The Sands of Time

One of the lessons of aging comes from the gradual loss of abilities – the slow withering of function that we all intellectually know to expect, but that still manages to take us by surprise. The day comes, like it or not, when we no longer are capable of doing those things we once took for granted. Sometimes we react to this loss with anger, at other times with fear, and eventually, with grudging resignation. As children, we are faced with a double dilemma: how to relinquish the vision of a once powerful parent to the vicissitudes of age, and how to deal with this specter of our own mortality. The following poem deals with these universal issues.


Building a Bookshelf


Your hands, grand rotting cathedrals,

buckskin inebriate Brillos, two huge cowcuffers.

I once watched them rend plywood, hammer spikes

into blocks, every test a fight, the carpentry

learned in the army. The black-white photograph;

your big mitts taped up and shoved into boxing gloves.


Now your hands are demented, they fly at buttons,

they skitter and slapdash, they are shells, relics

of purpose. We put together the bookshelf

plank by plank, and those airplane wings

are undecided, fumble with a nail, drop a hammer.

You with the tremor and the grip strength of irony,

with paretic limbs. Each screw excruciates,

won’t go in, won’t tighten. I take the driver from you.

You look to me to tell you next,

and I tell you what I never thought I would:

Let me handle it.


Shane Neilson


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18 Responses to The Sands of Time

  1. Marge says:

    This is heartbreaking, Jorge.
    I remember each of my grandparents surrendering, one by one, to the ravages of aging.
    It was so hard to see them lose so much vitality.
    Their hearts, filled with love, never changed, though; for that I am ever grateful.
    Thank you for the reminder of that which faces us all, and the urgency of appreciating every day of lucidity and able-bodied function.
    As ever,

  2. Embrace says:

    This is something I think about alot as my Husbands parents age. My fatherin law is 81 and he comes here everyday to see what he can do and we just let him do what ever he wants. Thank God he is still doing well and as is my Mother in Law for now. They do everything themselfs. My Parents are gone and gone too young.  Let Me Handle it is words I wont forget , Im ready I think. ?? For my Inlaws.
    Have a Beautiful Weekend.
    and as always an Excellent Post . Makes me and all who visit think hard.

  3. PJ says:

    Good Evening Jorge,
    The poem is a keeper. Would you mind if I copy it for myself to keep? Thank you for your friendship and wisdom.
    Until next time…Keep Smiling.

  4. Joe says:

    Hi J,
    I have no biological or in-law parents left.  But your point is well taken, as I realize my own strength & reflexes aren\’t what they used to be.  There was a brief time in my life (on & off for about 6 years) that the court took me from my father (my mother died of breast cancer when I was 8) and placedd me in foster care.  That foster mother turns 90 on Tuesday and I have taken the day off work to go & buy her lunch & take her flowers.
    — Joe

  5. Sarah says:

    Humans helping humans–every parent should be so fortunate.  At first it seemed sad, and then I thought, no, this is the way of things.  And this is what people do for those they love, or even those they happen upon.

  6. J says:

    Sobering. We were once stallions, now we\’re glue.

  7. Michelle says:

    I am 33 years old and sometimes I look in the mirror and see my hair with sprinkles of gray and think, Yikes, How did I get here and how come I have grey hair ALREADY?  I don\’t feel THAT old yet. I flash back to younger carefree days and then it all comes at me with a rush, like, eeek, I am getting older.
    Sadly, things will become more and more progressed as I get more age and frankly, I hope I can continue being as independent as I am now. I am sure I will have to ask for a helping hand though at some point. Very sobering thoughts indeed, as others have stated.
    It is very hard to ask for help from others when you realize you are losing some of your strength(s). I have always been the type to fight every inch for what I have left.

  8. Charlotte says:

    Ah, I have been there as I watched my parents age and then gave them their final goodbye..  Now, with the arthritis, I find my hands don\’t work as they used to and so "From the day that we are born til we ride in the herse, there isn\’t anything so bad that it couldn\’t possibly get worse."  Today is a good day… not so much pain and lack of function.  Have a goodrest of the weekend.,  hugs, lottemae

  9. Neora Chana says:

    The poems you share are always so touching.

  10. Gelert says:

    Been away. missed reading you. The last lines there are always a shock when you find yourself saying them.

  11. Holy says:

    Aging is cruel and unusual punishment – I often think the process ought to be reversed…be born a helpless, aged old shell with all the wisdom of life\’s journey ahead, slowly get younger and less wise and talkative over the years and die leaving a gorgeous, soft skinned tiny corpse.
    Take care!

  12. Embrace says:

    Hi , Thank You for your visit and your kind words.. You are so right . So  right. We and so many agree.
    Big Hug

  13. David says:

    This poem nails it.  I look at – in my case – my mother, so confused, so incapable – she who was afraid of nothing as far as we kids could see, and she is now afraid of electrrical outlets, her stove, the heater.  She llos to us to do the simplest things, to make it right. 
    How could this happen to such a master of the home; so someone so clever and innovative and so in command?  As I lose my own strengths, I have gotten to the anger and fear parts – I think I dread the resignation most of all.

  14. sweeti's says:

    My momhad Alzheimerfor 10 years   died in  last  vegetarian phase  as they call it.
    i always say
    my mom died 10 years
    seeeing  a healthy person   die  each day a bit more
    Fys. and  psych.
    in my young years  it was  Mom   helping  and  teaching  me
    and at the end  it was me  Helping   mom..( no teaching  coz i knew  it was not possible..
    tx for this  deep emotional entry
    and  nature  will always be apart of me…hugs

  15. Betty says:

    Hi Jorge,
    Yes, aging is cruel.  It is not that we do not notice the lessening of our physical and mental powers, it is that they deminish so gradually we are able to compensate until we no longer know how.  In my mid fifties I cared for Dean\’s mother who was 86 at the time and I remember thinking that it would be okay with me if I did not live that long.
    The poem says it all so well.

  16. Hope says:

    Hi Jorge,
    sorry to hear about the bee sting.. did you put some mud on it?? it does help..
    growing old .. humm.. I am reaching the rip old age of 60.. kina scary at times.. ( mostly when I look in the mirror..)
    and I do forget things.. but figure that is ok.. I have earned the right to forget.. "smile"
    and my steps are somewhat slower now.. but again that is ok.. for I get to see things that normaly I wouldn\’t..
    and although opening a jar is now impossible.. that is to ok.. didn\’t need it opend anyway.. most times..
    we have to look at old age in a different way.. other wise it will be to daunting..
    I pray your day is kind.. soft hugs Hope

  17. Charlotte says:

    Just stopping in to say hello –guess I already commented on this before, hope the rest of your week is going well.  hugs, lottemae

  18. Yours Truly says:

    Hi  Jorge,
    I finished reading your holiday postcards – thanks for the adventure.  I wish I could have been there.  Your post here is reminding me that I am slipping ever more deeply into my decrepitude.  I don\’t even think about the wrinkles and saggy parts anymore I am so used to it.  But rather than think of all that, I\’d rather think of the words you have in an earlier post, "Spring streams around her. / She is blooming. / The shell is a cradle. / This is birth."   I AM being born.  That\’s the best spin I can put on it.
    I hope your day is going well.

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