Monday, September 04, 2006

Growing Old - Reflections on the Third Age

There were five of us priests that spent the whole day at a cottage by the sea not to swim but to pray, reflect and share on our life and faith. This is what we call "Recollection" which we usually do on the first Monday of each month. There were two Irishmen - Allen and Aidan, and three Filipinos - Senen, Cruzito and myself. Allen is sixty-five years old, Aidan is fifty-five, Senen and myself are fifty-two, and Cruzito forty-five. We reflected and shared on the Superior General's Communicanda entitled - "Discovering the Best Wine at the End: Reflections on the Third Age." The Third Age is really Old Age.

My first reaction to this theme was -- it does not concern me at present. I am just turning fifty-two and old age is still far away. But the Superior General wants us to reflect on this as a community since there are elderly members among us and that we will all reach that age someday. The best time to prepare for the Third Age is when we are still in the Second Age -- during midlife.

I realize that I am growing old every day. Although I don't really feel old, there are a lot of reminders that I am indeed growing older. The most obvious sign is the loss of my thick and wavy hair. I decided to shave my head after all attempts at "reforestation" failed. I thought it was ridiculous to cover my head with the remaining hair on the side of my head.

Another sign is that I cannot run marathons anymore. My knees can no longer bear four hours of running on cement or asphalt pavement. So I have shifted to cycling. A time will come when I can no longer bike and instead ride a wheel chair. But that's still far away. Or is it?

I have to admit that I am past the noontime of my life. I am now in the afternoon and soon it will be evening. Two poems that I wrote sum up what I feel about the Third Age:


As the sun sets beyond the sea
the old man limps along the shore.
The waves rush in to wipe away
the footprints on the sand.

It seemed like it was only this morning
that the sun emerged behind the mountain
and he was jogging along the beach.


It's getting darker and darker.
What's happening to my eyes?
I can hardly move this ancient frame.

Where are they now?
Everyone seems to be gone.
I am all alone.

No wife.
No children.
No grandchildren.

Strangers visit me
and they call me father.
I cannot remember their faces
but they look familiar.
They take care of me.
They feed me.
They wipe my ass.

Whatever time I have left
is spent in looking back.
I am afraid to look forward -
there might be nothing there.

I wish my life was a vide-movie.
Then I can keep rewinding it
when the end comes.

I have so many, many yesterdays.
Is there a tomorrow beyond this final night?

I hope there is .
Otherwise, my self-oblation
would have been for nothing.

Time to say goodnight.
Time to sleep
peacefully, restfully.

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