I am in my mid-70s. It’s surreal to outlive my father by a couple of decades and my mother by 17 years. They succumbed to cancer at 56 and 59, respectively.
Our parents’ demise emotionally devastated us all. Being the eldest, I was the only one who was done with college; the rest were armed only with sheer determination and ample guts to succeed. With educator-parents, everyone valued school and eventually got college degrees.
We are a brood of 11 children; one died in infancy. It’s dreadful to even think of the Big C, and our predisposition to the disease. We take good care of ourselves, go for medical checkups, and take prescription medicines, if there are, regularly and religiously.
All of us have reached the senior years, celebrating life gloriously, as though we had hit the lotto jackpot. Our youngest brother didn’t make it, though. It was harrowing to lose him when he was 59, not being able to live with us through what we call the bonus years.
Each one of us, brothers and sisters, walk with aplomb, avoiding the slow gait, a sign of aging. We think and feel young, color our hair to hide the gray, religiously use facial moisturizer and body lotion to alleviate dry skin.
We sisters put on mild makeup to conceal skin imperfections, and dress in nice outfits on special occasions. But there are times when the stark reality of aging catches up with us, when young people address us as “Tatay” or “Nanay” — to our amusement. It is a cause of laughter among us.
I, particularly, love Mondays — because they mean free movies for seniors! My great passion for movies has been rooted in me since childhood. A movie was my mother’s reward for my brother and me for taking a nap when we tagged along with her to the city of Cebu once in a while on vacations.
The brother next to me (now a retired executive judge) would mimic the bellowing sound of Tarzan. Those were unforgettable times in our childhood memories because we lived in a small town where the only entertainment was a free movie in the plaza once in a blue moon. Now I am quite amused to see and hear seniors snoring in movie houses.
Laughter is the main ingredient of our regular get-together. We are a family that loves to laugh. I got much of the gene of laughter from our father. I have read Carlos Bulosan’s “The Laughter of My Father” several times. The retelling of funny and embarrassing anecdotes of our youth elicits laughter, with the same intensity each time. A niece quipped one time, “What’s funny?”
Let’s try to fight old age and busy ourselves with hobbies like gardening, reading, cooking (especially experimenting with new recipes), seeing old friends, and brisk walking for exercise. Occasional and mild forgetfulness is a normal part of aging. It happens to all of us seniors, involving an incessant search for keys, eyeglasses, slippers, and cell phones, or the taking of medication.
One time my husband, wheelchair-bound at the time, connived with our eldest daughter to surprise me on the occasion of our wedding anniversary. It sparked a guffaw when I asked who the roses were for!
Lest we forget, most of all we must be aware of the early signs of dementia. Seeing a doctor is a must. Let’s hope a cure for it is in the offing.
Age is just a number, a cliché, and let’s try not to let it define us. Life is beautiful in our 60s onward. The love of our children, grandchildren, friends, and significant others is life’s blessing.
It is what matters most. Let’s leave a legacy of love, joy, and laughter to our loved ones, and stay young at heart. After all, it’s a blessing to grow old than to die young.
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Daylinda Viacrucis Quiroz, 75, is a retired secondary school teacher. She has been widowed twice, has six children (a son met a tragic death) and 18 grandchildren.
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