For Children

Martha Jean Epstein


2009 7th-8th Grade Poetry Winner

What is happiness?
Does happiness count if it lasts for a second
and is never remembered again?
Like a goldfish.
Do you go out of your way
to buy it a treat?
Well, while it eats the treat it will be overflowing
with joy
and happiness
but once the snack is gone
the fish forgets.
So what is the point?
What if it's not just a fish?

An Alzheimer's patient.
In the back of a nursing home.
A group of elderly men and women
living together
because they share the same lack of memory.
So do you travel an hour away to see a relative living there?
Because when you're there you'll make his day.
But when you leave you're forgotten.
There are moments of happiness while you are there
but when you leave the happiness leaves you.
So is there a purpose to going out of your way to make someone happy
for one instant
if in the long run it makes no difference?
But does it make a difference?

Well one day I was there, there in the back of the nursing home
There where someone will ask you the same question
100 times
because they forget the answer a second after you say it.
I was sitting with many women and my grandpa for lunch. After
minutes of repetition, an old lady looked at me,
reached out her arms and said,
"little girl, come give me a hug."

I didn't want to.
A shock of uncomfortableness swept down my body and shook my spine.
If I stayed back and didn't hug her, she would forget in a blink of an eye.
So why bother?
But if I did go and hug her beckoning frail body
she would be happy for an instant.
But only an instant.
So why bother?

I went and hugged her and stepped back.
Two minutes later her arms went up again and she repeated
"little girl, come give me a hug."
I hugged her for longer this time.
I looked up at her shining face
and felt her happiness running through my body as I hugged it.
I heard her heart beat with excitement against my heart
then I let go.
I stepped back.
Her face became straight again
without expression.
….she forgot about that hug.
….she forgot about that happiness
so why did I bother?

Because I remember her,
Because I remember that hug,
And because I will always remember her happiness.