The Little Boy and The Old Man

Said the little boy, “Sometimes I drop my spoon.”
Said the old man, “I do too.”
The little boy whispered, “I wet my pants.”
“I do that too,” laughed the little old man.
Said the little boy, “I often cry.”
The old man nodded, “So do I.”
“But worst of all,” said the boy, “it seems
Grown-ups don’t pay attention to me.”
And he felt the warmth of a wrinkled old hand.
“I know what you mean,” said the little old man.
– Shel Silverstein
I had the chance to observe a music therapist at work in a local hospital setting. The ward was made up of patients with dementia, and music therapy was aimed at improving their mood during their stay, which would contribute to their overall well-being. We all know how distressing, isolating and lonely the hospital environment can be. I certainly felt it, watching the nurses and doctors go from patient to patient, solving one problem at a time, doing their job professionally and extremely well, but not being able to give individuals the personal nourishment and interaction that all humans crave for at a basic level.

Madam W used to be a dancer and a dance instructor, teaching dance groups in schools. Now she is long-retired, reduced to lying on the bed, being fed through tubes, not being able to talk or swallow. But whenever someone walked past her bed, she would lift her eyes and hands up to that person, only to shift them down again when the person has walked past her bed.

“Are you expecting a visitor?” The therapist gently asked. Madam W shook her head. Yet she continued to look expectantly at everyone who walked past her, raising her hand in a waving gesture. We felt that she was trying to initiate some social interaction. One can only imagine how active her social life must have been as a dancer and instructor. How much joy she must have derived from being able to move her limbs and body. How much she must be suffering physically and emotionally now.

I don’t want to grow old if I can’t do what I love.
But we don’t have much say over such things, do we?

One thought on “The Little Boy and The Old Man”

  1. Knocking on the door of old age I have realized your words are a reality that “we do not have much to say…about not wanting to get old” Nice posting, thank you for sharing.

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