Does a correlation exist between working and living?
In one of my favorite movies in the late ’60s, “The Good, The Bad and the Ugly,” Tuco (the ugly bandit) said it very plainly no matter how odd and twisted his character was in the movie: “If you work for a living, why kill yourself working?” Well said. It really does matter when you are 62 years old and 24 years in private employment. After having submitted my desire to be included in a retirement program that my company’s management might offer this year, one question does arise: What if not?
Suddenly, my life’s paradigm will change from a happy post-employment retirement state, which I call my “last hurrah,” to a defeated fighter in the ring robbed of a chance to earn the championship crown. How will my wife and I ever travel to places I have only seen in travel catalogues, and enjoy lunch and dinner together alone in some cozy places in the city, before retiring to bed to enjoy each other’s natural impulses and caring embraces? We are not yet as old as what others may think we are! My wife is still oozing with feelings I have never stopped dreaming about since I courted her way back when.
And how I yearn to go back to my beloved Naga City, where I was born and raised. It has been my ultimate dream that I shall never compromise, an absolute—to catch up with lost time among former acquaintances and loved ones, renew my faith through the intercession of Ina (the Virgin of Peñafrancia) and share humanity with the best intentions, memories included.
Shall I wait until I’m 65, a comparatively old age by human-efficiency standards, especially if one has turned into a couch potato because of clerical office work? Besides, virility is clarity of mind and consistency of thought. What if one has acquired a baggage of inconveniences, such as arthritis or the threat of Alzheimer’s disease (what they call “senior moments”)? For sure, one can’t move around efficiently and promptly, and enjoy the loose banter that is the trademark of “senior citizens.”
These are but a few of my fears concerning delayed retirement.
Tuco’s metaphor is working heavily on my mind, inciting it to think of possibilities. Suppose I make a singular request from management to include me in this year’s list along with the retirement offers currently ongoing in some businesses? Should it be taken to mean arrogance or simply an act constituting a request for fairness and humanitarian concern—to live my life ultimately the way it should be lived among loved ones, and follow my passion to help others who are deeply in need? Most of what I have known and learned in life are by and large derived from office work and associated jobs—a human turned android, figuratively.
Should I buy a small house in Naga, it will have a little garden partly occupied by a dog house for a Boston terrier. Instead of a garage for a car for which I will have no use anyway, there will be a small area on which to grow some vines of string beans and squash hanging from a strong wire trellis, beside which there will be a covered swing to spend some afternoons with my wife while eating pinakro (unripe saging na saba cooked in coconut milk). In a little corner in the house, there will be narrow shelves for the books I will bring along—on health, politics, economics, religious and moral philosophies, plus biographies. There I will attempt to write some basic prose or adorable poetry, no matter how long it takes, that I can read to my wife.
Growing beside the walls as though forming an inner property line will be rows of appropriately trimmed flowering plants, preferably santan, to add luster to the otherwise plain landscape. The house will be protected in front by a white-painted gate made of six-inch-wide and one-inch-thick wooden planks, one and one-fourth meters in height. That will add ambience to the usual excitements of welcoming old friends and acquaintances from the outside and leading them to the small reception area in the house. The only bedroom will have a 24-inch TV and a La-Z-Boy.
I imagine nice and easy afternoons listening to crossover-type music spliced with the sound of the ’70s. Beatles songs and ’60s pop will be reserved for visiting friends and fellow seniors, who will surely love to recall our exciting high school and college days of political awakening. I will have plenty of fruit juices but none of the regular bottles of beer in the ref except my favorite Cerveza Negra.
Since I will not be reading newspapers extensively anymore, except for the business section, a morning walk on the city streets—preceded by a short visit to the Shrine of Ina and the cemetery—will help me perspire, keeping the once inactive Jurassic body engines up and running again.
If this happy retiree will be given a chance to buy a small piece of land (provided the price is affordable) where he can raise hogs and other livestock helped by volunteer nephews, that will be fine. He need not even have to worry about the time that is supposed to be well-spent and worth living. He will have plenty in God’s own sweet time.
Tuco’s odd philosophy shall remain twisted until a retirement offer comes along. At which time, it shall have meaningful wisdom. I remember what Tevye’s future son-in-law in “Fiddler on the Roof” assertively said, in reaction to the cultural pride of his Jewish community seeking advice from a matchmaker that he felt made him insignificant: “Even a poor tailor is entitled to some happiness!”
Ed Simafrania, 62, is an employee based in Ortigas Center, Pasig City.