Thursday, April 10, 2014

“Blessed are they who...”

Many old-age issues make us uncomfortable and too often we avoid dealing with them—to everyone's loss

But I urge you to write your stories! Your memoir can change the way readers view old age and old people and you.

Your stories can also impact the way people care for your loved ones in their old age—and how others treat you when you’re old and feeble. (See links to related posts, below.) 

They can help them grasp that they, too, will someday become aged and wobbly and face the unknown of growing old and frail.

Sometimes the most effective way to deliver such messages is through someone else’s words, like we did last week with “The Wooden Bowl.”

This week we’ll look at “Crabby Old Man,” a piece many people claim to have written. (There’s also a version called “Crabby Old Woman.”)

Crabby Old Man
(author unknown)

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 and 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!

Below is an elderly person’s poem of gratitude, a benediction, for those who treat old folks with grace and dignity:

Beatitudes for Friends of the Aged
(Esther Mary Walker)

Blessed are they who understand
My faltering step and palsied hand.

Blessed are they who know that my ears today
Must strain to catch the things they say.

Blessed are they who seem to know
That my eyes are dim and my wits are slow.

Blessed are they who looked away
When coffee spilled at the table today....
(Click here to read the rest of Beatitudes for Friends of the Aged.)

Write your stories! It’s okay to add other people’s poems and essays to your own collection of stories. They are important. Your stories can be anchors for your kids, grandkids, and great-grands as they help loved ones through old age—and as they face aging themselves someday.

You have this opportunity 
to educate younger generations about old-timers. 
Life for all generations can be better 
if you share your wisdom and insights.

Related posts:
Growing old: the silly side 


  1. Linda, the "crabby old man" poem is sweet. I'm turning 50 next month, and I can see how younger people in their 20's see me differently now even though I still feel 32 inside!!!

  2. Betsy, I know what you mean. I remember how disappointed I was to realize that people saw me as getting old before I considered myself old. Now I look at myself in the mirror and there's no denying it! Getting old is humbling, but like the first poem today, inside I'm still the same person I was when I was 20 and 40. :)

  3. Very touching.

    Having a mother in a care home, I really wish more people would "see" my mother and not just make assumptions and overlook her as a person. I hope too that people see me as a person. I am aging and I feel my body changing. My mind and emotions are not much different than they were as a younger woman but the face staring at me in the mirror is beginning to show signs of age. It truly is humbling. Thanks for sharing ;-)

  4. Ah, Penny, I guess it's happening to all of us! :) Watching my mother grow older and more feeble has made me more sensitive to what happens to older people on the inside, not just the outside. When our parents get old and need help with even the most basic of personal care, it helps to remember that they did the same kinds of things for us when we are infants and toddlers. I hope those caring for your mother will treasure her and treat her as a beloved person--because of course she is!