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Support & Insight for the Autumn of Life

Crabby Old Man


One man’s sole bequest to posterity provides a glimpse into his heart – and life – during his final days as a patient in a nursing home.

When an old man died in the geriatric ward of a nursing home in North Platte, Nebraska, it was believed that he had nothing left of any value.

Later, when the nurses were going through his meager 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 Missouri.

Crabby Old Man

    What do you see nurses? . . What do you see?
    What are you thinking . . . . when you’re looking at me?
    A crabby 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 a 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’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 wife is now dead.
    I look at the future . . . . . . 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.
    Tis jest to make old age . . . . look like a fool.
    The body, it crumbles . . . . grace and vigor, depart.
    There is now a stone . . . . where I once had a heart.
    But inside this old carcass . . . a young guy 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 crabby 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!

Please share this poem. . .

The best and most beautiful things of this world can’t be seen or touched.. They must be felt by the heart.

The old man’s sole bequest to posterity has since made its way into various civic organizations, appeared in the Christmas edition of the News Magazine of the St. Louis Association for Mental Health, and a slide presentation has been created, based on his simple but eloquent poem.

This little old man, with ‘nothing left to give to the world’ is now the author of this anonymous poem that has since continued winging its way across the Internet.

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B. Berger

B. Berger

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