Crabby Old Man

This is a very touching and important poem for me. Working in a senior living community for three years, you see some ill treated residents; breaks my heart. What if those were your parents being treated that way?

We are all taught “Treat others as you want to be treated.” But how many of us can actually we do that everyday, every minute?

I have included a little background information preceding the poem.

 

Jeremy, a volunteer at The Dallas VA Medical Center, about the impact our digital ArtBook had on one of his patients.

“‘Oscar’ was a cantankerous old coot; a veteran of WW II, he always seemed to be grumpy and never seemed to have a kind word for anyone. No volunteer actually enjoyed visiting with him, but I always included Oscar in my visits just to let him know that he’s not forgotten, and I’m ready to provide comfort and cheer whenever he’s ready to receive it. Most of the time these glad tidings were greeted with a “bah, humbug!” attitude, but I visited anyway.

Rowing Home, 1890. Winslow Homer. The Phillips Collection

Recently, I decided to show Oscar your ArtBook. When I approached him with the idea, he snapped, “I don’t want to see no “friggin’” pictures.” But I told him we were going to amuseum in Washington, opened up one of the galleries, and showed him a highlight from the collection…a simple work by an artist I didn’t recognize.

Oscar stared, transfixed. Suddenly, his constant bad mood lifted. The lines on his face eased all at once, as if kissed on the forehead by a pretty girl. He didn’t say a word (which sure is unusual for Oscar). And then I saw tears quietly sliding down his aged cheeks…. I don’t really know what happened to him that day, but he’s a lot more welcoming when I come to visit him anymore. And I always bring the ArtBook.”

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why we are spending our time, talent, and money bringing the art experience to folks like Oscar. YOU are the ones making it all happen!

Please ponder this poem I found in my email box the other day. Shortly after his death, it was found among the belongings of the anonymous author in his nursing home room:

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 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!!

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