• Allegedly, a nurse named Phyllis McCormack was merely empathetic to the plight of the aging adults she cared for.

    McCormack, so the story goes, penned the first draft of this poem while working in a British hospital, sometime in the mid-1960s.

    According to a 1998 article in the “Daily Mail” (a British newspaper), McCormack’s son claimed that his mother had written the original verse for her hospital’s magazine.

    The “Cranky Old Man” version of the poem is said to have been later adapted from McCormack’s version by David Griffith, a U. S. poet.

    What do you see nurses? What do you see?

    What are you thinking? When you are looking at me

    A crabbit old woman not very wise,

    Uncertain of habit, with far-away eyes,

    Who dribbles her 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 stocking or shoe,

    Who unresisting or not, lets you do as you will

    With bathing and feeding, the long day to fill,

    Is this what you’re thinking? Is this 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 use 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 girl of sixteen, with wings on her feet,

    Dreaming that soon now, a lover she’ll meet:

    A bride 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 5

    Who need me to build, a secure happy home.

    A young woman of thirty, my young now grow fast,

    Bound to each other, with ties that should last:

    At forty my young ones, now grown will soon be gone,

    But my man stays 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 husband is dead,

    I look at the future, I shudder with dread,

    For my young are all busy, rearing young of their own,

    And I think of the years, and the love I have known.

    I’m an old woman now, and nature is cruel

    'Tis her jest to make old age look like a fool.

    The body it crumbles, grace and vigour depart,

    There now is a stone, where I once had a heart:

    But inside this old carcass, a young girl 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 nurses, open and see,

    Not a crabbit old woman, look closer - see ME.

    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 vigour, 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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