Seniority

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photo: Candy Cruz Datu

A FEW WEEKS ago, after a sleepless weekend and a spectacularly tiring day, my husband and I chose to unwind at a trendy little bistro near home. The bright young thing who took our order seemed a bit confused, no surprise, but she brought us the correct meal, which was all right.

When we called for the bill, another bright young thing came and pleasantly asked us for our IDs. Why, I inquired, when we were paying with cash, not credit? She said our waitress had told her to because they were needed for the Senior Citizens’ discount.

Well.

I admit, exhausted as I was that day, I might have looked 12 years older than I am. I also have a swathe of silver on my head that my husband likes and has requested me not to disguise with hair dye. I like it too, and so I haven’t. I think it makes me look like Rogue of the X-Men. I hardly thought it would make me look like a Lola, and that these bright young things would mistake me for one. Needless to say we have not patronized that bistro since.

I was offended, but I eventually took it as an honest faux pas with no malice aforethought on the part of the BYTs. It was easier for me to accept their apology than to swallow the truth that they sincerely thought I was a sexagenarian. I would have preferred it if they had thought I was sexy. No such thing.

This self-revelation comes as a jolt because I had rather prided myself on being unaffected by aging. In fact, I like to brag that I am well past 40 and am merely a hop, skip and a jump away from the “golden age.” I found turning 40 emancipating. Suddenly the deadlines imposed by society and self were gone; I could dress any way I liked; I wore less make-up (or none at all!); and my opinions, when shared with the young, bore the cachet of wisdom simply because I had paid my dues.

I hardly expected to be hurt because some BYTs thought I was old. But I was – hurt. And I am – old. Or I’m getting there. I now know it is one thing to proclaim “I’m old!” with bravado and quite another to be thought so by the world.

As I pondered seniority in general, Mang Cris came to mind.

I met Mang Cris briefly four years ago on a day trip to San Pablo, Laguna. I found him in a park by the lake, blowing bubbles.

There were a few children gleefully playing around him but he didn’t care, he was too busy surrounding himself with a cloud of bubbles. I was there to photograph scenery and I couldn’t resist shooting frame after frame of him.

Mang Cris at the San Pablo lake playground.

Between bubbles, Mang Cris told me about himself. He was a government employee (he showed me his ID), retired for about half a decade and enjoying a meagre pension. To augment his income, he hung out at the lakeside playground and sold small toys (he showed me his wares). He gave me the routine sales pitch for each one, but it was clear that he was personally impressed with the mega-bubble pipe. He couldn’t stop using it himself.

The kids came to catch the bubbles and he gladly blew some more. The kids giggled and ran; Mang Cris sat and laughed. He couldn’t run, he could hardly hear, he had a glass eye. But he was having the time of his life, shooting the breeze, savoring simple pleasures: the beauty of nature, the infectious joy of the kids, and earning a living blowing bubbles. He did it to help put his grandchild through school. No problem, no hang-ups. Mang Cris was something else.

Mang Cris with the mega-bubble pipe.

In contrast, today at the bills payment counter, a snazzily dressed woman pushed her way to the front of a long line of folks who had been standing there for an hour. When they protested, she smugly said, “Senior citizen” and continued with her transaction. Senior citizen, my foot. She didn’t look a day over 59. Worse, she couldn’t produce her SC card but insisted on her right to priority. I’m pretty sure that if she had politely appealed to the people in line they would’ve let her go first. Instead she took advantage of a privilege she couldn’t even prove she should enjoy. And she looked well-off too. I’d rather be like Mang Cris than her.

I now feel that it isn’t the inevitable process of aging nor the fact of one’s age that matters, it is how one carries it. Clearly, there are those who bandy about their seniority like a press pass and others who wear it as a badge of honor. I really think the latter deserve all the respect they get and that the former should know better.

As for me, I have gotten over my doldrums and am back to enjoying being 47, nearly 48 years old. I thank God for all the years He has given me, all the peaks and valleys He has brought me through, and for His continuing sustenance and protection. Truly, His rod and staff comfort me, and will do so all the days of my life. My cup overflows.

Aging doesn’t scare me. I know this: I am immortal until God decides to call me home. I won’t waste time worrying about wrinkles. Like Mang Cris, I intend to be useful and bear fruit until that joyful day.

 The righteous will flourish like a palm tree,
    they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon;
  planted in the house of the LORD,
    they will flourish in the courts of our God.
  They will still bear fruit in old age,
    they will stay fresh and green,
  proclaiming, “The LORD is upright;
    He is my Rock…”

Psalm 92:12-15 

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