Supper Time

*I promised the two individuals who inspired me to write this piece that I would “publish” it somewhere some day. After being turned down twice elsewhere, I figure it’s best I post it on my own blog.


The hallway clock says ten to five.

In two straight lines the parade begins.

“Are you ready?” They always ask.

What’s there to be ready for

but another meal that makes you sigh?


In slippers, walkers, and a few wheelchairs,

You march, shuffle, and slowly roll

as they unlock another door.

Silently they hand you a bib,

as if you’re still a kid.


Across the table sits an empty chair

or someone who doesn’t seem to care.

What’s worse than eating alone

is to be closely watched by those

who are mute unless you refuse to eat.


Eating is a choice they sometimes admit

but if you leave your tray untouched

the doctor is going to order more pills.

“She’s paranoid that the food is poisoned!”

“No, she’s simply too depressed to eat!”


“Would you have eaten this if you were me?”

One looks sheepish when she says “Of course!”

One frowns as if you’d spoken against the Lord.

“Rude and difficult!” They scribble in your chart

all because of your “smart” remark.


“Alright,” they inspect your tray once more.

“You need to eat more,” they often say.

“Hurry up!” They wave their arms.

Because their schedule is really tight,

eating leisurely is no longer your right.


Eating used to be a joy of life.

Even chowing down leftovers in your car

was much better than supper here.

Thinking of parties you used to host,

the laughter is what you miss the most.


They usher you back to the other ward,

where you sit and wait and wait some more

for evening snacks and a few more pills,

before they instruct you to go to sleep,

as if they’re talking to their kid.


You close your eyes for bedtime prayers.

Nothing comes out but a few drops of tears.

When you’re young, you worked very hard,

so that you wouldn’t be homeless or starve.

Who would have thought you’d end up here?


You’ve stopped believing you’ll ever leave

this place where many are happily confused.

Perhaps the only thing to look forward to

is the day when you become one of them,

losing your mind and your sadness too.


About C

If you consider volunteering at a luncheon for older adults as my first exposure to the field, I have been in geropsychology for at least twenty years. As family, friend, volunteer, trainee, and professional, I have found myself in adult day care centers, senior centers, senior living facilities, nursing homes, medical and psychiatric wards, hospice, and personal homes of older adults. Wherever I go, be it an orphanage, a museum, a prison, an airport, or a random corner in the neighborhood, issues related to aging and mental health often come to mind. I used to think that I could make a difference only if I became a top-notch researcher, educator, or clinician. As I continue to follow this meandering path, it dawns on me that as a nobody in the field, I can still add my light to the sum of light by sharing what I know. Over the years, I have "converted" a few very dedicated individuals to focus on aging-related work within their respective disciplines and encouraged a handful more to stay in this field despite its winding course. I believe by bringing aging and mental health issues to the foreground, we will amass a stronger force to promote advocacy, research, and quality care.
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