“One starts at the age of seventy to live on borrowed time.”

  • Graham Greene

“A Sort of Life” (1971)

SAN DIEGO, Calif.  -  Turning 70 – what a thought!  And yet I am past that very threshold.  In fact, I just turned 70 last week (October 18th) – yes, 70 years old – and that milestone, combined with the natural period of reflection that I always observe around the Christian holidays of Thanksgiving and Christmas, has reminded me of just how truly blessed has been my life, how very lucky I am to have gotten to this point.

 

Many of my childhood friends who were school classmates, too didn’t make It to their sixties, my mother (You will forever be in my heart, Ma!), my first cousin Teddy who enticed me to join the US Navy and see the world but later died in Vietnam (Rest in peace, Shipmate and thank you for your service!)  as well as one of my closest best of friends in high school (Bobby… we sorely miss you!) didn’t make it to 60 and the number of people I’ve loved “In My Life” (as that Beatles song melancholy refrains) who are no longer with me just keeps growing.

Losing my Dad much earlier, just after his 92nd birthday, meant there is no longer an older generation in my family.  Now, I am it.

My body doesn’t work as well as it once did (if you’ve seen me with a slight limp in my walking, then you know me during my “Navy liberty call”-enriched, sailing the seven seas prime so as to have a proper basis for comparison), my dental repair bills are sky-rocketing and I have (negligible, too!) eyesight degeneration (but thankfully with no visible impairment as yet) – and that’s just for starters.

Believe me when I tell you that even if you escape truly life-threatening diseases and accidents, aging brings with it a truckload of minor medical issues.  From revolting skin barnacles and easier/constant bruising (Hey guys.. this is particularly true for us – much older men) on your arms to challenging changes in your digestion and the increased time it takes for anything to heal, these are annoyances for which none of us are prepared.  When I think of how lightly I used to travel compared to all the crap that’s now needed to keep me on the move, I am very thankful that my status with most airlines means that I don’t have to pay for checked baggage.

But this article is not a lament on aging or my distant youth.  Rather it is a celebration of a life well-lived (at least, that is what I would like to think so, so far of my life as of this present moment – right now, this very minute … Hahahaha!) and the life that’s in front of me.  While so many of my friends and family never made it to 70, I’m still here.  I’ve survived!  I believe more than just outlived, if I may honestly say so.  I’ve flourished and prospered and had a truly wonderful time.  And again, I would like to think that in my own little way, I’ve made an effort to improve the world around me.  Sometimes that’s been associated to my professional life, as in trying to save the earth from crappy supply logistics practices/policies/plan designs, etc.).  Sometimes that’s been related to my personal life, as in making philanthropy central to our budget (my wife and I’s) both of time/energy and of financial resources.  Sometimes, it’s all about lending a helping hand, reaching out to comfort, being there when it’s uncomfortable or inconvenient or you really don’t know what to say or do.  And sometimes, too - it’s about pushing in and prodding on because there’s a wrong that really needs righting.

Gratitude and faith based on an enduring trust in a merciful and loving God is what brings me through the rough parts of life.  My daily prayer accordingly includes the words of St. Francis de Sales: “Have no fear of what tomorrow may bring.  The same loving God who cares for you today will take care of you tomorrow and every day.  He will either shield you from suffering or give you unfailing strength to bear it.”

I know I have already “borrowed” quite a bit of time.  Grateful for it, I believe I have used it well and remain peaceful in the knowledge that sooner or later I will be meeting the generous lender face to face.

I really don’t think I have accomplished anything monumental (such as winning a Pulitzer Prize, for that matter!) in my life thus far, and it’s unlikely that I’m going to do so.  But I’d like to think that a little bit of good done here and a little more done there adds up to what we’re commanded as Christians (but I certainly think this applies to everyone else, too) to literally fix the world.  But there’s so much to resolve (more now than at any time in my lengthening life) that I often feel overwhelmed at where to begin, not to mention that there’s never time to keep my closets organized and my book alphabetized, to select cards and gifts for every occasion while changing our home’s décor with the seasons (Christmas is just around the corner now, my dear folks!) or to master any of the topics/authors/etc. about which I’d love to be more knowledgeable.

But the important thing about tuning 70, if I must say so is that it’s time to make peace, if you’re ever going to do so, with the fact that you’ll never be able to do everything you’d like to do.  (I have yet to jump out of an airplane in free fall or in a tandem … a bucket list I was hoping to accomplish when I retired from the military!).  It’s absolutely; truly time to refine ruthlessly your priorities … and that is what I have found out from my wife … Hahahaha!

My wife Zeny and I spent the last month of September and the first week of this month of October in scenic Montreal, Canada and in sunny San Francisco, California respectively  and I devoted quite a good bit of quiet time staring out to sea from the airplane’s window and noodling on those priorities.  Where on this earth do we want to travel next?  With whom among our friends and families do we want to spend time with?  What old friend books and what new ones do I want to read?  Do I really want to make time to improve my French (or Spanish as in the case of my wife’s upcoming church class), more writing of articles and employment of so many other skills?  And what about doing the circuit of theater, music, museums, and or just sitting on the dock by the bay?  Then there’s the remodeling project (actually, re-roofing our old house) that’s consumed far too much of our time so far.  And what about my own work with the San Diego Mesa College where I have put in more than a quarter of a century service thus far or with a handful of local organizations which I support personally as well as financially?  And all of that is apart from my continued efforts in producing quality pieces for my weekly column in The Filipino Press?

Doesn’t it feel like a little priority refinement is in order?  Don’t we all know that if everything is so important then nothing is?  Well, I don’t have any great insights on how to handle all of this, but I can tell you from the vantage point of having lived large these past 70 years that setting life priorities does not get any easier unless you choose to withdraw from life – and that’s n-o-t going to happen here!  I didn’t read Vincent Van Gogh’s autobiography “Lust for Life” in high school for nothing, if I must confess … Hahahaha!)

But the only real insight I’ve achieved about all of this is that, if you’re inclined to be a neurotic overachiever, that doesn’t change just because your joints are screaming and your barber has to work extra harder at not cutting all the hair, if you get the drift of what I am trying to imply here.  Au contraire!  Those habits of a life time define not only how we live but also how we age.  And for me, although the to do list has evolved and my priorities have changed, and while I’ve had to make a range of substitutions in everyday living to accommodate the physical changes of aging, it appears that I’m not likely to slip quietly into a bingo game-laden, early bird special dining, daytime television-watching style of aging.  Not while I’m still sentient and just 70 years y-o-u-n-g!

So watch out world.  Jesse at 70 could be even more trouble – and having more f-u-n, hahahaha! – than say Jesse at 50 or 40 or even 30.  And that’s the pivot point.

Ha-ha-ha-ha!

Cheer up!!

It’s absolutely not a matter of looking ahead now, but rather of living from day to day.

I say - Press on, my dear folks … and make every bullet count in a genuine blaze of glory…Amen!

Life is good!!

The very best in life is still yet to come, my friends.

Indeed!

Mabuhay!!

 

 

STA. ANA, MANILA, PHILIPPINES CIRCA 1947: “Think I’m cute? Just wait ‘til 70 years from now…Hahahaha!”

A GAME CHANGER MILESTONE: 1963 National Secondary Schools Press Conference (NSSPC) champion on editorial writing in Zamboanga City, Philippines

NAVY BOOT CAMP CIRCA 1966: “Honor, courage, commitment … a Navy man I’m gonna be sailing on the deep blue sea!”

POSING FOR POSTERITY: Aboard the stores ship USS Pictor (AF-54) in Danang, Vietnam circa 1968-1970

MASTER CHIEF PETTY OFFICER, UNITED STATES NAVY: Serving aboard the aircraft carrier USS Ranger (CV-61) as Stores Division (S-1) leading chief of the ship’s company Supply Department

MY WIFE ZENY AND I: “Marriage is sharing life with your best friend, enjoying the journey along the way and arriving at every destination … together!”

MY FAMILY: “Happiness is having a loving, caring, close-knit family in America’s finest City of San Diego”

SAN DIEGO MESA COLLEGE CLASSIFIED SERVICE AWARDS CELEBRATION MAY 10, 2017: “A quarter of a century service … ‘We Bloom Because of You!’”