Thursday, 25 August 2011

What Do We Really See?

I was out and about recently when a young chap said to me 'Hello old fellow.' Then, on another occasion, fiddling for my car keys in a local, not exactly upmarket shopping area two young men took hold of my shopping bags. Unannounced I might add, I thought for a second they were 'off' with my shopping; in fact they were trying to help as I appeared flustered and no doubt incapable. And both instances made me think.

Now my teeth are decrepit and my sights not what it was. My knees are on their way out, my running days are over and my hairs waving (goodbye). But I've never considered myself 'old' until these two events. And it got me wondering as to how OTHER people see us. As Robert Burns put it so vividly 'O wad some po'er gift tae gie us, ta see oursel's as aithers see us.' (I would to God the gift he'd give us, to see ourselves as others see us.)

We rush around, doing whatever. But occasionally we need to stand back and look at ourselves and ask, what do others REALLY see, what do they REALLY think? The same goes when we look at others, the same questions arise. The following might interest some of you; true or otherwise, it surely makes you think.

The Story of the Crabby Old Man
When an old man died in the geriatric ward of a nursing home in North Platte, Nebraska, USA, it was believed that he had nothing left of any value. Later, when the nurses were going through his meagre 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 .

The old man's sole bequest to posterity is his poem and it has since appeared in the Christmas edition of the News Magazine of the St. Louis Association for Mental Health.

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 - 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.
Tis 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 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!

Please feel free to share this poem.

The best and most beautiful things of this world can't be seen or touched. They must be felt by the heart.


Ruth said...

Beautiful poem, Ken, thanks for sharing!

roughneckturtle/Jeff C. said...


Tequila Sepulveda said...

"What Do We Really See?" Good question! I had a child walk up to me one day and ask me if I was a boy or a girl. I guess my lack of hair was confusing to her.

I thought my earrings, pink walker and breasts would tell the tail, but hey, I guess you don't know how people see you. :)

Tequila Sepulveda said...

D'oh, ... TALE!

Pauline said...

That's a beautiful poem - so true. I often wonder the same thing!

Valerie said...

I have seen the poem converted to female gender, hopefully with permission! I had a shock one day which brought this subject home. After purchasing an item in a store, the young assistant held out the receipt (an inch wide and maybe two inches long) and said 'I'll fold it for you, dear,' which she proceeded to do. She then leaned across the counter and put it in the breast pocket. So that's how others see me... old and incapable.

Our Life In A Caravan said...

Very moving - it made "M" cry

Dumdad said...

What a lovely poem. But I wonder where his children were and why didn't they visit?

John Teal said...

What do people see ? Well whenever I pop in here I see a wise man with a sharp sense of humour !

RJR daydreamer

Eddie Bluelights said...

Thanks Ken - a real tear jerker. Glad I came round today to see this and it is very true as I have found during my ambulance days. You have a fantastic blog and create very fine posts. I admire your work greatly. Cheers ~ Eddie

cheshire wife said...

Ingenious poem!

I suppose to be seen at all is better than being invisible, which is how the younger generation often view the older generation.

Galen Pearl said...

To paraphrase somethng I read somewhere, I hope others see me (and that I see myself) the way my dog sees me!!

CWMartin said...

Ken, great poem, great post. It's a shame we can't look at moments like you had and say, "Wow, I've really made it!"

Moannie said...

Had a birthday yesterday, Ken taking well past my three score and ten. Think I am going to pose this question to a few of the people around me.
Having been the owner of a retirement home at one time, I would like to believe that I 'saw' my guests, and treated them respectfully. I know they taught me a great deal.

A fine post.

rhymeswithplague said...

Great post, Ken! In fact, I linked to it in my post today.

AGuidingLife said...

That is very moving. Made me think a lot. x

Troy said...

It is great, when just passing a spare few minutes idly blogging, to come across something thought provoking like this - thanks Ken!

Stranger in a Strange Land said...

I wrote my first undergraduate literature essay about this poem! We were asked to chose our own anthology based on a them. Mine was Time! I selected this and added it to 'great poems'. I had forgotton about the poem until now. Interstingly my version was a Crabby old woman!

Keith said...

I hate to be an old crabby party-pooper, (well, not really, at my age I just love it when I can contradict someone!) but I read that poem many years ago. Then was written in the feminine gender and was found in an old gits home in Pensyve.... Pennysl..... well, in America somewhere.

Anonymous said...

Great poem...yes, makes one think, doesn't it? I remember a few years back when my daughter was looking through pictures we had taken recently...she was staring wistfully at one and said with a sigh.."gosh really aged". I never thought about getting older...till that moment.

emsgb said...

Thanks Ken. You've opened my eyes...........again.

Unknown said...

Great post and thought provoking poem. Thanks for sharing it.

scripts for hypnosis said...

Wonderful and beautifully said and done.

Home Instead Senior Care said...

Great Post Ken, I have shared this poem with many people, and it really makes you sit back and think, never get sick of this! Thanks.

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Grumpy Old Ken said...

Thanks for reading. I wonder where this sort of thing originates but I don't think in a way it matters. If it makes us stop and think in a busy world, fine. 'The meaning of life', 'What's it all about, Alfie' and all that springs to mind. Deep down we are all the same in a way, same problems, all getting old together, perish the thought!

Suldog said...

So true.

I'm 54. I still play a competitive sport. When I'm in my gear, I think of myself as a younger man, despite playing mostly with men who are in their 20's and 30's (or maybe it's because I play with mostly younger people that I think of myself as younger?)

I do often wonder if they see me as a noble old warrior, as I did older players when I was a young player, or if they secretly laugh and wonder why I torture myself?

Heidi Olivia Tan said...

Incredible post. Thanks for opening our eyes and enriching our understanding.