My Daddy lived ninety-three years on this earth, his last two years spent in an assisted living facility where both of my parents had professional and compassionate caregivers. Always a gentle man, I never saw him cranky, but I’m sure Mother did as his frustrations bubbled to the surface and spilled over.
For the last six months of his life, his dementia affected his usual routines. Always an avid reader, he could no longer concentrate enough to enjoy his books or even the daily newspaper.
Yet when he spoke of his childhood or early married life, he could remember specific details of those days and would even laugh at some of the hard times now softened with the passage of years.
The following poem touched my heart. I hope it does yours as well.
Cranky Old Man
By Phyllis McCormack; adapted by Dave Griffith
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 a 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 your bidding . . .as I eat at your will.
I’m a 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 them . . .
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 whom you might brush aside without looking at the young soul within. If we live many years upon this earth, we will all, one day, be there too.