Saturday, October 27, 2012

Mother Nature and the Cranky Old Man

Botticelli.  Primavera.

Hello! How is everyone doing on the East Coast? We started getting rain and the winds have been coming in little gusts. I guess that we are as ready as we can be. I just hope that Mother Nature is kind. In the meantime I am puttering on the Internet and trying to get my work done in case the power goes out. 

I received a copy of the poem below, by email and from a post on Facebook and although I was touched by the poem I wasn't sure about the story. So I did a little investigating and it turns out that this poem was actually written in the 1960's in Scotland by a nurse named Phyllis McCormack and was titled Crabbit Old Woman. The version that is making its way around various social media sites today is adapted from this poem and written by David L. Griffith

"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  
so impressed the staff that copies were made and distributed to every nurse in the hospital. And this old man, with nothing left to give to the world, is now the author of this ‘anonymous’ poem that is spreading 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 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 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 vigour, 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!!

What do you think? Did you receive this same poem? Frankly I am not too concerned about the origins of the poem, I think the poem makes one stops and think. There are so many old and infirm people living alone or in nursing homes and frankly, most times no one sees them. 

After spending the last 15 years with my husband visiting a dear aunt in a nursing home I can tell you that there are so many men and women who are ignored and forgotten. Yes, a few of them have no family but many others are just left there to die. 

I hope as this poem "goes viral" it makes anyone that reads it pause and think, is there a family member, someone in the neighborhood, or at church that you could reach out to and let them know they are special and they are remembered?

It certainly has made me think, not only about my own aging relatives, but people that I see daily and weekly and it will definitely affect the way I think of them and treat them in the future. Perhaps I will have more patience, or  I will take more time to listen. 

I hope you have a great day whatever you are doing! If you are in the path of the storm be safe. 


  1. Hello Elizabeth

    What a powerful poem and so true. You have given much food for thought here in this post. Thank you for the reminder.

    Helen xx

  2. Your timing is interesting for me - this has been on my mind a lot lately. It's a tough one, isn't it?

  3. Elizabeth I loved this poem! And I love the images you used I like seeing the life in peoples faces.

    I have been so bogged under with work but that's a good thing. For the past few days we've been trying to get ready for mother nature. We seem to get belted in our corner of the world so we're trying to make sure everything is batten down. Be safe where you are!


  4. THIS is stunning. It is the story of us all, for we are "a spirit in a body." I have no words to show my deep emotion over this, but it is clear that we all need to see with the eyes of the heart. Brilliantly written from a man who knew his life well. Anita

  5. Elizabeth, The poem hits very close to home as we try to love my father through dementia. When he strikes out I am often told this man is no longer my father. I only need to look into his blue eyes and hold his hand to know my dad is still in there he just can't find his way back to me. He knows he has a daughter; he knows he loves his daughter. He just doesn't remember I am that daughter. He is at his best when I can engage him into telling me of times gone by. Yes this writing tugs at my heartstrings today.

    Please be safe!

  6. Elizabeth, this translates into my own life right now, seeing someone suffer with Alzheimer's, never having an idea if they think or feel any longer is the most dreadful pain to the caregivers. Thank you for posting this for all of us. It is a wake-up call, I believe. xx's

  7. I was lucky enough to
    have a close relationship
    with my Gigi for so many
    years and never saw her
    age ~ only someone who
    took joy in the smallest
    things and lived with a
    grateful heart. She is alive
    at 95, yet the connection
    that we had is gone. Still,
    the funny mannerisms and
    way of speaking are still
    there, as is the many girls
    and women that were her.
    As Bonnie, above, commented,
    she can't find her way back
    to us. Since the Baby Boomers
    are the next wave of elderly,
    I hope that we can change
    and value the journey that
    our elders are on.

    Lovely thoughts!

    Stay safe and cozy.

    xo Suzanne

  8. I love this post, and it's tragic that our wise elders are not held in as high esteem in Western cultures as they should....
    And what's really frightening are the death boards for Obamacare.....they aren't going to see an individual at all....just a number, as in age. So sad.

  9. I am glad you shared this poem. I was the recipient of it via e-mail some months ago. So sad. As I see my mom age (she's 91), I know that in many ways the sentiments expressed in the poem are true. They feel such a loss of their dignity to require assistance in things once taken for granted. I pray for patience each and every day. We will all "be there" one day ourselves if fortunate enough to live that many years. (Or is it fortunate? I struggle for answers to that one.)


Thank you for coming to visit Pine Cones and Acorns. Your comments are greatly appreciated. Although I try to come to visit every blog that comments sometimes I just do not get the chance, but I do try to comment here.