Too Soon Old

Too Soon Old

When an old man died in the geriatric ward of a small hospital near Tampa, Florida, 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. Note that, while this poem says “nurses,” we all – every one of us – must put ourselves into this spot.

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 ………..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 vigor, 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!!

Too Soon Old

What do you see, my friends, what do you see… what are you thinking when you’re looking at me? A crabby old man, one not very wise, uncertain of habit, with far away eyes. Who dribbles his food and makes no reply… when you say in a loud voice, “I 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 my friends, you’re not looking at me.

I’ll tell you who I am as I sit here so still, as I live at your bidding, as I enjoy company 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, a football in his hands and with wings on his feet, dreaming that soon now a lover he’ll meet.

A marine soon at eighteen — my heart gives a leap, remembering the oath that I promised to keep. At twenty-five now, I have a platoon of my own, ‘who need me to guide them and secure a trip home.

A man of thirty, my youth now going too fast, hopefully bound to others with ties that should last.

At fifty my daughter and sons have grown and are gone, and I have no one beside me to see I don’t mourn.

At sixty no more babies play round my knee, again I know heartbreak, my loneliness and me. Dark days are upon me, my dreams are all 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 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, my friends, open and see, not a crabby old man; look closer — see ME!!

~ © 1986-2001 Dave Griffith ~

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