The Story, So Far
20 was a blur. 30, I was busy. 40 was bad (Don’t ask). 50, well, I honestly never thought I’d make it that far and it felt good to be golden. 60? hmmm . . .
In a matter of days, I will cross over into certified senior-hood. Please, no jokes about dual citizenship. That’s so, uh, old. When a friendly supermarket checkout girl invites me to move over to her special lane, I can’t indignantly insist that I do not belong there because I will, in fact, be one of the oldies who get special treatment. Whether I like it or not. Denial, anger, bargaining, depression . . . let’s maybe go straight to acceptance. We don’t have much time.
I learned the meaning of a word the other day: hukluban (adj.) decrepit, old and feeble, senile. The complete phrase “Matandang Hukluban” seems the perfect description for how I feel when I wake up most days these days. At an acting workshop back in high school, I once saw a young, already great Tony Mabesa instantly transform himself into an old man—he bent over slightly, rounded his shoulders and shrank into himself, squinted and reached for support, then took tiny, halting steps that betrayed his pain. Nowadays when I straighten up and walk without wincing, that’s when I’m acting. Exagg, you say. Tell it to my sciatica, spinal stenosis and/or diabetic neuropathy. Tell it to my cataracts.
It’s a scary thing this turning 60. Society tells you it’s time to retire. The law says you need to be helped because you’re so old. Young people look at you and tell each other they never want to be that old.
What’s important though is the story we tell ourselves.
In one of those Viber threads of classmates who are all turning 60, someone forwarded a post purportedly citing a New England Journal of Medicine study that found humans are most productive, not in their 20s or 30s, but amazingly between age 60 and 70. More, the second most productive period is supposedly between 70 and 80. The alleged proof: the average age of a Nobel Prize winner is 62 and the average age of popes is 76. Uhh. First of all, Nobel Prizes in the sciences are given many years after the award-winning work. Most telling, there are very few Nobel winners and usually just one Pope at a time—hardly enough to make a conclusion about the entire human race. And yet I so wanted it to be true that I registered online for access to the New England Journal of Medicine and scoured the archives for the article on aging and productivity. I saw “Atypical Femur Fracture Risk versus Fragility Fracture Prevention with Bisphosphonates” but avoided “Aerobic or Resistance Exercise, or Both, in Dieting Obese Older Adults”. In the end, I found nothing about Nobel Prizes and popes.
Not being one to give up easily, and since I spend much of my time in bed because of the pain in my leg, hip and back, I decided to come up with my own evidence of enhanced capabilities and higher productivity.
One: As a person (very soon to be) between 60 and 70, I grew up and started working before the advent of the internet. Therefore, I have the uncanny ability to get work done even when (fiber) internet service conks out for four weeks and the repair hotline is busy all day every day. Sometimes I can even do research using books. Beat that, Digital Natives!
Two: I am able to break seemingly indecipherable codes. My eyesight is so clouded and screwed up that words can look like shadowy jumbles of letters, but somehow my mind makes sense of it all, floating, pulsating letters fall into place, and I can complete the New York Times crossword puzzle without too much cheating. (Longest streak - 130 Best time - 9:31)
Three: My storytelling prowess now exceeds the limits that normal humans can bear. I can tell the same story to the same audience again and again and again because I forget that I’ve already told it.
Four: I am sly like a fox. Linguistics experts will tell you there’s a reason the Tagalog word magulang means both “mature’ and “cleverly deceiving.” If you think I’m going to explain this to you, you must be really young.
Five: I can see into the future. Even Ironman and The Hulk, conquerors of time travel, could not do this. Me, throw me into any situation at the office, at home or on the road and I can tell you what’s going to happen next. I’ve lived so long and experienced so much that nothing is new. Whatever we’re going through now is something I’ve gone through before. In short, been there, been that. Life is like a made-for-TV-movie starring never-heard actors mouthing hackneyed lines: utterly predictable.
So, 60. Matandang hukluban? Hah! No way. Not quite yet.
Here’s my story and I’m sticking to it: Senior citizenship is my super power.