Growing Old(er)

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Every minute - no, not every minute but every second, millisecond, nano, microsecond - we grow older.

When we are young, we acquire. Bags, socks, books, laptops, handphones, clothes, friendships. It is instinctive, how we accrue objects and people around us to stave off loneliness. To distract us from feeling the anxiety of existence. Make our lives more comfortable.

When we become older, we begin to lose. Receipts go missing. Designs on clothes fade. Handphones break down. Our first hamsters disappear.

I'm at the stage when I'm supposed to work hard, seek promotions and set aside golden eggs for retirement in the bank. I'm at the stage when my seniors begin to fall apart, their bodies giving way, atom by rebellious atom.

My mum's aunt's husband - is there a term for him? - had a stroke. Multiple strokes, in fact. His lips are twisted and the left part of his face sags. He can no longer smile.

When I was a kid, I used to visit them in Terangganu. I would scream when he speared juicy beetles to feed his pet canary. Once, I held the wooden skewer and aimed for a smaller but brighter male. Don't kill the females, he would say, or there won't be any left to reproduce and my canary will starve.

It was strange, to see this distant father figure fade away. Visit us more often, he said, or it may be too late.

Last week, my mum's father underwent surgery for prostrate cancer. Everywhere he goes, he has to carry a bag of urine with a catheter to his bladder. The family whispers about when he will leave.

My father's mother has sudden bruises appearing on her wrinkled forearms. She doesn't know how she gets them. All she knows is that these take weeks to fade, only for others to take their places.

My aunt's sister has a brain aneurysm - aneurysm, what a difficult word to spell - a blood clot in her brain. She used up eight bags of blood due to profuse bleeding after the surgery. My aunt and cousin are rushing to Penang, fearful that it would be the last time they see her.

What can we do about losses? What can we do about these losses that cannot be solved? Acceptance, perhaps. An acknowledgement that the older we are, the more we lose.

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