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Texas, United States


"Cranky Old Man"

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 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 Melbourne. The old man's sole bequest to posterity has since appeared in the Christmas editions of magazines around the country and appearing in magazines  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 . . . 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 vigor, 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! 


Jon said...

Beautiful. Made me emotional.

Anna Maria said...

Thanks Jon! It moved me too. Anyone who wants to keep it "winging" may. It has no copyright.

Jill Paterson said...

Wonderful post, Anna. I'm sure that Emily would relate to this too at almost 100.
She always says that she is 24 inside her head. It's just that she needs a new body because the one she has isn't keeping up with her.

Anna Maria said...

Thanks Jill! Your Mom is so lucky she is still able to stay at home at her age! I totally understand why she says that...I still think 22 inside my head and sometimes it surprises me when I glance in a mirror and see...oops!

Nancy Alborell said...

I used to work caring for the elderly so this poem really took me back. The old souls have wonderful memories to share, if you take time to listen. I like to think I've gained a little wisdom that way. Here's a pinch of sugar for your day; my momma is 88 years old and in love again! This is monumental, since he's only the 2nd man she's ever loved. Isn't that marvelous!

Anna Maria said...

Nancy, I think it's wonderful your Mom has found someone "significant" to love again at that age. That gives me hope. :)

DMS said...

Such true words! We all need to remember that the people we see have more to them than meets the eyes. :)

Jaxbee said...

That is as beautiful as it is thought-provoking (and emotional). I often wonder about old age and how people cope with a tired face and body knowing* that they're still the same person they ever were but the outside world might not realise it (*knowing this because I'm 44 and by our forties we're all too aware that we never really change underneath, do we, even if our bodies would care to protest otherwise)
What a legacy. I hope the 'cranky old man' knows the legacy he left behind.

Anna Maria said...

Thanks Jess...the more I age the more I realize how this man felt. As long as we keep the youthful memory's our minds don't age.

Anna Maria said...

Thanks touched me also and that's why I wanted to share it. I'll be 75 on my next birthday but I tell everyone I "think" 22. It works as long as my arthritis isn't acting up...then I think, oh did I get here so fast?...but then, I'm very grateful I did and feel as well as I do most of the time.


Hi Anna, What a wonderful, heartfelt, emotional post. This is so true isn't it? Only our bodies age. On the inside we're still the same person, young and alive. Aging is so cruel yet I suppose the alternative is even worse. Thanks for sharing.

oneperson said...

Tears here too.

Anna Maria said...

Tnanks Grace! Yes...that is one big surprise as you age...that your mind doesn't. YW

Anna Maria said...

Thanks much Carol! Glad you lliked it!

Hemant said...

This is really nice....I am touched!!and yes...everyone will reach this stage one day.....

The childhood once gone, it never comes back..and the when the old-hood never goes back :)

c emerson said...

Extremely nice. I do want to reference this poem and post, and will pay it forward so to speak. My wife lost her mother (88) a year+ ago. I lost my father (95) four months ago. Inside, they were not that old.

My favorite lines:
"But inside this old carcass . A young man still dwells ...
So open your eyes, people .. open and see.
Not a cranky old man . Look closer .. see .. ME!!"

Thanks, A.M. Love your blog.

Anna Maria said...

Thanks Hernant. I am glad you liked it...and so true, once it's gone it's gone forever.

Anna Maria said...

Thanks c emerson! I'm happy you will keep the poem circulating. I'm sure all of us who lost our parents to old age can appreciate the pain of loss this old man felt.