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TIMESMAN: “The Sky Gets Dark, Slowly” (First of two parts)

WHEN I was on vacation in my daughter’s house in Illinois, USA last year, I befriended a man in the neighborhood who was at that time attending to his wife 24/7 who was suffering from dementia.

Manuel Sese, retired, and a Kapangpangan from Central Luzon, is five years younger than myself. He is gifted with a baritone voice, that’s why there was no day he and I did not sing together either in his family residence or in my place – of course, over bottles of beer.

After I returned to Davao City, Manuel continues to send me text messages kadalasan asking what I have been doing lately.

It was in one of his messages to me that I learned that his wife passed away after two years of the disease in a nursing home in the US. My wife, Virgie died of aneurysm after being bedridden for seven years.

“The older you get the more you realize you have no desire for drama, conflict or stress. You just want a cozy home, food on the table, and to be surrounded by kind people who make you happy,” Manuel once wrote to me.

Lately, he forwarded a link and wanted me to share it with my readers and to comprehend the value of it. The novel is entitled, “The Sky Gets Dark, Slowly”:

“Mao Dun literary prize winner Zhou Daxin’s latest novel to be published, “The Sky Gets Dark Slowly”. It is a sensitive exploration of old age and the complex, hidden emotional worlds of the elderly in a rapidly ageing population.

In it he writes, “…Many elderly speak as though they know everything, but of old age they are in fact as ignorant as children. Many elderly are in fact, completely unprepared for what they are to face when it comes to getting old and the road that lay ahead of them.

“In the time between a person turning 60 years old, as they begin to age, right until all the lights go out and the sky gets dark, there are some situations to keep in mind, so that you will be prepared for what is to come, and you will not panic.

ONE. The people by your side will only continue to grow smaller in number. People in your parents’ and grandmothers’ generation have largely all left, whilst many of your peers will increasingly find it harder to look after themselves, and the younger generations will all be busy with their own lives. Even your wife or husband may depart earlier than you, or that you would expect, and what might then come are days of emptiness. You will have to learn how to live alone, and to enjoy and embrace solitude.

TWO. Society will care less and less for you. No matter how glorious your previous career was or how famous you were, ageing will always transform you into a regular old man and old lady. The spotlight no longer shines on you, and you have to learn to contend with standing quietly in one corner, to appreciate the hubbub and views that come after you, and you must overcome the urge to be envious or grumble.

THREE. The road ahead will be rocky and full of precarity. Fractures, cardio-vascular blockages, brain atrophy, cancer…these are all possible guests that could pay you a visit any time, and you would not be able to turn them away. You will have to live with illness and ailments, to view them as friends, even; do not fantasize about stable, quiet days without any trouble in your body. Maintaining a positive mentality and getting appropriate, adequate exercise is your duty, and you have to encourage yourself to keep at it consistently. (To be continued)

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