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.