Life. And Age.
For as long as I can remember, there seems to always be a “summer rumor” – a sort of urban legend that suddenly circulates the internet. In this years case, it’s a story about an old man who died in a Florida nursing home leaving nothing behind but a scribbled poem found in his pants pocket titled “Crabby Old Man”. In truth, this poem was written 20 years ago in Texas by Dave Griffith, as a personal observation of life and aging titled “Too Old Soon”. Either way, these words have obviously struck a chord for many readers (as it continues to circulate the web). I, for one, think it’s a tragically beautiful timeline on life. And I love it.
I feel like I’m always being told by strangers to “appreciate the time with your babies because they grow up so fast!”, and like my elders are always reminding me how fast life goes by. Do you ever find yourself nostalgic about things even as they are happening?? Like when I’m bathing Hudi in the sink; instead of fully enjoying the cuteness of her tiny little tushy fitting in the basin with rolls of tummy fat lapping at the water, I instead feel an urgency to appreciate it because soon she won’t fit in there anymore! It’s insane! I totally have this weirdness about me where I’m acutely aware of how fast time goes by, and how quickly they’ll be old. How quickly I’ll be old. (Honestly, I’m pretty sure this all started when my second grade teacher read my class a copy of “Love You Forever” by Robert Munsch.) I feel like I’m in a constant rush against time – always stopping to tote the years I have left to child-bearing (frantically calculating how many more children I can fit in before I turn 30!), glimpsing daily at the calendar to make sure I am aware of how many weeks I have left until Freida starts school (can I really fit enough one-on-one real-life education into 5 weeks??), thinking about my body – making sure I love it enough to have only confidence in the bedroom during my prime (hello? 30 is NOT old!), getting teary as I put away boxes of clothes that are too small on my baby (she’s only been alive for 5 months!!!) etc. etc. I can honestly go on and on. It’s awful and wonderful at the same time. It definitely helps me appreciate every day of my life, but it also nags at a part of my brain – inhibiting me from fully enjoying each moment. Worrying me about the moments going by as they are happening…! Anyone else out there relate to this frantic stop-time obsessiveness? Anyone??
Anyways, this poem did nothing but exasperate it for me. And still, I love it.
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 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!!