“Is Mr. H coming back to the nursing home?” Nurse Claudia asked, her voice carrying a hint of hopeful anticipation.
“Yes. He needs some therapy,” I replied, handing Claudia a folder with Mr. H’s medical information.
“Is he staying this time?”
“Oh, no!” I shook my head. “He’s just coming for rehab.”
I knew Mr. H very well. Over a year ago he had been discharged to his home, and, despite his multiple health challenges, he managed to continue living independently.
“Ain’t moving to no nursing home,” Mr. H would say. “Not yet, anyway...,” he'd continue, snickering.
Mr. H had a delightful sense of humor. He was always polite and pleasant, even in his times of discomfort, pain, or shortness of breath.
But one particular fact distinguished Mr. H from the rest of the nursing home residents. He was always reciting poems—his own poems.
Although he had suffered a stroke several years ago, Mr. H’s memory was unaffected and remained sharp. Quite often, while chatting with others, Mr. H was composing poems in his mind. By the end of the conversation, he would surprise people by saying:
“Let me tell you a poem I just made up.”
Then, Mr. H would recite humorous and inspirational poems.
“How do you create your poems so quickly?” I asked him once.
“Don’t know, they just come to my mind.”
“Do you write down every one of your poems?”
“Not always. My hands are getting a bit stiff.” He raised his right hand, showing it to me. “But I remember every one.” He tapped his forehead with his index finger.
Mr. H was now in his eighties. He had written poetry for many years. His interest in writing poetry began while working for a newspaper. He was not a journalist or an editor. He was a pressman.
“I have a folder with a lot of my poems,” he explained, proudly. “I also wrote short stories. Maybe I'll tell you the one about a little boy?” His smile sparkled.
“Of course!” I was eager to hear the story—and many more.
Later that day, I returned to Mr. H’s room with a note pad and a pen. I placed them on his bedside table.
"In case you feel like writing.” I glanced at Mr. H and spied a grin on his face.
Mr. H struggled with his physical condition. His sharp and fast thoughts seemed mismatched with his slow and inflexible body. This time, I was concerned whether he would succeed with his physical therapy.
A few days after Mr. H came to the facility I saw him walking the hall, leaning on a walker. A physical therapist followed him with a wheelchair, in case he needed to rest.
Mr. H is a fighter, I mused.
“You are doing good!” I exclaimed as Mr. H caught me staring at him.
“I have something for you,” he said. “Stop by my room later.”
“Sure, I will.”
My curiosity couldn’t wait and as soon as Mr. H was finished with his therapy session I rushed to his room.
He handed me a piece of paper—a sheet from the notepad I gave to him.
I opened my eyes widely.
“A poem!” I exclaimed, grinning.
“My get up and go got up
Left me sitting here not
knowing what to do.
Then Edison’s light bulb lit
up my mind.
Saying, get up, go to The Maples
where the people are so kind.
And after they have cared for
you a week or two.
Your get up and go will come
back to you!”
I read it twice. Clearly, a motivational poem. He had found motivation in his poetry—or his motivation shone through his poetry. Either way, I had no doubt that Mr. H was an amazing man.
We graciously displayed his poem on a facility board for many others to read. Mr. H successfully completed his rehabilitation and went back home.
I treasured a copy of Mr. H’s poem. I’ve found myself reading it a few times lately—as my “get up and go” needed recharge. I reflected on the power of creativity and writing. I felt embraced by the soul of the poet. His ageless soul.