GROWING OLD…IN THE PRISON SERVICE
A MEASURE OF CONTEMPLATION
There are times when truth stares in the eye. Reality is honest, straight and frank. It is accurate and faithful. It is therefore worth being candid and straightforward. This is about a precipitous trek towards the path of passing through his prime. And this is what I wish to share on a personal note. I am growing old, like everyone and I could feel it slowly creeping into my system. (Actually, upon reaching the age of 55—and this was three years ago, I had this eerie feeling already but I would easily overcome it by seeing places, that is by travelling, constant movement from one place to another, as in wandering.) Nonetheless, I must confess that all alone by myself, I am getting a bit sensitive almost about everything. While I could not care less what was happening before, now I could feel a pinch already. That is indeed a sign of growing old, not necessarily about maturity, but more about the feeling of despair and well, of getting little attention also. Whenever something happens around me, I could immediately grasp it and would instantly relate it to myself. There seem to be a reduction of boldness. I know that it should not be what it should be but my chemistry begins to freeze over—or boil, whenever an incident takes place. It could be a small tap, a big tap, an innocent expression, or a hideous suspicion, whatever it is, I could sense and feel it. And the feeling is not in any manner threatening but it gets into my skin. My heart palpitates for actually no reason at all. How I wish I could remember and watch my poise, my statements and my actions. It could have been brought out as a consequence of my demeanor. No matter how innocent I would pledge but since I could not guard every second of my actions, I am vulnerable for misunderstanding. And when it does happen, it is I that suffers in the process.
It is no wonder why people my age would rather retreat to the mountains, into some unknown caves if only to protect one’s health, mental health. There were sages before me who chose a life of a hermit and they liked it so much to the point of even formulating a philosophy out of the exercise. The one who wrote the biblical passage on Revelation wrote his intellectual formulation in one ancient cave and his writings were oftentimes quoted. It is also used as reference to chill the wayward world out of apathy.
Domestic life is full of strife if ages separate the residents. A generation gap it is. Hence the youth battles with elders and gender likewise plays a major role. There is no blending and if at all, there is surrender somewhere between the lines. Surrendering at times requires bravura and it is sometimes one element which is never an automatic component of one’s integrity. But it is in surrendering that makes the world go round. There is no compromise in retreat, no negotiation, just plain surrender. It is also one of the most if not highly accepted mode of acceptance as in having faith.
I have been through a lot of challenges in the past. And these are no popcorn. It is not only career threatening but life intimidating as well. I never would bog down. As a matter of fact I would even relish it. But times have changed. Even the roughest athlete should have a time to lay low and be reticent later. Gone were those days when challenges are accepted, contests are entered into, competition is sky high. Let the younger ones prevail and let them check the records of people, old people, as they simply belong to history already. One may have the gumption to shoot but the wrists are no longer there, the sights are nowhere and even the enthusiasm has waned.
There were lots of senior moments to get the adrenaline going. There is the retro music to lullaby one’s time. There are the mementoes of the past, the pictures, the books, the jewelries and some gadgets long declared as vintage. Of course, if one is lucky enough, one gets a sudden greeting from a long lost friend. There is of course the weather, the roads and byways, the buildings, some places. They have never changed radically. Well except for the electronic gadgets which change every few months, life has never been dramatically altered. There were lots of memories to go by. The things which were there before, years and years before, are still obtaining and still could be seen and experienced. It is there to accompany the conservative as well as the liberal.
Once upon a time, the elderly today were the firebrands, the purveyors of change before. The conservatives today were once the outright liberals of years gone by. However, time has swallowed the strength, the vitality of one’s body and the mind follows where his physicality would bring it. There is not enough potency to overcome emotions. While one may still retain fearlessness it is not enough to overhaul heartaches and sorrows. The remaining period for those who have successfully transcended additional time could have been by design devoted to despondency and distress. This is one situation where solitary life is most welcome.
Meanwhile, the elderly must find a way, the means actually, to stay out, to be alone, to be with the gods all by himself. There is peace in the process. There is communion with nature. There is order in his private surroundings. There is only him and the sky above. There is only one life, his own to take good care of.
For a prison officer, youthful when he came in and about to turn senile years later when he is about to fold up, becomes acquainted with the sensitivity of prisoners. He has become a prisoner himself, a prisoner of time, a prisoner o f waning vigor, a prisoner of emotionalism. He has to surmount a period requiring conscience, a period requiring a passion for life—this at a time when only a few summers is left. He knew that every move is limited. He would in effect realize that he must have to confront the inevitable force of nature. He must bow before it and he must reckon his weakness.
Age is a factor in the prison service. But in the prison community age is nowhere. Time, like freedom, has left those inside. While the prison officer worries about time, in prison it is virtually wasted. The prison officer bids time, the prisoner must have to squander it. The prison officer grows old, the prisoner remains the same. The prison officer eventually retires, the prisoner subsequently gets tired. Both needed a chance to stay on the periphery of time. Both must endure each other and the marginal community where they are situated. Both grow old no matter how they perceive their condition. The Prison officer bows out, the prisoner bows down. As the saying goes, time waits for no one. For the prison officer, its time out. For the prisoner, its time in.
Growing old does not mean dying; much more so, it does not imply an end but a dispute to win over. It is something to overcome; it is also something to live by. It is one ailment which man must understand how to cure. To be sure, not getting any younger means to emerge in time.