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Growing old in the time of corona

By Joel Pablo Salud Published Oct 26, 2021 5:00 pm

It didn’t take much for little ol’ mommy to piss me off. All she did was meow the way she has always done when soliciting for scraps. I could tell by the way she looked at me that she was having the munchies.  

I had in my hands a plate of buttered pancakes with oats which the wife gave me to power-up my writing for the day. I was in the middle of beating a chapter deadline for a book I was writing when my longtime pet made her approach.

I couldn’t believe my reaction: I snarled at my feline friend like an old, stupid git. I couldn’t now recall what I hastily said in anger. But I remember those eyes. There was shock and panic behind those lovely green-grey pupils. She leaped up the wall and left me for the day. 

Shortly after she returned around nightfall, I treated her to a bowl of sardines mixed with rice. It took me a couple of minutes to convince her that I didn’t mean her any harm.

While people who know me are constantly aware of my ever-thinning patience, it seemed to have gotten worse shortly after I turned 57 last year. It all began on that cold, quiet morning in December 2020 when I was roused by a piercing pain in my fingers and toes.

I tried to make a fist, yet I couldn’t because it had a rusty, knotty feel to it. I was painfully aware of how out of shape I was, what with the close to six months I’ve spent indoors due to the nationwide lockdown.

Exercise was a foregone conclusion. My idea of weight loss involves burning just enough calories by walking from my bedroom to the kitchen each day, only to triple my kilogram count within seconds of reaching for a donut and a soda.

Close to forty years of living the writer’s life doesn’t bode well for my health either. I was reaping the whirlwind as soon as I clocked 50. Sitting around for hours on end, digging up words from memory, crafting catchy cadences and turns of phrases, to say little of the endless string of cigarettes which, by the Surgeon General’s standards, siphons away a percentage of my life with every puff: all these are now taking its toll on my dad bod.

Add to this the unrelenting trauma that go with discovering anomalies in government transactions, the tens of thousands murdered in the bogus drug war, 122 of whom are children, and writing them all down as I debone simultaneously the lies of its distortions and denials, you can’t begin to imagine how that jogs the mind.

My diet, too, seems like a masterclass in writing the screenplay for Psycho. Like any Filipino, I love fried galunggong matched with ginisang monggo, the culprit behind arthritis. While I love having a side-dish of leafy vegetables at any chance I get, I’m also a veritable meat eater.

This puts me in league with sixty-ish heart patients in danger of getting either a pacemaker or a triple bypass, if not enough carcinogens to make whatever sex life old fogies enjoy something akin to Snakes and Ladders.

Thanks to my friendly-neighborhood bourbon, which oftentimes come as gifts from friends, I was able to manage my longtime insomnia pretty well and quite tastefully. Just don’t ask my tired old liver what it has to say about it.

Being a sack of comorbidities on two legs puts me in the line of fire of the new coronavirus. This nasty pathogen’s taste for macabre old flesh is disconcerting. In the U.S., people 65 and above account for 80% of Covid-19 infections and deaths. At close to five million deaths globally as of this writing, one has all the reason to feel that he’s in desperate need of Prozac.

One cannot talk of getting old without that infamous crabbiness taking center stage. When you have to wake up each day to pain the likes of which is reminiscent of the Spanish Inquisition, an old man’s grouchiness is his Olympic gold medal. By the canons of Psychiatry, to be a full-fledged grouch by the time you reach 50 is expected.

I’ve long come to the conclusion that 'aging like wine' is not what it’s touted to be.

Life, thus, becomes a regular trip from Stalin’s gulags to the stone quarries and back, gun muzzle at the back of your head, or at least that’s what it feels. Unlike Midas whose every touch turns to gold, an old git’s touch turns innocent-looking pork slices into a death-defying cholesterol count.

Nothing is safe. Not the bath water, which could turn too cold for comfort; not the triple-cheese pizza which could take your throat several minutes to swallow or the tummy weeks to digest; and definitely not the letters in your text messages which begin to appear like chicken scratches on the screen. Like some dead foreign language.

With eyes failing, bones decaying, and arms and legs losing muscle mass, by the time I reach 60, I told myself it’s best to begin thinking of a new career as a laboratory invertebrate. Minimum wage, notwithstanding.

All the intelligence, wisdom, and insight culled after years of study and life experiences are now trapped in a body disabused of the power to complete a Korean telenovela series sans dozing off.

Did he eventually get the girl? Was he the murderer? All those unanswered questions silenced by the symptoms of mortality, an overactive bladder being one of them.

So, when you see your old folks in a bad mood, cut them some slack.

I’ve long come to the conclusion that “aging like wine” is not what it’s touted to be. Growing old is like building the pyramids with a spoon. It’s hard enough to wake up each day with the feeling that you’ve been trampled on by a herd of bulls. The sudden realization that life hasn’t really been all that kind to you, regardless of the untold godsends that came your way, can be quite traumatic.

To old gits like me, every smile, every brave excursion into joy, is hard-won.

And that’s a good thing because for those who’ve learned a thing or two about life as they aged, the best thing is that you don’t have to worry about other people’s opinion of you.

Losing one’s hearing and eyesight ever so slightly each day has its advantages.