Crabby Old Man

I was sent this from a friend and felt it worth sharing. May we all take this to heed…..I don’t know who wrote it.  I am just passing it along. 

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! 




About pegbur7

South of the Mason/Dixon Line
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14 Responses to Crabby Old Man

  1. This is so beautiful… And so true. Did you read the book “Water for Elephants”? It deals in part with this exact issue, the way that an old man in a nursing home remembers his life and manages to enjoy one last daring feat.

    • pegbur7 says:

      Yes, I did read it. I LOVED it! It confused me at first until I realized what was going on. It was really a good book though. In an odd way, it reminded me of the notebook. I know, I’m weird.

  2. suzicate says:

    I’d gotten this an email and really liked it. Did you realize today would’ve been Big Daddy’s birthday?

  3. Hadassah says:

    I wanted to give him a hug! I remember last year when my husband’s great aunt was dying of cancer, I prayed with her. I spend time with her. A few days before she passed, I went to visit her in the hospital. I could tell it was almost time. She and I had a lovely conversation about her going to Alaska in her mind and how beautiful it was. Then we talked about how we were magically transported to Hawaii. We decided our next trip would be to Italy. She said she couldn’t read anymore which was her first love aside from painting. She said she enjoyed this better…said she hand’t done it for long, but she was getting better at it. I was happy to engage her and love on her.

    All she wanted was hot tea, but they kept bringing her coffee. I went out to the nurses station and politely said that we all knew her time was limited can you please get us some tea bags and see that she doesn’t run out. I guess that surprised them and they brought me a handful. I told my aunt that all she needed now was the hot water anytime… She passed away two days later. As I’m typing this I can see the beautiful painting we inherited. It always makes me smile!!

  4. Ron says:

    BRAVA, Peg!

    Thank you sooooooooooooooooooooooooo much for sharing this poem.

    OMG, I had tears in my eyes while reading this.

    I have always had a very soft and tender spot in my heart for the elderly, and can get very defensive when I see how people sometimes treat them, as if they no longer have any value in this world.

    To me, the elderly are the wises and most enlightened, because they have LIVED and have much to teach us.

    Having lived in Japan for a brief period, I will always applaude the Japanese because the elderly are treated with the utmost of respect.

    As they should be.

    Thanks again for sharing this, my friend!

    LOVED it!


    • pegbur7 says:

      Ron, I HAD to share it. I had no choice. It spoke to me too. I cried when I read it. I have a soft place for our elderly too as to my children. I hope I raised them well so that they continue with their love and respect of older people. Have a wonderful weekend my brother!

  5. Thanks so much Peg. This is so beautiful. When I had dim sum with my daughter in law and her kids, Kate commented on a teen age boy at the next table feeding his very elderly grandmother with chopsticks. It was such a touching display of love and respect.

  6. Spot says:

    What a beautiful poem. And so true. We really should value our elderly more in this country. In many cultures, taking care of your elderly relatives is a privelege.


  7. Jimmy says:

    I have read this before and it always gets to me.

    Thanks for sharing Peg

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