A Very Crabby Old Lady

From an Old Woman To Her Son

category_bug_journal2.gif My neighbor, just in the past year, is showing his age dramatically. His back – straight, if not strong, not so long ago - is bent now. His speaks haltingly and sometimes loses the thread of his thought. He shuffles when he walks and seems to be concentrating so hard on this act that sometimes I hesitate to interrupt him for a chat. I’m not certain he always knows who I am anymore. Len is past 90.

He reminded me, when I saw him yesterday, of something I ran across on the web. I copied it out and did not note its origin, though I remember that it is translated from the Chinese, written by a 75-year-old woman to her son:

When I Turn Old

When I turn old, when I am not the original me:
Please understand me and have patience with me.

When I drip gravy all over my clothes, when I forget to tie my shoelaces:
Please remember how I taught you what not to do, and how to do many things by hand.

When I repeatedly tell you things that you’re tired of hearing:
Please be patient and listen to me. Please don’t interrupt me. When you were young, I told you the same story over and over again until you were sound asleep.

When I need you to help me bathe:
Please don’t scold me. Do you still remember how when you were small I had to coax you to take a bath?

When I don’t understand new technology:
Please don’t laugh at me or mock me. Please think how I used to be so patient with you to answer your every “Why”.

When my two legs are tired and I cannot walk anymore:
Please stretch out your powerful hands to lend me a hand, just like when you were a baby learning to walk I held both your hands.

When I suddenly forget what subject we are discussing:
Please give me a little time to recollect. Actually, it does not matter what we are talking about; as long as you are by my side, I am so contented and happy already.

When you see the old me, please don’t be sad:
Please understand me and support me, just like how I was with you when you were young and were just learning to face life. At the beginning, I guided you to the path of life. Now I ask you to keep me company to finish this last leg of my life. Give me your love and patience, I will give you a grateful smile, and crystallized in this smile is my endless love for you.


Wonderful script! It not only provides a glimpse of the needs of the aging and elderly that we all are destined to become, but it also crystalizes that special relationship and bond that exists between mother (or father) and child. Thanks, Ronni!

I am reminded of a wonderful poem by Langston Hughes that one of my students gave me a few years ago. The poem reminded her of me ...

It's not the same topic but it also is a message from Mother to Son. I found it here:

When my mother aged, I became aware she was not who she had been; and it wasn't the things in the article, which were good reminders, it was just plain personality changes which made it harder to be around her for me. Some was very sad. I believe she came to resent being dependent on me, and there was not enough I could have done probably to make that different given she lived on a mobile home on our farm and in her end years had lost the center of her vision to macular degeneration. I didn't do all I could have done for sure, and she did as much as she could, but it got hard emotionally to have the feeling of disapproval and knowing I wasn't meeting the mark for her. But I also was aware that she wasn't who she had been personalitywise. I have seen this since with some elderly and not others, but it's made me very aware of the aging process. I don't have any old to be responsible for anymore, but I know in the future I will be there and want to work to stay who I am as long as possible-- some is beyond us with health issues but we can work to stay mentally active, try to keep in mind that others don't owe us anything-- not even family (which means show gratitude and give a smile when someone does something, don't act as though of course you had to do it), stay as independent as humanly possible, but mostly stay interested in life and others. People like to be around those who ask how they are and actually listen to the answer, not just wait for a chance to say how they are.

Very touching verse.

You give hope to us all, Ronni. But, I must confess to still knowing deep inside, I am scared, very scared of growing old and losing my mental and physical faculities. Independence is a special word that increase in value with my years...

Always proof-read, how could I forget Mrs. Furr's 7th grade English class mantra?



I love this Ronni...thanks for finding it and sharing it with us. It's a beautiful reminder of life that we ALL will experience sooner or later.

Now I am all teary-eyed! This is beautiful,a nd I am going to send it to my children immediately!

How much I look forward to visit you, never knowing what gem you will have chosen for the day.

Echoing kenju, with a tear or two ! Please never consider abandoning TGB.


Thanks so very much. I'm sending it to my daughter, with bold print on the part about telling the same story over and over again. (In case she's curious about why the old man can recite "Goodnight Moon" by heart.)

Patience. Patience. Patience. That is what it takes to be the mother of a small child, and that's what it takes to be the caretaker of an old person. That is all that the old piteously appeal for, and it can be one of the hardest things to give.

I can still think and move quickly. One of my husband's symptoms is "bradykinesia," which means slow movement. I could, and I have, beat my head against the wall in frustration with his need to do everything at a glacial pace. I was not raised by a patient mother, this man in his prime was not patient with me (one of his friends dubbed him "the Impatience Poster Child"), and he did not allow me to be a mother and perhaps learn some well rewarded tenderness and patience that way. At least you can watch a small child unfold and blossom and grow more capable and independent. You can only watch a sick old person regress and grow ever more helpless and dependent, as if life's beginning were being recapitulated in reverse. So there is not that natural reward and relief.

My patience, such as it is, and it's very inadequate, has no natural source. It can only have a spiritual source -- it can only be based on overriding frustration and self-pity with imagination and compassion. Part of the work of imagination, of course, is driving home to yourself that one day you'll be the one trying, and needing, someone else's patience. Part of it, the hardest part, is recognizing that this can't be a tit-for-tat world. You can't be kind only because someone has been kind to you. You have to give it away for free.

I have moments, only, like that (and I can see that those moments are like oases in the desert for my husband). Mostly, I'm no good at this. But that's no excuse to give up.

I too am scared of becoming very old and a burden. Perhaps it is terrible to pray for death before I reach that stage, but I do.

I love this! Am definitely going to save it to give to my son when he is older.

very beautiful. But let me answer Rain

By profession I'm a clinical social worker in gertiatrics, but first I was a daughter

My mom had macula degeneration to the limit. She went from being sometimes overly confident and gutsy to being dependent on my sister and me.

It was hard; there were times I wished, sometimes out loud but only to me, that a little dementia wouldn't hurt her. Macula is a horrible thing because it doesn't affect the mind itself; but can appear as if it does. So many people treated my mom as if she were demented when she was much sharper than theme

I walk and do everything fast; she couldn't. Someday I will be old, I hope and won't have a child to help me.

There were times that I felt her sucking the life out of me. But I knew how much she loved me, even if she was going to be ornery. that didn't mean I could be patient much of the time.

In many ways she had been my best friend during my early adulthood, if you could call it that, more like the longest adolscence in history though I was totally self sufficent etc.

After she suddenly died four years ago, I was glad that I had been a horrible daughter in thought only.

But it's okay not to want to be around somebody who brings you down, and only concentrates on the negative.

My mom had been such a positive thinker, she thought cancer could be cured by laughter. Maybe it sometimes can be.

But even her positive thinking was tested. Because she was so cognitive, I did tell her my list of demands. That on my visits we just talk about anything, friends, family current affairs, whatever, for an hour was a big part of it.

I often wished she had moved to Florida like a normal mother and we could have hired a geriatric care agency. (Though I have reservations about many of them.)

Because I couldn't stand spending the whole visit going over her wardrobe for what was dirty, needed to be sewn etc, and I needed my mom back--and I knew that she was there.

She had money and the last year she consented to have an aide four hours a day five days a week.

It made such a difference. Old age isn't a time to save your money so that you could give it to your children.

It's a time when you should have somebody work the system for you, so that you can get every avaliable benefit. You deserve it.

And yes the sentiments are a noble goal. The reality is that people now out age their bodies.

Their children are growing older, and have their own problems

Each child has to state their own limits and strengths; because sometimes caretaking a parent just won't work.

It's usually really not hearing the same story over and over again that hurts the child, it's still wanting a parent to be the parent.

It's difficult to understand this, and many children are unfairly condemned for not dealing with something that they haven't been prepared to deal with

As a society we have failed in many ways. One of the biggest ways we have failed is in keeping the status quo re aging

Instead of looking outside the box and looking for different solutions to housings etc, we have NORC's (naturally aging retirement communtities) which could be the best solution if we spend time devising ways to keep people independent while respecting their limits.

We have assisted living facilities, and some housing for the well elderly poor, and nursing homes. Each one of these has many downsides.

Older people don't become like children again no matter how demented; they have lived long lives and that should be respected.

Even if you absolutely positively think that somebody has no memory left, there can be residual memories.

My mother insisted on living alone. As she had cabality it had to be her choice.

For a long time after her death, alone in her apartment crying into her companion button on an October night not long after 9/11, in New York, I was torn by guilt and grief

Yes it was her choice to live alone, but should my sister and I have insisted?

But she wanted to die in her apartment, and she did. And I was a good daughter

Old age is so complicated, and in the midst of so many seemingly more important subjects we let the debates and possible solutions. That is our failure as a society

Every family should begin planning for the parents old age as soon as possible. The more you talk about it, and all the possible complications, without being preachy or morose, the more normative changes seem

There are many people without children. Should we just make our reservations to the nursing home early? Or are we just more realistic in planning early because we know that we'll have to take care of ourselves?

You never know if your child will be able to take care of you for any number of reasons.

Sorry for the length and for the seeming contradications but I believe that while the post was very beautiful, it's more complicated than that.

We can speak beautiful words but it's our actions that speak for us

The old infirmed lady slumped in her wheel chair alone after Katrina. Bent over with her head in her lap. Unable to lie horizontally. Alone and helpless. Awaiting rescue. Dead.

We treat the incapacitated like detritus and refuse. Old lady I hope you are in a better place now and are happy. Rest in peace.

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