Monday, 7th November, 2011.

Below, you will see something that my cousin, Audrey, sent to me via e-mail.   Scroll down beyond it to read my reply to her.


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 Assoc. 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.

Phew!   Audrey, this is so, so moving.

As I think you know, I am still in mourning for my days before I went in the Army:  from seeing my Grannie (my Dad’s mother) who died when I was about 18 months old, right through the War, up and to the time I got on the train at Wolverhampton Low Level and headed – on my own at last – for my Training Camp.   That was the moment I grew up:  2nd April, 1959.

The Army, then meeting Rosie (Irene!) as soon as I was demobbed is a whole different part of my life, and I do not mourn for any of it.   I was a different lad and it was a different world before I went into the Army.   It was a black-and-white world where nobody had any money, but where I was rich in love and safe contentment.

Last year, my late best pal’s son, Mark, told me that I was a happy man – and it was only then that I realised it.   That happiness comes from the same deep contentment as I had in my Dunstall Road days.

Thanks for the mail, Aud – it will be passed on.

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2 Responses to Monday, 7th November, 2011.

  1. Karin Holloway says:

    “Happiness comes from deep contentment” …. I think there are a few other things that bring it, even without the contentment. Like, I’d be happy if we win this fight against developers who want to destroy our village town centre to make lots of money with tower blocks. And I’ll be happy if I finally don’t have any more weirdnesses with this illness. And I’ll be happy when my son comes to visit next year. But none of them will bring me contentment. Maybe when I’m somewhat older I’ll have that, too.

    • Cornflake says:

      “Happiness is a journey, not a destination.” Dunno who said that, but it’s about right (and I may have misquoted it! I became contented – without realising it – some twenty or thirty years ago (when I was a mere youngster). Even back then, my base of having a splendid Family and living where I should gave me great strength and thus came contentment.
      I – we, really – manage on a lot less than we thought we’d need. Our way of life – I will not posh it up by calling it “a lifestyle” – consists to a great degree of just enjoying our Family (however complicated the members of it seem to make life sometimes) and simply looking at things around us. “Looking At Things” is my major hobby.
      Thanks for what you say, Karin fach.

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