Today's Punto
Today's Punto
Opinion
At 64, going 50
By Bong Lacson

Feb 13, 2018

WHEN I get older losing my hair
Many years from now
Will you still be sending me a Valentine
Birthday greetings, bottle of wine.
If I’d been out till quarter to three
Would you lock the door
Will you still need me, will you still feed me
When I’m sixty-four…

Whimsy. Utterly whimsy, this Fab Four hit of over half a century ago. That is, to me that turned that age in song this Saturday past.,

No, I haven’t lost my hair – not as yet anyway. The curly locks of burgundy-brown though turned more salt than pepper now. The last drop of dyeing henna having dried up over six months ago.

Okay, birthday greetings do still come – surprisingly much more this late in time than say, when I was a young 24 or even at established 34.

Bottle of wine? Friends would rather care than send one, knowing full well I am a teetotaler. Not by choice but by constitution, physically that is: I get all red hot and bloated at the mere whiff of alcohol.

Out till quarter to three? Never in all these 64 years, 10 p.m. being way past my bedtime. Sleep post midnight turns me not into some loveable Cinderfella but into a grumpy Grinch.

Doing the garden, digging the weeds
Who could ask for more
Will you still need me, will you still feed me
When I’m sixty-four…

Now, I’m listening. Gardening being a lifelong devotion. All the more with the son’s acquisition of a small farm last year. A most pleasant work-in-progress is the orchard of mangoes, papayas, bananas, and guayabanos, with the addition of coconuts, duhat, tamarind, chestnuts, and avocados. And a vegetable patch to boot – having already harvested chilis, sigarillas, string beans, and eggplants. Not by the tiklis but only by the supot though.

For ornamentals, red and white bougainvilleas climbing up the trellis by the little farmhouse, and all around it: potted roses, calachuchi, fragrant sampaguitas, air-purifying aloe vera and sanseveria, better known as mother in-law’s tongue; a host of lush hostas, ferns, and mosquito-repelling citronella and lemon grasses.

Pampacabang bie – life extender – ‘tis said of a garden. And yes, the renascence of youth ever felt right at the gate to the farm.

Digging the weeds though is a totally different story. It landed me to the ICU in a nearly fatal bout with pneumonia only last September.

Impact of age

Alas, there lies the impact of age – badly on the body, worse on the ego, best for the soul. It’s no defi ning moment to 64 – at least in my case – but the annual reaffirmation of some cumulative accumulation that started at 50.

It is a wonder why and how 50 is ever dubbed the “golden year” when it presages, indeed, immediately precedes the darkening ages of man’s worldly life – the epochs that are the Age of Aches and the Age of Don’ts.

The first, instanced in creaks in the knee and elbow joints, stiffening fingers and stiff ed neck, frozen shoulders, rheumatic hands, gouty feet, back pains that make it longer and more difficult to get out of bed in the morning. And that’s just for the easy part!

The second, and more cruel, the proscription of the spice, the salt, and the sweetness of life as a forbidden lot. Bawal ang lahat ng masarap.

Cruelest, most insufferable of all though, is the quenching of the once raging conflagration in one’s loins. Sans Pfizer’s petrifier, sex at 50 starts becoming mostly a matter of gender, least an affair to lust.

As I wrote it then, so I write it now – 64 being but an extension of 50, albeit of diminishing intensity – in matters worldly, on one hand; of deepening spirituality, on the other. The choice is in the individual though.

A most politically-incorrect, if chauvinistic, joke told and retold in this corner: “When a woman finds herself unattractive to men, she turns to God.” But that was before nip-and-tuck cosmetic procedures. Hence, the once plentiful manangs in church shedding their blessed velo in favor of the doctored Belo.

Men, in turn, finding themselves unattractive to women, turn DOMs – instantly transforming to azucareras de papa. Rejoicing in a manhood resurrected in Viagra. A caveat to aged Lotharios: A novel entry in the coroner’s report: stiff staff in advanced state of rigor mortis. Died hard, ignominiously. As I wrote, the choice is in the individual, having been divinely gifted with free will.

Epiphany

So, epiphany comes at age 50 too – as one finds the grace of spirit that trumps and triumphs over weak, worldly flesh – and continues to 64, 65, 66, 67… from season to season, in some spiraling spirituality, at once renewing, reconciling, and reaffirming one’s being to His Being.

No, this does not – need not – come in the splendor of Saul’s conversion at Damascus’ Gate. That’s but one for the Book. All it takes is to feel the silent stirrings in the heart that invariably sears the very soul, even in the most mundane things.

Like the daily walk at the village oval turning into a joyous occasion for worship. The golden rays of the early morning sun shining through the canopy of trees, the singing birds perched on their branches, the fl uttering butterflies among the wild flowers – all living testaments to the goodness of my God. And for these and all other blessings, I thank you, the Lord Most High.

As I have long written, so still obtain in me now.

Songs stir the soul ever more – mournful strains as the theme of Schindler’s List draw – along with a cascade of tears – images of the least of God’s children, in the Sudan, in Somalia, in Syria. Sharing – albeit spiritually – their sufferings, solidarity with them in their sorrows, is an enrichment to the soul.

So, is it not written, “As ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me”?

Weddings become more than mere organized events for fellowship and food but actual partaking, a communion, in the celebration of love. Ah, how they make me cry, even when it’s not my kids, nephews and nieces being wedded. Copious tears of joy, For All We Know and Sunrise, Sunset always bring.

The fullness of love before the altar renews, refreshes all that is reposited in the heart, seeking an expression of its own through sharing, most especially with the unloved.

So, who was it who said: “The love in your heart was not put there to stay. Love isn’t love till you give it away”? As good a thought there on one’s birthday as on Valentine’s Day.

As in weddings, moreso in funerals – tears. A sign of the cross, a tear or two for the loss, a short silent prayer for the repose of his/her soul at each encounter with a funeral procession. That I don’t even know the dead matters not. All that counts is a fellow human being having passed, and the hope that God judged him/her worthy of His kingdom.

Thence the dreadful thoughts of morbidity – again, first felt at 50 – recede to some sense of immortality that comes astir with the 60s, to wit: Less the legacy one leaves to posterity – mine neither much nor great, in the first place – than that which one shall carry on his passage, to present before the mercy and compassion of his God. Aye, in His judgment, I shall most surely fail. So, His forgiveness, I most humbly beg.

On turning 60 four short years back, I wrote how aptly named is 50 as the Golden Age – in which to pass through the crucible of spirituality to earn a rightful passage to the Diamond Age where celebrated the purity of the soul. Praying: With the grace of God, how I long to come to that dazzling threshold.

September last year, I teetered right at immortality’s edge. Birthed anew at 64, I can only go on, joyfully, with my pilgrimage.



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