"Look at Me!" - Author Unknown

This poem was found in the room of a nursing home patient after her funeral.

What do you see, nurses, what do you see,

What are you thinking when you're looking at me?

A crabby old woman, not very wise,

uncertain of habit, with faraway 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, 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 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 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

who need me to guide, and a secure happy home.

A woman 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 man'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 husband is 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 woman and nature is cruel; 'tis jest

to make old age look like a fool.

The body crumbles, grace and vigor depart,

there is now 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 to few -- gone too fast,

and accept the stark fact that nothing can last.

So open your eyes, nurses, open and see,

not a crabby old woman; look closer -- see ME!

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You're welcome - I'm glad you found it to be a beautiful sentiment - definitely something to reflect on and I'm sure many people feel that way when they get to that stage of their lives.

God's blessings to you too! :)

that is so beautiful!!  God Bless her!!.

thank you for sharing.  God Bless:):)

I just did research on this poem. I had not seen it before. Have any of you come across the ‘nurses response’ poem? It is a beautiful response to the old lady.

Looks like there is an ‘old man’ poem too. Regardless the origin of this poem. It is food for thought.


I had received this poem in my personal email inbox from a woman speaker who had read it to her audience at a Symposium. Years ago the speaker was at an AL/MC facility nearby and that's how I ended up with it.

I made sure to type it exactly as she did by saying the "Author was Unknown" so if that's incorrect, thanks for letting me know.

I'll have to see if I can find yours and will also look at the link you posted.

Thank you!

Variations of this poem come up frequently (in fact somewhere on this forum is my take from the opposite side of the equation that I penned a few years ago) and it is often attributed to an anonymous resident, I just wanted to give the author proper credit...


I think we often don't think or realize how much our parents and their histories can influence our lives, how much we can learn, and how to cherish them and their experiences.  

Your father certainly had an interesting and critical, as well as dangerous, Army career.   He's earned my respect, as well as that of everyone who's alive today, for his service in WWII.

My father actually was stationed here; apparently the training for flying the fortresses was a long one, and the war was over before his units were ready to deploy.

What planes did you husband fly?   How exciting!   My father's local Senior Center had made arrangements, prior to the advent of the pandemic, for seniors to take simulated flight lessons, but I can't remember in which small plane it was.  Of course I planned to learn to fly!   I don't know whether that offer will still exist once it's safe to be closer to people, and if it is, this old plane lover is going to get some very reasonably priced lessons.

I would probably be in such ecstasy that I'd pass out if a B-17 flew over my house!   The Selfridge Air National Guard Base is a bit of a distance, but driveable, and I used to go to the air shows there.   I'd go for both days, stay until the show was over on Sunday night, find a nice place on the tarmac and plop down and watch the warbirds take off.   The loud sounds of the engines revving up didn't even bother me.  

Usually there were a B-24, B-25, and one of the fortresses.   I saw a B-52 at one of the multiple air shows I attended.   Wow!

Once a Lancaster was on display there, and at another time a German fighter, but I can't remember the name. I think if was of the F-4 Phantom era. 

The P-51 was one of my father's favorite planes, besides the Fortresses. 

I'm guessing you and your husband had an exciting life.

I am proud of my father, not only for his service, but his commitment to our well being, and teaching us so many practical things.   I am proud of my mother for similar reasons, especially for her compassion and her achievements being a first generation immigrant's daughter.

If I ever get down to Texas, we should get together and "talk planes"!


I'm so sorry you and your family had gone through Hurricane Katrina. I remember it well as I watched the tv coverage all the time. It is so heartbreaking when people go through horrendous disasters whether it be hurricanes, tornadoes, fires or flooding. I love animals too, so I always feel terrible for them as well. They don't understand what's happening and then they too lose their homes and owners. Also, losing irreplaceable items like your family photos and any other heirlooms is sad. But like you said once you were evacuated and safe, that's what matters most!

I'm sure it was wonderful having your mother make your wedding gown and also knowing it would be a one-of-a kind gown made it all that more special.
I was even going to say (before I read that part of your comment) that she would have made a good fashion designer but, actually she was in her own way. Interesting that she would take one pattern and change it up a bit to make a variety of dresses - what a great idea and way to make good use of one pattern.

My mom enjoyed sewing but, she just didn't have time. At one point she was working two jobs. I hated sewing but, I did have to take it in 8th grade Home Economics Class. She had to help me. Your mom happened to have the natural talent and was able to develop it along life's highway. Sounds like she got some of it from her mom.

It's not uncommon for someone who is highly skilled in whatever their hobby or occupation is to not be the greatest teachers. They're better at doing it then teaching it. Go figure! That's funny about your dad volunteering her without her knowledge but, sounds like she nipped that in the bud so it wouldn't happen again.

Ahhh, yes traveling salesmen - definitely a thing of the distant past.

You will have many treasured memories for years to come that's for sure!

Nobodygetsit. What a lovely response. Thank you. I love your photo idea. Our family photos were destroyed in Hurricane Katrina. Mom had nine feet of water in my childhood home. We evacuated the city and were safe. That is what matters the most. Many died in Katrina.

Ahhh, wedding dresses. so beautiful, aren’t they?
My mother was an excellent seamstress and made my wedding gown. I didn’t even look in stores. Even though I knew that stores had beautiful gowns too, I always knew that I wanted her to make it. It was magical watching mom sew. My dress was gorgeous. I picked out a Vogue pattern that I liked. It was a labor of love for her to do.

I spent a fortune on the fabric for my dress at a specialty bridal fabric store but it was just what I wanted.

I found it fascinating when she told me as a teen that she would go to fancy stores and sketch an idea from the store window display and go home and sew it up without a pattern! Later on, she bought patterns but she was so creative that she would make a dozen dresses from one pattern by changing the neckline, sleeves, etc.

It’s incredible that as a teen she made clothes for wealthy women who paid her by buying additional fabric to make an outfit for herself too. I told her that she could have been a fashion designer!

She made many Mardi Gras and Halloween costumes, prom and homecoming dresses, etc. for me. No one ever had the same dress I was wearing. I had a one of a kind, original design. It was so special to me.

She made all of my clothes. She made lovely christening gowns. I received tons of compliments on anything she made. She even did upholstery and drapes. There wasn’t anything that she couldn’t make.

Once my daddy volunteered her to reupholster all of the kneeling benches in church.

He was proud of her sewing abilities and he thought that other women would be helping make them too. Nope! She ended up making all of them. The nuns would drive to our home with the kneeling benches in their station wagons. This went on for months on end! My mom told daddy to never volunteer her ever again without speaking to her first! LOL

She crocheted, knitted, embroidered, tatted, smocking, etc.

She was a perfectionist and as great of a seamstress as she was, she became frustrated when teaching me. She wasn’t the best teacher! Ironically, I am a good teacher because I am not an extreme perfectionist and I have patience in teaching others.

Women made exquisite items back then. Not as many people make things today. It isn’t always practical today. My mom did not work outside of the home. She stayed very busy though. She volunteered at my school and in the community.

My great aunts made beautiful christening gowns, baby clothes with gorgeous smocking, beautiful nightgowns, etc for the fine boutiques in the city to sell.

I love the story mom told me about grandma making dresses for little girls out of food sacks! She gave them to those in need. My grandparents weren’t wealthy but they always found a way to share with others.

Oh, grandma bought her sewing machine from a door to door salesman. Isn’t that funny to think about now? Grandma gave me that machine. I have it and cherish it. I bought a modern machine that I use but I smile every time I look at grandma’s machine.

Yes, the memories will live in our hearts forever.

Dear "NeedHelpWithMom,"

Yes, it's very sad and I agree that it gives us more awareness as to what it feels like to be in their ailing bodies while being cared for by younger caregivers.

I came across an old black and white picture when I was 1year old and lived in Illinois. We must have been at a park - I was sitting in the grass, my mom was dressed in a two piece skirt and jacket, heels and she was stooping down holding me up. I photocopied it and made a make-shift mini collage with that picture, myself on my wedding day wearing the beautiful gown she bought me and a picture of her and I after the wedding. When she passes away, I will have the black and white of her in the memorial folder. It doesn't take much time to look at someone's outward beauty - it does take time to look for someone's inner beauty.

That is sad that she fretted about her thinning hair and felt like her hair was the only attribute she felt was worthy of compliments. That's why I don't let anyone else define me. I'm glad you told her all the beautiful things about her - I hope it made her smile! I just feel bad she felt the need to apologize for the abilities she no longer possesses and for needing to use aids to help her get around!

I'm sure that did hurt you deeply to hear her say that people don't pay attention to old people and that they're forgotten. They no longer feel relevant and like you said they no longer feel useful. Where they once contributed to society now they don't think they have anything to contribute. Even if they do, they often aren't given the chance. They have such pearls of wisdom and knowledge if only they would be heard. There are some You Tube videos from people in their 90's and maybe even someone who is a 100 (I can't remember) who share their views and wisdom regarding life.

That's a "tug on the heart strings" story about the elderly man you opened the door for. You were placed in his path at that moment for a reason. Bless you for having helped him and exchanging some pleasantries - it wouldn't surprise me if it made his day!

You'll be 65 in October and I'll be 58 in October - even I (as well as my husband) have already begun the reminiscing of days and years gone by especially when we see places being torn down that we used to go to when we were younger. My husband calls it the "big eraser" that is following us around.

We all have had our issues with our loved ones, not only are we as people flawed but, our relationships are flawed because of it.

As for missing her now that she no longer lives with you, it always seems to be when you gain something (your relief) - you also lose something too (your mom). But, at least you've had many shared moments together where you learned about her as a person and the life she led prior to having you. Memories you will always carry with you long after she is gone.

I'm glad you liked reading the poem - take care!

This is remarkably written. Thanks for sharing this. It is meant to open our eyes and also our hearts. It’s sad and quite profound. There are two sides to every story.

What an incredible biography and work of reflection. I often thought of the mother that I knew when she was younger. She was so pretty. She still is. There is beauty in all ages.

When I would hear mom fret about her thinning hair, I thought it was silly. After all, she is in her 90’s! But then I heard her say, “I always got so many complements on my hair. Now I have nothing to complement. It was my best feature.” Her comment made me sad.

I told her that her hair was beautiful and people loved her snow white hair! I told her that her skin was beautiful. It is, no wrinkles! I told her she had beautiful eyes and a lovely smile. I told her that she had excellent taste in clothes like she always did.

My mom apologized to everyone for not being able to see and hear well.

She also apologized for her walker getting in the way and going slow due to her age and Parkinson’s disease.

It killed me when mom said, “People don’t pay attention to old people. They forget about us” I know at times she felt useless. It’s incredibly sad.

It’s because of my experience with her that I never walk in front of an elderly person like I used to do long ago. I used to rush by to pass them up. Now I wait and always open the door for them to go first.

I will never forget an elderly man looking at me with piercing blue eyes filled with tears and gratitude say to me, “God bless you, those doors are so heavy for me to open. Most people just walk in front of me because I am so slow.” I got teary eyed and told him, God Bless you, sir. I don’t mind that you are slowing down.”

It proved to me how strongly older people reminisce of days gone by. I will be 65 in October and I catch myself reminiscing too.

Mom and I certainly had our issues but I have many wonderful memories too. She no longer lives with me due to various circumstances and even though there is enormous relief, I miss her.

She lived a very interesting life and we shared lots of moments talking about them. For that I am extremely grateful.

I think it is better to think about a person as a whole, not just the pain caused by flaws. My grandma used to say, “There is good and bad in everyone.” So true. I adored my grandmother. She was so genuine.

We all have flaws. Who wants to be remembered only for their flaws? None of us want that. So I do my best to remember the good. Some of the past hurts deeply but I have forgiven it all.


You know I felt the same way about learning more about my parents lives to the point of feeling guilty. It wasn't that I didn't spend time with them as I lived with them until I got married. It's just that everyday life and its challenges for them as well as myself always seemed to take the front row seat. I thought I was the only one that felt that way - it's nice to know I'm not alone in those feelings.

My dad was in the U.S. Army assigned to an anti-aircraft battery unit so my dad would have been in the South Pacific probably like your dad was. My husband used to be a private pilot so we go to any flight museum there is when we go places. We live near The Pima Air and Space Museum and we were able to look up through the bomb bay doors of the B-29 Superfortress. The B-17 periodically flew over our previous house and that was a sight to behold too. We did have an opportunity to take a ride in it but, I was too scared! My husband did get to ride in a P-51 many years ago.

That's awesome that your dad was a Flight Engineer in a B-29 - I bet you're proud of that!

I wish I'd thought years ago to spend more time with both parents, learning more about their individual stories, as now I'm wondering so much about what I missed in their lives.    My brain always seems to be behind the times.  

In what service was your father?   Mine was in the Army Air Corps, Flight Engineer in a B-29.   (I LOVE those fortresses!)

"GardenArtist," - you're right about their sacrifices. If people only took the time to listen, they would realize how many fascinating stories they have to share along with many words of wisdom. My parents were 40 years older than I so they lived during the Great Depression and my dad was in WWII. A couple of years before he died, I remember him sitting at his computer typing his experiences on a website that someone created just for that purpose. I was very surprised he did that because he was a quiet man but, I think he just didn't want those times in history to be forgotten.

At nearly 58, I'm just getting a glimpse to "not being seen" - it's a weird feeling! Especially, when there's that saying that we've "hit the wall" after age 30 - WOW, that was a shocker.

With what you've started to experience, I think their intentions are good - actually, I'd rather have people want to help even if we don't need it than to have nobody want to help when there actually comes a day when we will need it.

NobodyGetsIt, I think it is unfortunately all too true that seniors are often seen as burdens, not as the people who for years sacrificed their own time to devote to their children and families.  

I'm beginning to see the fringes of a changing attitude as I age and people see me as someone who can't bag groceries, pack them in a car, mow my own lawn, or do other things I've done for years.   Although I think and hope that their intentions are good, it's still not only a surprise but somewhat offensive that they apparently consider me in such need of assistance.

Dear "Daughter1930,"

You're welcome and I'm glad you were able to share it with some of your family as well as it reminding you of your mother when she spent years in a NH. You and your family were fortunate to have staff who were kind while caring for your mom.

It also kind of reminds me when someone says they are 60, 70 or 80 but they feel inside like they're still 30, 35 or 40 - half their age. I hear that a lot! In my case I'm almost 58 and sometimes feel like I'm 80!

Thank you for sharing this. I’ve already shared it with some family. It so reminded me of my mother and her days, years, in a NH, completely mentally aware but in a body that would do nothing, so totally trapped. I’ll never know how she got through it. And I’ll forever be grateful for the staff there who were kind in caring for her.

Dear "GardenArtist,"

Glad you enjoyed the poem even if it's emotional. I knew when I first saw it, it would be hard to get through.

When I had problems at my mom's previous facility, I tried to communicate to the Administrator in a one-on-one discussion that my mom is still a human being who contributed to society and her family. It's really hard to accept that when one is older they become irrelevant to all those around them but close friends and family. This certainly drove that point home!

This is very emotional, insightful, and all very true.   Thanks so much for sharing.

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