While living in Okinawa, I met a few ladies who were quite old. Most of them got around better than some 40-year-olds I know, yet were in their 70s! One particular lady, Chieko, was able to tell us stories of having been a small girl when the Americans invaded Okinawa during World War II. She told of hiding in a cave with all of the other women and children from her village and how, once the fighting stopped, her grandmother went out to meet the Americans. You see, the Japanese military had told the villagers not to ever let themselves be caught because the enemy would rape the women and then kill them all. Chieko's grandmother volunteered to go out and meet this enemy who was guaranteed to rape and kill her because, as she told her granddaughter, "I am an old woman", meaning her life had been led and she was ok with possibly sacrificing herself to protect the rest of those in the cave.
Of course, that isn't what happened. The grandmother came back a few days later with friendly Americans, and brought everyone out of the cave. Chieko eventually grew up and married a man who she met while he was stationed in Okinawa while serving in the US Navy. When I met her, she was close to celebrating her 60th wedding anniversary with him.
All of this I learned because I asked a question - what was it like growing up in Okinawa?
Behind every old, weathered, beautiful face there is a story of love, happiness, sadness, tragedy, and triumph. It's such a shame we don't ask to hear those stories more often.
The following is the story I saw on Facebook today:
Cranky Old Man
What do you see nurses? . . .. . .What do you see?
What are you thinking .. . when you're looking at me?
A cranky old man, . . . . . .not very wise,
Uncertain of habit .. . . . . . . .. with faraway eyes?
Who dribbles his food .. . ... . . and makes no reply.
When you say in a loud voice . .'I do wish you'd try!'
Who seems not to notice . . .the things that you do.
And forever is losing . . . . . .. . . A sock or shoe?
Who, resisting or not . . . ... lets you do as you will,
With bathing and feeding . . . .The long day to fill?
Is that what you're thinking?. .Is that what you see?
Then open your eyes, nurse .you're not looking at me.
I'll tell you who I am . . . . .. As I sit here so still,
As I do at your bidding, .. . . . as I eat at your will.
I'm a small child of Ten . .with a father and mother,
Brothers and sisters .. . . .. . who love one another
A young boy of Sixteen . . . .. with wings on his feet
Dreaming that soon now . . .. . . a lover he'll meet.
A groom soon at Twenty . . . ..my heart gives a leap.
Remembering, the vows .. .. .that I promised to keep.
At Twenty-Five, now . . . . .I have young of my own.
Who need me to guide . . . And a secure happy home.
A man of Thirty . .. . . . . My young now grown fast,
Bound to each other . . .. With ties that should last.
At Forty, my young sons .. .have grown and are gone,
But my woman is beside me . . to see I don't mourn.
At Fifty, once more, .. ...Babies play 'round my knee,
Again, we know children . . . . My loved one and me.
Dark days are upon me . . . . My wife is now dead.
I look at the future ... . . . . I shudder with dread.
For my young are all rearing .. . . young of their own.
And I think of the years . . . And the love that I've known.
I'm now an old man . . . . . . .. and nature is cruel.
It's jest to make old age . . . . . . . look like a fool.
The body, it crumbles .. .. . grace and vigor, depart.
There is now a stone . . . where I once had a heart.
But inside this old carcass . A young man still dwells,
And now and again . . . . . my battered heart swells
I remember the joys . . . . .. . I remember the pain.
And I'm loving and living . . . . . . . life over again.
I think of the years, all too few . . .. gone too fast.
And accept the stark fact . . . that nothing can last.
So open your eyes, people .. . . . .. . . open and see.
Not a cranky old man .
Look closer . . . . see .. .. . .. .... . ME!!