First impressions are often meaningless

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    When an old man died in the geriatric ward of a nursing home in an Australian country town, it was believed that he had nothing left of any value.
    Later, when the nurses were going through his meagre possessions, They found this poem. Its quality and content so impressed the staff that copies were made and distributed to every nurse in the hospital.
    One nurse took her copy to Melbourne. The old man's sole bequest to posterity has since appeared in the Christmas editions of magazines around the country and appearing in mags for Mental Health. A slide presentation has also been made based on his simple, but eloquent, poem.
    And this old man, with nothing left to give to the world, is now the author of this 'anonymous' poem winging across the Internet.


    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 vigour, 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!!
    Remember this poem when you next meet an older person who you might brush aside without looking at the young soul within. We will all, one day, be there, too!

    I say first impressions can be meaningless because there is so much more than what meets the eye!
  2. 5 Comments so far...

  3. 0
    Wow. That poem is amazing, what a memory to leave behind.
  4. 0
    Thank you.
  5. 1
    Well. That sure rhymes.
    ashleyisawesome likes this.
  6. 0
    I've seen this poem many times and each time, its authorship was claimed by someone else.

    At least it's always a very poignant story....
  7. 1
    Ah, well. A new group of folks who haven't seen this.
    Many nurses are familiar with "The Crabbit Old Woman" poem, often (and erroneously) attributed to a resident in a NH in Scotland or elsewhere. It was not found in a resident's belongings, repeated publishings do not generate funds for the benefit of an English nursing organization, and there is now a version that someone wrote purporting to be by an old man in a nursing home in, variously, Nebraska, Washington, and now, apparently, Australia.
    The original poem is called "Look Closer" and it's by Phyllis McCormack. I read it first in (I think) AJN in the 70s and had it up over my desk for years. I hope it gets as much exposure as the original.



    A Crabbit Old Woman


    What do you see, nurse, what do you see?
    What are you thinking, looking at me?
    A crabbit old woman, not very wise,
    Uncertain of habit with faraway eyes?
    Who dribbles her 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 stocking or shoe.
    Who, resisting or not, lets you do as you will,
    With bathing and feeding the long days 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 and 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 girl of sixteen with wings on her feet,
    Dreaming that soon now a lover she'll meet,
    A bride 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 a secure happy home,
    A woman of thirty, my young have grown fast,
    Bound to each other with ties that should last.
    At forty my children are married and gone,
    But my man's 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 husband is dead,
    I look to 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 I have known,
    I'm an old woman now, and nature is cruel,
    Tis its jest to make old age look like a fool,
    The body it crumbles, grace and vigor depart,
    There now is a stone where I once had a heart,
    But inside this carcass a young girl 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, nurses, open and see
    Not a crabbit old woman.. look closer, see ME.
    flyingchange likes this.


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