As We Age

I received everything below in an email, and did not write any of it, but felt the need to share this touching poem.

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.

The old man’s sole bequest to posterity has since appeared in the
Christmas edition of the News Magazine of the St. Louis Association for
Mental Health. A slide presentation has also been made based on his
simple, but eloquent, poem.

And this little old man, with nothing left to give to the world, is now
the author of this ‘anonymous’ poem winging across the Internet.

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


  1. Pocket Perspectives · September 9, 2011

    Oh my…that poem is so touching.
    I just added a poem called “Life” to a poetry site/blog that contains my 94 year old aunt’s poetry. The blog is called “94 years old and still writing” . She wrote a wonderful poem this past spring called “20 Steps Down the Hall”.. .She didn’t wait for the nurses to help her walk and the poem tells about the reactions. She has several other nice poems on the blog too. It’s so important for us to develop awareness of actually “seeing” that young soul that’s still is there in older people.

    • Nicole · September 10, 2011

      Thanks for dropping by, Pocket Perspectives. I adore this poem. I just learned of it today and read it at least six times. It’s extraordinary and sends such a strong message that we can all relate to.
      I checked out both blogs of your Aunt Okie’s writing. Absolutely wonderful. She’s seen so much and I enjoy reading and understanding things from her point of view. I can feel her emotions. I can tell she is a loving and thoughtful person with a lively spirit.

  2. Karla Mouncey-Jaggers · September 10, 2011

    I got shivers when reading this! Very powerful!

  3. β™‘ tHe TaLe Of My HeArT β™‘ · September 10, 2011

    Love reading it….. and its simply beautiful…. πŸ™‚

  4. Nicole · September 10, 2011

    Thanks for checking this out Karla and Tale of My Heart.
    This is such a beautiful poem about life. I like how it starts off with how the nurses and the rest of the world view him, how quickly everyone is to label him as a grouchy old man incapable of doing much, as if that’s all he ever was. Then it goes through his life to reflect on how he grew, and how still, he is the same person on the inside. Aging is a process that happens to everyone, including those nurses. I’m sure that when he was younger, he looked at the elderly in a similar way. I’m assuming it really hits you when you’re older and have experienced so much out of life (and wonder where the time went!).

  5. goodbyereality411 · September 14, 2011

    cool poem.

  6. mstizzle · September 14, 2011

    This is deep… Sometimes, to be honest, old age scares me. I don’t know what it holds. I see old people with Alzheimer’s and it’s scary to think they’ve forgotten everything about the beautiful life they may have had… This poem has taught me to not only be kind to old people but to also make the most of my youth…
    Is it okay to share it on my blog?

    • Nicole · September 14, 2011

      I completely understand – I’m not looking forward to things like that, but it gives me all the more reason to cherish my youth and how lucky I am to be living like I am.
      I’m glad you enjoyed it as much as you did. It sends some very important messages.
      Of course you can share it on your blog! The more people that read it, the better. I’m sure many will appreciate this and even learn from it. It really makes you think.

    • Deborah Owen · October 11, 2011

      Alzheimer patients haven’t forgotten everything. My mother has it and my father-in-law had it. The doctor told me that their memories are living in their earlier years. What we see as pathetic, they see as the fountain of youth. The doctor said to think of them as a tree with a single tap root and they remember that root. What they don’t remember are the newer branches and leaves. The sad part is that they also feel they are losing their minds. Mom told me that the one time that she acknowledged something was wrong. They live in denial, for the most part, and it’s harder on their loved ones than it is on them.> I worked in a nursing home ministry for ten years and I saw old women who couldn’t speak a word sit there with tears streaming down their face when they heard The Old Rugged Cross and Amazing Grace. Down deep inside, there is life. Just not as we know it.

      • Nicole · October 12, 2011

        Beautiful response, Deb. I’ve never thought of it that way — that their memories are living in their earlier years/ their fountain of youth. I’m sure to most people, there’s nothing like their young days. It is deeply depressing that they feel they are losing their minds and that it’s out of their control. I’ve never had a loved one struggle with Alzheimer’s, but I can imagine how painful that must be.
        “Down deep inside, there is life.” Certainly.

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  9. Kirsten Lopresti · September 16, 2011

    This is so sad. The way the poem was found, so anonymously and after his death, makes it even more so. I’m glad it’s getting passed around. It’s a great reminder to people that a small act of kindness can mean everything to someone else.

  10. Nicole · September 16, 2011

    It certainly is. I feel so many do not realize how great someone/something is until they’re/it’s gone. I think this poem is all about appreciation.

  11. silversaturday · September 18, 2011

    Brilliant! So powerful and moving! I agree with Karla- I got shivers!

  12. claudia · September 18, 2011

    wow – this was touching indeed – this was a high value legacy

  13. Nicole · September 20, 2011

    I’m glad all of you enjoyed this.

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