Could this have been your patient?

When an old man died in the geriatric ward of a nursing home in Grass Valley, CA. 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 Association for Mental Health. A slide presentation has also been made based on his simple, but eloquent, poem.

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 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!!

About Craig Thompson

I am a young professional with two great sons, and I work in the healthcare setting. I am employed in hospital administration and serve as Chief Executive Officer at Golden Valley Memorial Healthcare in Clinton, Missouri. At GVMH we care for our families, friends and neighbors. We're committed to providing the safest, friendliest and most compassionate care to all we serve.
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3 Responses to Could this have been your patient?

  1. Pingback: Missouri Health Careers | Do You Really Know Your Patients?

    • Lori Bruce from MHA sent me the below information about today’s blog.
      Thanks for letting me know Lori.

      Good morning, Craig! I hope the new year is off to a great start for you.

      I’ve been scanning your blog for posts to share on MHA’s health careers site. I wanted to bring something to your attention that you may already know. I looking at your blog post today, and I did a search for the St. Louis Association of Mental Health to find the slide presentation. The first result from my search was from a “Truth or Fiction” site, and it said that the story behind the poem was false. The poem, titled Too Soon Old, was written by Dave Griffith of Fort Worth, Texas. Griffith told that he wrote the poem more than 20 years ago. Someone took the poem from his site, created a false story about it and started it circulating on the Internet.

      If you have any questions, just let me know.

      Take care,

      Lori Bruce
      Director of Communications/Internet Services
      P.O. Box 60
      Jefferson City, MO 65102-0060
      Phone: 573/893-3700, ext. 1312
      Fax: 573/893-2809

  2. Kim Palubiak says:

    Hi Craig,
    I have read this poem before and whether its fact or fiction, who really wrote it or not, I still think it has such impact. It brought tears to me. I guess because both of my parents are gone and my mom spent 6 months in a nursing home before she passed away and that was a heart wrenching experience for all of us and now we are taking care of my husbands parents who both have dementia so this brings it home.
    Thanks for printing this, its still very touching and very true.

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