I turn 60 midyear—in June, to be exact. And I started my celebration with a bout with flu that triggered a severe asthma attack. I remember my mother proudly telling me that the last attack I had was when I was a child and since then I had breathed smoothly always. Until now! I was really wheezing, coughing and spewing phlegm. I said my Sunday Masses in a barely audible voice. My parishioners most probably understood what I was trying to impart to them through my “sign language”—my hands moving around as I hoarsely delivered my homily.
I’m excited about becoming a 60-year-old man. But I want to celebrate it with a bang, not with a cough. Of course I want to get old, to be officially recognized as a senior citizen and enjoy all the perks and benefits that go with a senior ID card—the free movies and the 20-percent discount in restaurants and pharmacies, and, hopefully, the respect of a younger generation.
I used to say I am diabetic. But I am not used to proclaiming I have asthma. I always remember with gratitude that although all my sisters, a brother, and my mother had asthma attacks, I never really experienced breathing as though through the eye of a needle! But I was shocked to learn that one of my anti-asthma meds costs more than P200. Wow, way above my usual antidiabetes meds.
Now I don’t want to sound like an aging citizen who proclaims his ailments to every living soul. I want to dance like a gracefully aging swan priest. I can still do 20 laps in the pool. (I was so proud of myself in taking that dip right before my asthma pulled my pride down!) I can still bike around, still do a few sets of badminton. I even walked for 17 kilometers the last time I was strolling in Paris.
I was not getting old. I was just getting started. Or so I thought.
I have to focus aging on some other aspects of my life. Now I don’t easily get angry when my wish is not granted, or my ways not followed. I just shrug it off whenever I am confronted by angry young people. I take things in stride and let others be excited. I just give in to whatever I can and whenever it is possible. I don’t confront people. I just smile and let things be.
That, for me, is real growing old, or rather, growing up. I give other people a chance. I let them do the talking and arguing. I would rather keep still and be quiet—literally. And finally be still and silent only. I just peacefully do my own thing and hope people will understand. Well, if they don’t, I don’t make a scene and scorn them to hell. I smile more often. And to those who have misunderstood me, I leave them in their peace although I never pray that they rest in peace.
Old age teaches me that I cannot win everybody over. There are those who remain stubborn and snub me. I let them be. But I am not one who will try to make friends with those who refuse my kind-hearted yet snobbish soul itself. (Hahaha, that seems to be a contradiction.) I have better things to do. You see, I have grown old. Or maybe just grown simpler… and smarter!
Actually, I noticed these changes in my attitude after my mild stroke a few years back. I was not anymore the hard-headed, heat-propelled, stubborn, workaholic SOB I used to be, one who always wanted his way. What I can do, I now do quietly. What I can forgo, I let go easily. In place of what I cannot have, I try something else. Those I cannot change, I won’t spend the rest of my life changing them for me—or me for them. Just too bad they would miss me. And their time is running out. Leave me with that small pride or peace, please! I just need to talk more with my God.
“Do not go quietly into the night,” I often raged with Dylan Thomas. Now I want to go quietly into that peaceful night. Well, if some parts of my body conk out, why the hell look for a replacement? So be it. This body has to expire soon, I guess. I just want to see what is in store for me. Will I leave a mark if I go? Who cares? I’d be glad to go. To where my heart has always been! And where my “bayong” would be for real, O Lord! Amen.
“Fader Bayung” is Fr. Raul C. de los Santos, parish priest of the Holy Spirit Parish in Marisol, Angeles City.
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