Thursday, July 04, 2013

Time Like An Old Man River

Over a reunion lunch with a few ex-classmates on Tuesday the subject of how we pass time after retirement and when we cannot partake in our physical activities like traveling, gardening and golfing cropped up. It was admitted by some that it will indeed be very worrisome and fearful to sit or lie and long for time to speed away when you have nothing to do. I can understand how my two elderly mother and father-in-law feel right now. They are in the state that I myself will find myself in one day. Neither have interest in television, reading, or simple pastime like chess, knitting and enjoying listening to music.

Being filled with time you cannot use when you are old is quite frightening. We never worry over too much time when we are young. Rather we wish for more time as we have so much to do. We have appetite for stuffs we want to experience. We need time to complete our assignments be they school work or in our jobs. And we certainly want more time to discover life and enjoy ourselves more and more. Hadn't we all wished once upon a time that there are more than 24 hours in a day? For some elderly people especially bed ridden or invalid they actually wish for less.

But time is the same throughout life. The perception of having more or less time comes from our awareness of its passage. Albert Einstein in explaining his theory of relativity used the illustration of how fast our time passes in the company of someone we love but the opposite when we dislike doing something. He said, “When you sit on a hot stove for two minutes, it feels like two hours. But, when you sit with a nice girl for two hours, it feels like two minutes. That's relativity!”

Now where am I? Yes, what to do with the time at hand that you cannot or don't know how to spend? Now I know why many older people are grouchy, difficult, attention seeking, hypochondriac, or just sleep and sleep. In their own ways they are trying to use up their daily quota of time. That's because they don't have interests to keep them occupied. That's the reason why they ask, sometimes demand, that friends and families visit and talk with them often. They are using others to help them pass time. Which is not unreasonable because as kids we did that precisely to our parents and grandparents. We tugged their shirts and pull their hands to join in our games. We asked questions, some silly others out of curiosity. Basically we just want to engage with them. Likewise the old folks do the same they did when they were kids. Life has indeed come a full circle!

I am better off than many older people. I had anticipated that I will have tons of time even now. But my plate is full and I am not bored from too much time. Being very much a planner I plan how I shall pass my time one day when I become more home bound. It is inevitable and there is no escaping. Fortunately I am not a physically active person, indulging more in sedentary activities like blogging, listening to music and watching the world go by. Sure, if I do become wheelchair bound I don't mind being pushed around (not figuratively speaking) or taken for occasional holidays. But I know that I will look upon the progression of life with as much positive outlook as I can, being unsure if illnesses or pain or other forms of unfamiliar sufferings will cast dejection and helplessness into my mind.

My Internet is my window to life beyond my house. That I confess makes me exceedingly glad to be growing old now. To be a recipient of real time global connectivity and enjoy all the privileges of knowledge, opinions, images and videos, social networking and various interests the Net offer, often for free or for a small subscription or fee.

It time like an old man river? No, I'm not referring to the song of the same title from the 1927 musical, Show Boat, that tells the story of the struggles and hardship of the African Americans and compare them with the endless and uncaring flow of the Mississippi River. I'm using the phrase to describe a slow meandering river like an old man meander through the rest of his life. We must not reject the fact that we will allow ourselves the privilege to coast our days sometimes aimlessly and 'waste' time. We can afford to lose some as indeed we do have surplus time to spend. I count it my joy to be not confronted by deadlines. I will eventually be dead standing in the line of growing older day by day. I congratulated my classmate Kao who celebrated his 66th birthday yesterday. He replied he dislike being reminded of birthdays as he steps closer to his grave. My answer to him is we cannot avoid that passage and encourage him to enjoy whatever time we still have in us.

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