Dedicated to a friend who’s turning 60 (Or, the pleasure of getting older)

—Illustration by PHOEBE MARQUEZ

My friend is marking 60 today and he’s feeling both sad and happy. Sad because he’s growing older (and his crown is fast-turning silvery by the day, huhuhu!!!) and happy because (finally!) he will have a senior card and he can avail of the 20 percent discount on some purchases).

To reassure him, I am reprinting the following piece from my late friend Wyngard Tracy who asked me to publish it in 2008. Wyngard said that somebody had forwarded it to him and he didn’t know who or who the author was.

Here it is again not just for my now sixtyish friend but for everybody who’s “afraid” of growing old(er):

The other day, a young person asked me how I felt about being old. I was taken aback for I do not think of myself as old. Upon seeing my reaction, she was immediately embarrassed, but I explained that it was an interesting question and I would ponder it, and let her know.

Old Age, I decided, is a gift.

I am now, probably for the first time in my life, the person I have always wanted to be. Oh, not my body! I sometimes despair over my body, the wrinkles, the baggy eyes, and the sagging butt. And often, I am taken aback by that old person that lives in my mirror (who looks like my mother!), but I don’t agonize over those things for long.

I would never trade my amazing friends, my wonderful life, my loving family for less gray hair or a flatter belly. As I’ve aged, I’ve become more kind to myself, and less critical of myself. I’ve become my own friend. I don’t chide myself for eating that extra cookie or for not making my bed or for buying that silly cement gecko that I didn’t need but looks so avante garde on my patio. I am entitled to a treat, to be messy, to be extravagant.

I have seen too many dear friends leave this world too soon before they understood this great freedom that comes with aging.

Whose business is it if I choose to read or play on the computer until 4 a.m. and sleep until noon?

I will dance with myself to those wonderful tune of the ‘60s and ‘70s and if I, at the same time, wish to weep over a lost love, I will.

I will walk the beach in a swimsuit that is stretched over a bulging body, and will dive into the waves with abandon if I choose to despite the pitying glances from the jet set.

They, too, will get old.

I know I am sometimes forgetful. But there again, some of life is just as well forgotten.

And I eventually remember the important things.

Sure, over the years my heart has been broken. How can your heart not break when you lose a loved one or when a child suffers or even when somebody’s beloved pet gets hit by a car? But broken hearts are what give us strength and understanding and compassion. A heart never broken is pristine and sterile and will never know the joy of being imperfect.

I am so blessed to have lived long enough to have my hair turning gray, and to have my youthful laughs be forever etched into deep grooves on my face. So many have never laughed and so many have died before their hair could turn silver.

As you get older, it is easier to be positive. You care less about what other people think. I don’t question myself anymore. I’ve even earned the right to be wrong.

So, to answer your question, I like being old because it has set me free. I like the person I have become. I am not going to live forever but while I am still here, I will not waste time lamenting what could have been or worrying about what will be.

And I shall eat dessert every single day (if I feel like it).

May our friendship never come apart especially when it is straight from the heart! May you always have a rainbow of smiles on your face and in your heart forever and ever!

 (There you are, my friend. Don’t fret. Rejoice that you have hit 60 and, hopefully, still feeling “sex-ty.”)

(E-mail reactions at entphilstar@yahoo.com. You may also send your questions to askrickylo@gmail.com. For more updates, photos and videos visit www.philstar.com/funfare or follow me on www.twitter/therealrickylo.)

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