The Poem ‘A lost generation’ is based on two stories from the time I was working as a nurse in retirement homes. I had to stop working as a nurse, when I was in my early twenties, due to fybromyalgia. But these two stories never left my mind and heart.
The first story is about a memory that a patient once shared with me. Due to confidentiality I cannot share names or places but I will tell you what happened.
It was a rare moment that I entered her apartment. Usually my colleagues helped her but this one afternoon it was my turn. She was watching TV and usually didn’t speak much. But suddenly she started talking to me and I felt very privileged that she shared this particular story with me.
She told me about when she was just a little girl. She had a bike and her parents only allowed her on the driveway of their home. “But”, she said, with sparkles in her old eyes, “Whenever father came home, I was allowed to drive to him, straight into his arms. He was a good man, my father”. She repeated this about three times and then went back to her usual silence while watching TV. I had tears in my eyes. She probably lost her father a long time ago but her love for him had only grown. It really touched my heart.
The second story is a sad one. One afternoon I entered a woman’s room. She was sad. I asked her why and she told me that she missed her family. I suggested to her that maybe she could phone her children. Maybe they could come over? She looked at me and said, “Oh dear, that is so sweet of you to say but my children have their own life now, and I am not a part of that anymore” She continued saying that she understood. That they lived in the city now and had houses and family to take care of. She just didn’t fit in their life. She also said, “I worked hard to give him a good education. I worked day and night to give him everything I never got. He is living his life now”.
Hearing her say that, my heart broke. This woman was stuck to an oxygen machine and could only leave her room for afternoon lunch. Otherwise she was always contained to her room. Her family hardly ever paid a visit.
About three weeks after this conversation with her, she passed away. I was sitting at the reception desk when her son came from her room and was about to leave. I overheard him say to his wife, “Out of all the days she had to die, did she really have to chose this one? She knew have a meeting today and I am going to be late”. He was so angry that his work was interrupted by the death of his mother. He continued by saying that he hoped it would only last 20 minutes because he really had to go. My colleagues and I looked on in complete astonishment. Apparently his work was more important than his mother.
These two moments happened over ten years ago and both women have passed away. But the stories have always remained in my heart. Sometimes I feel like the elderly are a forgotten generation. They have beaten themselves up for their children, but now they are being pushed away by the business of life. In my work as a nurse I had many people with fantastic children to take care of them like the woman in the first story. But there were also cases like the second story, where children brought their parents to a retirement home, so they didn’t have to look after their parents anymore. Such sad stories that you can’t fix as a nurse. The only thing I could ever do is listen to these people. However the love these people gave back, was a great reward and I miss being a nurse sometimes. I mean, writing is my life but so was caring for people. Both jobs gave me a sense of meaning and purpose. I was doing something good, something that helped people in whatever way they needed.
About two years ago I decided to write a poem about these two memories from my time as a nurse. It is a dedication to a generation that I never forgot. And that I know God doesn’t forget either. A poem for all the lovely people I was blessed to meet. A thank you to their trust in me as a nurse. And a thank you to God for giving me the chance to help these people, even if it was only for a limited time.
A lost generation
The old eyes look at me,
telling me the many stories,
of a long-gone past.
Their wrinkles give me,
a cup with wrung-out tears.
And their thin grey hair,
whisper the secret wisdom.
I wish the walls had ears.
Time is running out,
but your excellent politeness,
waves your loneliness away.
Your heart is focused solemnly on love.
For this fast-paced life is too quick.
Your heart cannot keep up,
and your memory loses the battle.
I wish the world would slow down.
An orphan are you,
left by those who carry your heart,
leaving your old soul,
with many paper-wrapped excuses,
yet your love does not wither away,
and your mouth speaks,
your wise understanding.
I wish the blind eyes could see you.
My heart holds the old eyes,
and my eyes shed the tears,
for a lost generation.