How am I adjusting to aging? I’m not. There are some things in life I have never been able to accept. Fish as a regular part of my diet, the Dodgers playing anywhere else but Brooklyn, any government or any branch thereof putting its own interests ahead of the common people’s, Dolly Parton turning 67 and never having her, children who make it to adulthood and don’t want their parents to have lives of their own while they go on with theirs, ignorance, bigotry, legislating against nature, people who can’t accept social and political evolution as the world shrinks, and folks who purposefully abuse their own bodies with drugs, alcohol, and smoking any substance because they want to (children’s thinking) are among the first things that come to mind.
I have learned to accept, albeit with difficulty at times, changes in my own life. I’ve had many different jobs and was in my 40s before I could say I had a career. I took most of those early jobs with no thought to the future. But I adjusted to changes in work environments and incomes.
I’ve had five wives, children natural or adopted with four of them, and had to make serious changes and adaptations in my relationships (or lack thereof) with them.
I spent my first 42 years in New Jersey before moving to the alien environment of Southern California. Ventura and Los Angeles counties are as foreign to my native culture, my mores, my values, my beliefs as would be Afghanistan. After 30 years of frustration, indignities, and incarceration I realized I could not civilize the uncivilized nor endure further abuse, so I moved, by God’s grace, to a new country, with a different language, a culture for stagnation and failure, but where I can be myself for what remains of my life.
I am happily married for the last time. I have a delightful and loving family. I attend a Christ-based church and serve in whatever capacity I can. I am respected by those who know me and have made a good reputation among those who only recognize me as “the gringo“, “the profe“, or “Hna. Margarita’s husband”. It’s all good!
I have had to adjust to living without many of the material things I took for granted and could always afford, a certain level of health care, traveling in my own vehicle rather than in a death trap condemned-in-the-U.S. little yellow bus, being able to communicate well in the local version of Spanish, having to send my kids to a school that doesn’t motivate and barely educates, living among people who have such low expectations for themselves or their children, learning a culture so different, so primitive in thought process and so different in values. But I have accepted most of what is as just that: what is.
Then there’s me. My own changes. The involuntary ones. I have stated that my life has had three main interests, baseball or softball, performing country music, and women. In my last years of playing organized ball I suffered tears in my shoulders that reduced the velocity of my throwing and the distance I could hit a ball. Not critical when considering the state of the world but critical to me. By the time I resumed teaching in El Salvador, I could barely hit the softball out of the infield and even throwing to first base from the pitcher’s mound was a chore. I sadly gave up playing.
I have always enjoyed running. I was proud of my speed and endurance. Never a race winner in 5k, 10k, or marathons (or even close), there was triumph in finishing. There was gratitude for being able to compete into my 60s with no above normal pains. Even here, I maintained a regular running regimen despite the lack of competition in racing. But last May, my knees had endured their limits. I have not been able to run since. I ride my bike but not with the enthusiasm with which I ran, prayed, and meditated during my hour on the highway. My run was followed by a good workout in the park. I don’t get to the park as often as I used to.
I retired from singing and playing country music in 1978. The music was changing and I didn’t like the new sounds. I quit while I was ahead. Still, I enjoyed playing my instruments and singing the old songs for whomever would listen and for my own enjoyment. I may even have become a better guitar player in my retirement than when I was working. But other than my captive-audience students in California, I found no real outlet, no inspiration to compose, and the incidents of taking the guitar out of the case decreased. Here in El Salvador, no one understands country music. My students were fascinated by my yodeling and enjoyed learning children’s songs in English, but the school closed and my guitars have languished in their cases. I learned from singing praise songs in Spanish (when the lyrics are projected on the church wall) that the range of my voice has diminished and it’s also rather scratchy. I really can’t control it. Years of dormancy have also affected my fingers. They don’t move quickly and have lost their agility. I have difficulty in spreading them across the neck to make good chords. It’s so disappointing to hear one sound in my mind, a sound from the now distant past, and to hear another sound coming from my mouth and rather uncoordinated chords emanating from my guitar.
As far as the third delight of my life, I’m like the dog who chases after the bus barking at it. It doesn’t know what to do if it catches the bus or the bus stops. Margarita is a beautiful woman. She’s intelligent. She’s sexy. She works hard for her family. And she loves me for who I am. There are enough women and girls here who would do whatever to make me happy in exchange for financial security for themselves and their children. It’s a given in this society. But Margarita never asked me for anything in the years before we got together. Maybe she was just smarter than the other ladies. Either way, it’s a win-win marriage. There may be younger and prettier and possibly hotter “buses” in town, but what would I do if I caught one?
So, as I decline physically I ponder two areas in my life. The first area is my family. Margarita has always known the circumstances. The difference in our ages, languages, cultures, etc. has not affected her as much as it has me. I want to be able to talk with her so she’ll understand me. My highfalutin Spanish is sometimes too much for her but most of the time I lack the vocabulary, the Spanish equivalents to the words and feelings I want to express. Still, we are able to communicate or I just let her make the decisions. It’s her world. She knows she’s going to outlive me and be a widow like her mother for a long time. But I am more concerned for the children. Luís is not close to me. He has a father and they mutually ignore each other. He’ll go on to a life as most men have.
But Adriana is becoming more and more understanding and enjoying what it’s like to have a father who loves her, who won’t voluntarily abandon her. I believe I live to see her grow up and have a better life than her female ancestors’ lives. She’s too intelligent to become a typical Salvadoran house keeper/baby maker having to make tortillas for the neighborhood or to carry a tub of vegetables on her head around town to sell. She is the focus of my thoughts and energy. I am happy to have adopted her and given her a name if not a heritage. She may never meet her older brother and sisters or her nephews and nieces but she has a sense of an extended family with them that I doubt some of them could ever feel for her.
The second area is me. I think of the Stanley Brothers’ classic country song, “Angel Band”:
My latest sun is sinking fast, My race is nearly run. My strongest trials now are past. My triumph has begun.
Oh, come Angel Band; Come and around me stand. Oh, bear me away on your snow-white wings To my immortal home. Oh, bear me away on your snow-white wings To my immortal home.
When I’m not directly involved in serving Christ via the Church or via my family duties, I enjoy writing and commenting in my blogs, Facebook, or Email. I’m sure I’ll be busy with Margarita in fixing up our new home to our comfort. With Adriana’s adoption taken care of, I only have obtaining citizenship left to accomplish in order to have all the rights and responsibilities of my wife and neighbors. I eagerly look forward to that. I’ll continue to do my best to stay physically, emotionally, and spiritually healthy. I’ll count on the many friends God has provided me over the course of my long life for support and counsel. There are many things I can no longer do, but they really aren’t a part of my life today. I have new responsibilities and a whole new life that’s only relatively recently begun. I will do my best to be worthy of the time and health God has blessed me with.