It strikes me as paradoxical that some of us can’t seem to wait to cross into the New Year.
Life has become hurried enough as it is, why help it yet along? Technology in particular, with the ever-increasing efficiency and wonder it has been inspiring in infrastructure and gadgetry, has so altered the sense of time, especially for a senior like me, a day now feels a mere half of it; and as age slows me progressively, in inverse relation not only to technology but to just about everything else, I’d probably soon enough begin to lose a whole day scarcely realizing it.
With the young, specifically today’s young, it’s somehow understandable: theirs is a wholly different time—they live to a crazy beat, for one thing. And no different from the youth of any other time, they can’t resist an only too natural impatience to get a look at their life ahead of them.
On the other hand, with us seniors, and more so with our elderly, the phenomenon would seem peculiar. Normally, we might prefer that time be slowed precisely so that we could stay where we are longer. But normal, the passing year is the least it’s been. If anything, it has been grimly abnormal.
Twenty-thirteen (the latter number surely has not gone unnoticed among the omen-conscious as a separate and distinct negative factor) has been such a prodigious reaper of souls some of us, not unlike children negotiating an unlit and secluded stretch of night, are only too anxious to get past it. Even for a people reconciled to a stormy existence as a deal of fate, the year has quite justifiably proved too much to take. Last month, for a sort of coup de grace, it unleashed on the Visayas the deadliest and most destructive storm in living memory, laying waste whole communities and taking thousands of lives.
Thus was punctuated a singular year of storms and other visitations. Only the month before, an earthquake had jolted the same region with such power land was sunk or raised considerably in some parts, and shorelines pushed out by as much as a hundred meters or so. There, too, have been fatal accidents, bus crashes notably, and crimes claiming random lives, among them that of someone I had long known, as it happened: Joel Paquia, a tennis trainer and umpire five years shy yet of seniorhood, was bumped by a car jumping off his bus to escape a holdup.
With their vulnerabilities (can’t run, for one thing), you can imagine the dread seniors feel at the prospect of being caught in any of those circumstances. Natural, normal causes are dangers real enough to them, and aren’t they constantly reminded of it by the attrition that diminishes their ranks.
Still, anxiety, so long as managed below the level of stress, can’t be all that bad; in fact, it would seem to me to reflect a healthy fighting mood, something seniors could certainly use, lest they be dragged down by any sense of fatalism. An impatience to leave one tragic year for the vague hopes of the next year is, I think, a robust and lively stance in itself.
I’ve actually heard it expressed precisely in those terms and by a senior as full-fledged as a senior can be—he’s 89—although not in the context of the passing year. Indeed, his words speak of his very approach to the game of life: Jose Crisanto, one of my dearest and longest-standing friends, has lived life as he plays tennis.
“We shall do battle again, another time, and triumph!” Joe would say walking away from what to him is, like any other loss, a mere setback, surmountable. Being a trial lawyer very likely helped him develop the outlook.
I have no doubt the hero and statesman Nelson Mandela and the actor Joan Fontaine, two star souls migrated toward the end of the year, lived to 95 and 96, respectively, on their own world levels as does simple but himself no ordinary Joe.
Peter O’Toole, another star, who joined them around the same time, did not live as long. Oh, but did he live! He soared, he binged, he fell, then he soared again—such is the circle of his own colorful Irish life, a life lived as freely as performed. And surely it’s for all that that he will be very fondly remembered.
So what’s the hurry to cross into 2014? Well, we’re just not taking any chances.