This is a poem I wrote three years ago.
My Most Important Rule
I’ve been visiting the Old Folks Home,
(excuse me, “assisted living”)
to see my mother.
In the process, I’m getting to know the other residents.
There is the woman who talks to me every day
except I can’t understand a word she says.
The man who walks with his head down
and constantly mumbles to himself.
The woman who carries a baby doll
and cries much of the time.
The man who seems well,
but his hands are so gnarled he can’t feed himself.
The woman who got very angry with me
because I stopped her from drinking from the flower vase.
The man who reaches to pick up something
that only he can see.
There is a set routine:
bingo on Mondays,
arts and crafts on Tuesdays,
travel log on Wednesdays,
trivia on Thursdays,
piano bar on Fridays.
Breakfast starts at 8,
lunch at 11:30,
dinner at 4:30.
There’s usually the smell of urine in the corners
and an old black & white movie on the TV.
A dog freely roams the building
and is friendly only if given a treat.
The doors are all kept locked
because some will wander
into the first accessible room.
And people mostly sit
in various stages of slumber.
I visit almost every day.
I watch, and listen,
and everything is fine
if I remember my most important rule:
don’t extrapolate my life forward.
I’m not young myself, you know.