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Sampaguita Senior Citizens Club 32nd Anniversary Speech
Madame Club President Mrs. Efrena Chaves, Officers and Members of the Sampaguita Senior Citizens Club, the 32nd anniversary celebration committee, distinguished guests, my fellow senior citizens, ladies and gentlemen.
My senior spouse (Ad lib: I will get into trouble for calling her thus; she'd think I have junior ones. Then again, that could be complimentary. Senior, like a rank higher, right?) and BFF (best friend forever in teen-age language) and I thank you for graciously inviting us to attend your 32nd Anniversary (why, in another 28 years, the club will have caught up as a senior club!). I assure you, I understand that this must be your friendly way of reminding me that I, too, have grown old. Tatanda at kukupas ka rin!.(translated: You will grow old and fade away!) I am gratified that quite a number of you do not seem to be heading that way; unlike the late John Wayne, you are not about to ride into that sunset. I am referring to you, Mrs. Chaves and your actively happy and unfading members.
My friends, I have a favourite verse quotation that I fall back on whenever I am reminded that I have grown old into empty spaces with an empty head. That line from William Wordsworth in his Ode to Intimations of Immortality is what I commend to you today as our desideratum in the twilight of our years, and I quote: “Though nothing can bring back the hour of splendour on the grass, of glory in the flower, we will grieve not, rather find strength in what remains behind.”
What, pray, remains behind? I grow old, I grow old, I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled, says another poet, Thomas Stearns Eliot. But I must hasten to say that’s not all there is. Since my invitation required my delivering an inspirational talk, let me offer a poem I wrote last night about my study, where I do most of my writing, and most of my snoring, too, these days. I confess that this poem is one realization that makes me find strength in what will be left behind when I go to yet another world.
My wife has been threatening to clean my study up, wallpaper it, throw out those tons of papers (debris of thought and creation I call them), and renovate it into a guest room. I frantically rescued my study by putting my bed in there. Of course, the matrimonial bed is still my first bed, but my wife complains that she rarely sees me there anymore. My nose is more often than not buried in a book or posting on the Facebook. I protest that I am writing literature in my literary web-blog. (You see, I have caught up with the cyber age despite my being a technological dinosaur.) More emphatically, I tell her: Darling, I am sparing your lovely ears from being tortured by my room-rocking snores.
Oh, to the poem, before I digress to more dangerous zones.
He said wallpapers in his study must be plain,
no flowers, trees, birds, or senseless curlicues
can match the birth-to-baptism-to-birthday
pictures that he prays would include weddings,
births, elf-looking poses of children and theirs,
grandchildren and theirs (he’d be a hundred),
framed and frozen in time, a collection of smiles
that would bind the Earth like a ribbon of glee
when knotted from-pursed-end to-toothy-end.
He said he will be the memento-keeper of long
remembrances, a Methuselah of happy times,
and he would not exchange his role for places
in havens of peace and quiet, he’d have laughter
and surprise squeals of romping lads and lasses,
infants once, gossoons and ingénues forever.
All his waking and sleeping hours are litanies
of joie de vivre: was that Marie on the turf?
How new, yet how knowing her whole-face
smile comes through like a burst of sunshine
that promises a long-drawn spring, a summer
of running across strawberry fields, jumping
into lily-mottled rivers. Was that Matthew
sprawled on the soccer green, his megawatt
grin saying: I’m okay, gramps, okay. Okay?
Was that Chloe in a princess’ veil? Did she
do that regal pirouette, and that wild bourree?
Was that Megan with her palette and canvas,
showing off a portrait of a once chubby Mikee?
Was that him needing help blowing his cake’s
candles, and all ten grandchildren lending it?
Abandon all dread and heartbreak you who
enter this space, this paradise, his artlessly
scribbled sign on his door warned. This place,
this heart, this parlour of warmth and love,
this refuge. He looked at all his frames again;
reminded the renovator: No decor. Just plain.
---Albert B. Casuga
Originally posted in http://ambitsgambit.blogspot.com and http://albertbcasuga.blogspot.com
Those pictures on the walls of my study are frozen in time, yet they will not be lost. They sustain my joy in this troubled world. Sometimes, I despair feeling the constant aches and pains, and discomfiture of this proverbial “ageing” process. I challenge myself in the spirit of gender equality: if my wife can age gracefully, so could I. But could I? I may yearn for the peace of that promised other world, our paradise regained as promised by the Man on the Cross, but, while I am still around, I remind myself of the wisdom-filled words of Paul Eluard. Yes, “there is another world, but it is also here.” It still is.
Thank you, and God bless.
04-21-12, Mississauga, Ontario, Canada
Also in celebration of National Poetry Month (April). Consider it Poem 21.