How ridiculous it must sound, to worry about the future—at 78!
Worry, in my book, is the little brother of fear, which should have no place in senior lives. Actually, there’s a very thin line between worrying and caring, although they are, to my mind, opposite forces that can subtly and dangerously slip into each other’s territory.
When that happens, I tell myself, “Quit worrying—care!” Worry is a complete waste of time and energy; worse, it paralyzes one into inaction, and nothing can be more exhausting!
I like to believe that I care passionately about life and people, now more than ever, in the Autumn of my years. Bear with me if I overreact about the things I care about, but I’m running out of time, and I’m inclined to be more and more selective of the company I keep. I don’t want to pretend with someone also pretending.
Why should I play that game at this stage? It’s only fair to both pretenders. I’m liberated by my age from all frivolities and fakeness—and, yes, liberated from fear, too!
Oh, that the rest of my life be spent in gratitude and appreciation of all the years of good fortune and good health, along with the priceless lessons learned from pain and loss, and it be spent with friends and family who are the treasures of life! I don’t wait; I initiate activities with my children and grandchildren, have a meal, watch a show with them as often as time allows.
It’s surprising and disappointing how some children seem to find little time or need for parental closeness, at a time we need it most. Many parents, whether rich or in the hospicio for the aged, have been known to express the same sense of abandonment.
For sure, the separation and alienation did not happen overnight, but step by step over a lifetime. We might have been able to turn things around if we cared enough to have acted on it, instead of just worrying silently.
The irony is, the biggest laments usually come from parents who sacrificed more than they should have, which, of course, predictably backfire on them. The odds are stacked against such children—children imbued with a sense of entitlement and self-importance—ever growing up into mature adults.
Put themselves last
It’s sad but those who suffer most are the very parents who spoiled them. They put themselves always last, and their children are doing the same thing.
The beauty and the pain of parental love—or any love for that matter—is that it can continue, stripped of pride, unconditionally. An unconditionally loving parent jumps for joy at any sign of being loved back, even if the reciprocation comes only after some obvious compromise. How often do I hear the lament taken lightly and with realistic resignation: “If I don’t pay for the trip, lunch or dinner, I may not be included!”
People and circumstances change, children grow up and have their own lives—these are the facts of life. Looking around at the fate of others, one can easily begin to appreciate the uniqueness of one’s situation. Like they say, if asked to put our troubles on the same table to compare them with others’, we’d grab our own pile back without a second thought.
These days it feels great to be younger than somebody else, but I draw inspiration from the company of older people in relatively good health. There are not too many of them, but, being with this diminishing lot, I’m inspired I could also make it as far.
I caught the tailend of a small lunch given a dear friend, Gaby Tabuñar, on his 93rd. A few former colleagues, younger but also more or less retired from the news profession, sat at the table.
Gaby himself is retired (as correspondent in Manila of the American network CBS) but not from his beloved Foreign Correspondents Club of the Philippines (Focap).
Strictly, it seems, news people never retire.
Gaby himself doesn’t seem deeply worried about anything, but he remains well-informed about the country’s political and economic self-inflicted woes, and does not hide his deep concern for the future of the country, shaking his head at familiar forebodings.
But quickly enough, he is laughing again, as he and colleagues reminisce about the good old days. My husband whispers to me, “These are some of our best business reporters and columnists of a lost era.”
Gaby still drives long distances out of town, to native Pangasinan or Subic—in a stick-shift car! “Makes me stay awake and alert… helps me keep my reflexes.” With good distance sights, he prefers driving on the highway at night, when there’s little traffic. “Eight p.m. is actually the best time,” he says.
To him, sugar is the real threat. “Diabetes,” he warns, “affects every important organ of the body.” He winces, as he speaks of how it could diminish the quality of one’s last years, if not altogether hasten one’s demise.
But on this day, he clear-mindedly throws caution to the winds and fearlessly has himself a slice of chocolate cake.