Monday, August 15, 2011


  Ah gits weary am sick of trying
am tired of livin'
am skeered of dyin"

I was told by the nursing supervisor that the 89 year old man was even too scared to sit up at the edge of his hospital bed.  It had been 4 months since  he had taken his third fall in a year and was recovering from a broken hip.   The first time I ever peeked in on him, he was all one big head,  his body  skinny and shapeless underneath the heap of blankets.  Classical music was coming from his bedside radio.  
        "You cannot make me walk today,"  he said, "Absolutely not,  I know I am not ready...My body is not strong."
  As I approached the bed to greet him and introduce myself, he kept his gaze straight ahead.     "I had one of you guys try to help me walk recently and the guy looked away for one second and I slipped and fell on the floor now I am worse than ever....that was in another one of these homes.  No way am I getting up.  "
      After he realized, I was not mentioning walking, he somehow got into lecturing about music,his family, his newfound 90 year old companion that he had met in the retirement home and how they  had both  discovered they could play piano duets.. on two pianos.. He could not wait to get back to that.  They might even get married.
       As he talked, I prompted him to move his ankles, lift his legs straight out and show me that he coud roll from side to side. 
      He told me all his kids were musical and that they would be coming to visit him tomorrow.  He loved when his oldest daughter sang to him.... show tunes mostly but she could sing opera too.  Then he began to sing:  "Old man River,   Old Man River...
     When I came back the next time, he was in his wheelchair.  Two of the nursing aides had told me that it was really hard but they had transferred him into the chair by heaving him up under his shoulders and muscling him into the chair.  He wanted to be out of bed when his children arrived.
      "I'll wheel you down into the exercise room ," I said matter of factly and began steering the chair forward while his long legs dangled way over the leg rests since there never is the proper size equipment for the proper sized human.. but hey!!! he was UP! I was determined to try to walk him but had no idea how it would go.
       His kids arrived with the over -the-top exclamations of astonishment each one trying to outdo the other: "Oh dad, you look fantastic,"  or "Dad... you'll be out of here in  no time."   or the one heard in nursing homes across America:  "Wanna race?"
     He greeted them with the tune he had been humming;  "Old man River,  he just keeps rolling, keeps on rolling along...
       Within a few seconds his kids chimed in along with  him and started singing the song in  large voice sending this man into complete excitement and I could see something was about to happen so I grabbed my gait belt and cinched it around his waist and said: "Go ahead stand up..please"   and then with the Showboat chorus trailing behind and me holding onto the belt.HE..RISES UP and takes one step for each line as they sing:
You an'me, we sweat an' strain,
Body all achin' an' racket wid pain,
Tote dat barge!
Lif' dat bale!

Old man river he just kept on rolling and just kept rolling along till the very last line of the song.   

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