It’s pretty easy to hoax people. We all want to be deceived, but only up to a point. Some hoaxes are fun and pleasant, others malicious and unpleasant. We’d like a way to tell the difference (Robert Carroll).



Feb 14, 2013

True Story of Cranky Old Man




I never thought I'd age the way others did. I was wrong!

From Message Board




This touching and sad story, which circulated in multiple emails, has several variations, but the standard version looks as following:

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 mags 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.

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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 . . . ... let’s 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 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!


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The story about the old man (in some versions described as 100 years old) is nice, but nevertheless it is a fabrication.

This is an Australian version of several older stories that have circulated in the United States and the UK for many years. The stories attached to this version of the poem are fictional. The scenario described in the message did not happen and the poem was not found in the belongings of an old man in a nursing home as claimed.

However, the poem itself has a long and somewhat obscure history. The original version featured an old woman rather than an old man and is sometimes attributed to English nurse Phyllis McCormack who reportedly penned it in the 1960's.

The "old man" version of the poem was apparently adapted from the original by David L. Griffith of Texas and can be seen in its original context on the poet's website. The poem, titled Too Soon Old, was written by Griffith more than 20 years ago, and he meant for it to be simple and to the point, from youth through old age in his own personal life, high school football, Marines, marriage, the ravages of his own disabilities.

Obviously, someone took the poem from his site, created a false story about it, and started it circulating on the Internet. 

Original Poem by Phyllis McCormack


Crabbit Old Woman, also variously titled Look Closer, Look Closer Nurse, Kate, Open Your Eyesor What Do You See?, is a poem written in 1966 by Phyllis McCormack, then working as a nurse in Sunnyside Hospital, Montrose. The poem is written in the voice of an old woman in a nursing home who is reflecting upon her life. Crabbit is Scots for "bad-tempered" or "grumpy".

The poem appeared in the Nursing Mirror in December 1972 without attribution. Phyllis McCormack explained in a letter to the journal that she wrote the poem in 1966 for her hospital newsletter.

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What do you see nurse, what do you see?
What are you thinking when you look at me,
A crabby old woman, not very wise,
Uncertain of habit with far away eyes,
Who dribbles her 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 stocking or shoe,
Who, quite unresisting, 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, you're not looking at me.
I'll tell you who I am, as I sit here so still,
As I move at your bidding, as I eat at your will,
I'm a small child of ten, with a father and mother,
And brothers and sisters, who love one another,
A girl of sixteen, with wings on her feet,
Dreaming that son a lover she'll meet;
A bride soon a 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 build a secure, happy home;
A woman of thirty, my young now grow fast,
Bound together with ties that should last;
At forty, my young sons have grown up and gone;
But my man stays 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 husband is dead,
I look at the future, I shudder with dread.
For my young are all busy, wit young of their own,
And I think of the years and the love I have known.
I'm an old woman now, and nature is cruel,
'Tis her jest to make old age look like a fool.
The body, it crumbles, grace and vigor depart,
There is a stone where I once had a heart.
But inside this old carcass, a young girl still dwells,
And now and again my battered heart swells.
I remember the joys, I remember the pain,
And I'm loving and living all over again.
I think of the years, all too few and gone too fast,
And accept the stark fact that nothing can last.
So open your eyes, nurses, open and see,
But a crabby old woman, look closer, see me.

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Reply to Crabbit Old Woman

There is one more mystery in the story. There is a Nurse's reply "To the 'Crabbit Old Woman", but author is again hidden in a fog. In some source, that is Liz Hogben, in others - Bruni Abbott of Prince Henry’s Hospital, Melbourne.

What do we see, you ask, what do we see?
Yes, we are thinking when looking at thee!
We may seem to be hard when we hurry and fuss,
But there's many of you, and too few of us.
We would like far more time to sit by you and talk,
To bath you and feed you and help you to walk.
To hear of your lives and the things you have done;
Your childhood, your husband, your daughter, your son.
But time is against us, there's too much to do -
Patients too many, and nurses too few.
We grieve when we see you so sad and alone,
With nobody near you, no friends of your own.
We feel all your pain, and know of your fear
That nobody cares now your end is so near.
But nurses are people with feelings as well,
And when we're together you'll often hear tell
Of the dearest old Gran in the very end bed,
And the lovely old Dad, and the things that he said,
We speak with compassion and love, and feel sad
When we think of your lives and the joy that you've had,
When the time has arrived for you to depart,
You leave us behind with an ache in our heart.
When you sleep the long sleep, no more worry or care,
There are other old people, and we must be there.
So please understand if we hurry and fuss -
There are many of you,
And so few of us.



Sources and Additional Information:


1 comment:

Stan Head said...

Thanks, Michael,

I'm very moved by the poem - in it's original form and it's follow on commentary. I'm moved to maximize each moment and friendship while I'm still capable and in the presence of loving friends.

You are amongst those loving friends, as is your wife Tanya.

I am grateful that you and Tanya are in my world.

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