The Old Man in the Corner

September 26, 2009
Audio: The Old Man in the Corner

An Adaptation of a Nepali Folktale

Told by Sheila Wee

The old man lay in the corner and remembered.

Remembered a time when he was young and strong.

When he ran through the valleys tending his father’s goats.

But now he is here, old and weak, lying in a corner.

No more running – just a few stumbling steps.

Trembling hands, and a mind that remembers the past, better than it understands the present.

Yes, once he was young and strong and now he is old and weak.

But he has a family.

A son, son’s wife and a grandson – the light of his life.

The boy plays on the floor beside him.

Feeds him patiently with a spoon.

Makes him want to live.

Yes, once he was young and strong, able to dig and plant, to weed and harvest.

Able to take care of his family.

Life was good then and food was plentiful.

It is not so now.

Old and weak he lies on his bed and sees the weariness in his son’s eyes; working so hard for so little.

He sees despair in the eyes of the young woman, his son’s wife, as she tries to make the food feed all four of them.

He sees his grandson grow thinner, not taller.

The young wife looks at the old man lying in the corner – near the end of his life.

The old man who is eating the food that would help her son grow tall and strong.

She thinks of the lifting and carrying of that old body and how it takes her time and strength.

Time that could be spent helping her husband in the fields, growing the crops that could lift them out of poverty.

Late in the night the old man lies in the corner and listens.

Listens to fierce whispers, to tears and sighs between husband and wife.

He hears his name, then the word “temple” and he understands.

Morning comes. The old man lies in the corner and remembers. Remembers how he had placed the stones and shaped

the mud to build this house – this home. This home, which he must now leave.

His grandson laughs and chatters by his side. A sound he will hear no more.

And now comes his son carrying a basket.

The basket that his own dear wife had woven for him, years before. She had woven it strong, strong enough to carry

the heaviest of burdens, wood, rice, or even an old man.

Then came two arms gently lifting. Two eyes downcast, not meeting his. A mouth too ashamed to speak.

And he was now a burden, carried in a basket. A collection of old bones to be taken away.

But then came a voice, young and pure.

“What are you doing father?  Where are you taking grandfather?”

“To the temple my son, they will look after him there.”

“Is that a good place father?”

“Yes, my son.”

“Then bring back the basket, don’t forget. For one day I will need it to carry you to the temple too.”

A moment passed.

A glance went between husband and wife.

Then two arms again were  gently lifting and the basket was empty and the old man was once more in his rightful place.

In the corner of the house, but at the centre of the family.

© Sheila Wee 2007

Please feel free to tell this story, but if you want to publish it in any way please contact me for permission at admin@storywise.com.sg

5 Responses to “The Old Man in the Corner”

  1. why i can’t see the word at the bottom?

  2. Hi Stella,

    I’ve too busy telling stories to upload it on the site. 🙂

    Here it is.

    Cheers,

    Sheila

  3. a good moral story

  4. What a lovely moving story Sheila, thanks for sharing such a moving piece with us all.

  5. what a good moral story! thankyou for sharing with us all

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