A year of sensitive living | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

Comes another year, and I’m neither complaining nor bragging, just feeling strangely uneasy realizing I’m older than my president, as well as nearly all other presidents.

I’m older even than my Indian meditation guru and the new Archbishop of Manila, and, if I outlive Benedict, possibly older than the next Pope, too.

I’m reminded of Dad in his 80s (although I’m not anywhere near) and strong enough still to be taken out to dine. He would look around and, soon enough, declare himself the oldest person in the restaurant. Indeed, people seemed to regard him with awe, even reverence, as if they understood that with old age comes God’s blanket absolution and automatic sainthood upon death.

But some just couldn’t help betraying a look of mild shock—surely without the slightest morbid hope—as if his living, kicking presence was more news to them than would be his demise.

“You don’t know how it feels to be the oldest anywhere you go, kiddo,” he’d say and pretend to shiver, before chuckling with satisfaction at the shock he gave.

I suppose that one—especially one who has achieved some degree of renown, as did my father, undefeated in five elections as congressman of Manila—would tend to inspire incredulity, if not shock, having stayed around so long. In about the same good humor as Dad lived old age, a British actor wrote in his autobiography about the exact moment he felt he may have indeed over-lived, and that was when someone came up to him and asked, “Weren’t you David Niven?”

While there remain out there a good number who are older than I, I only pray I’d be able to laugh at myself and at life at its ebb, as Dad and David did.

Dad took everything life dealt him in his stride, without question, without resentment. Old age, he said, is “the clearest evidence that God has a sense of humor.” He left at 91 with good laughs to spare.

Tending, as presumably most people do, to presume that old age brings less and less endurable discomforts, I asked Dad often, “How are you feeling?” And somehow that was enough to get him started. First he’d smile, then slowly work himself to a giggle that would intensify to the point where he’d shut his eyes and squeeze out a few tears, his face red as a beet, his body convulsed with suppressed laughter.

Fresh joke

“But what’s so funny?” I’d ask, and he’d get started again, as if hearing a fresh joke. When he had caught his breath he’d tell me it wasn’t my question that was hilarious; it was the answer.

“I can’t remember feeling good—in years,” he would manage to say, breathless. Since he got old, Dad had attributed everything he felt or didn’t feel to old age.

Just before cracking up again, he’d come to his punch line, “But who would want to even think of the alternative?”

For me, at any rate, nothing can provoke any morbid thoughts, not now, not in these, my best years. Free from obligations, I’m being finally, honestly me, doing only my heart’s desire.

Even in matters of health, I feel blessed being under no prescribed medication or regimen of any sort, except a self-imposed one, consisting mostly of exercise and abstentions. And I still have far more good days than bad.

Challenges I don’t sidestep. Indeed, I have lately become a risk-taker, believing one doesn’t lose what one has never had, or was meant not to have or keep in the first place. I prefer to fill my mind and the rest of my life with people and things that make me happy and leave no space for sadness or anger, which, I’m told, can grow tumors or punch leaks in one’s residual supply of time and energy. More precious than ever, it seems, my own supply I resolve to spend with people I love, and reserve some yet for smelling flowers and watching sunsets.

I do believe our clock slows or even stops for such pleasures, effectively extending our quota of a lifetime. I look at each new year as a new chance at self-renewal, and each new day as life’s bonus, as well as reminder to live life more sensitively.

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