team has been assembled. Daily, they make Tony comfortable and give me the confidence to be the caregiver I want to be plus allowing for some me-time. They are not present 24 hours a day. After they leave is when I come “on duty.”



Oh, oh. Here comes Nurse Ratchet


Sometimes as a caregiver, your perception can get a little off, your patience can be a little skewed, and/or the moment can just go to hell in a hand-basket. Bad days happen to everyone – the care receiver and the caregiver. When you’re elderly, ill, and/or in pain, those bad days can become more intense. Somewhere I read the following two sentences about giving care that I try to keep in the forefront of my thoughts:

                             He’s not giving you a hard time. He’s having a hard time.

Adding to that perspective is a poem I found through one of the “likes” I received on the Ratchet post. I hadn’t seen the piece before. It’s called “Cranky Old Man.” It was posted by the author of the blog

Dollie is a professional caregiver. Do check out her blog for tips and inspiration. For obvious reasons, her choice of poem spoke to me.

Cranky Old Man

What do you see, nurses? . . . 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, 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 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 . . . that 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 ’round 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 . . . 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 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 man 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, people . . . open and see.
Not a cranky old man.
Look closer . . . see . . . ME.

(Originally ‘Crabbit Old Woman’ by Phyllis McCormack (1966); adapted by Dave Griffith)

I want to remember that Tony’s hospital bed and the room it is in have become his world. I want the situation free from anxiety or stress as much as possible. For both Tony and me. I want patience. I want to be calm. I want strength to deal with whatever is happening with his care and condition. I want to handle the worry that comes with the territory. I want to cope successfully with the “off” days, knowing some days will just simply misfire. The wisdom of the italicized sentences and poem help keep me focused on the person, not the tasks, on my husband, not the affliction.

Thank you, Dollie. 


Always ready to have a little fun. (Pictures of Tony are just prior to his becoming bedbound, but the smile and sense of humor are the same.)


About cmwriter

I'm a writer ... of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. I blog about writing, short stories, poetry, books, plays, and thoughts on life. Love reading and travel and being with friends!
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11 Responses to Caring for that Complicated Person

  1. Reading how your day can sometimes “go to hell in a hand-basket” made me laugh out loud!! My Grandma used to say that to us as kids ALL THE TIME (we never knew what it meant haha).
    Awww such a sweet post, Carol… made me feel quite humbled and I’m so please you were able to relate to the poem. Your husband is indeed a lucky chap and I have no doubt, regardless of the grumbling and the not-so-good bits, that he adores you completely.
    Here’s to staying out of that wretched hand-basket!
    Cheers, Dollie

  2. Paula says:

    You are inspiring.
    Blessings to you both.

  3. Dolores says:

    Thank you for sharing your experiences
    and the poem, Carol. Both are beautiful.

  4. Wonderful. Glad the both of you are hanging in there. Good days and bad.

  5. Marly Bergerud says:

    Caregivers are Earth’s Angels and your husband must be so grateful to have you in his life!

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