Laetatus sum

The seventy-first is a good, or memorable, birthday, for it is the point when most men (who are just like me) realize, “I am now an old man.” The point was perhaps overlooked previously, because “three score and ten” suggests, Biblically and often medically, that death is imminent; that one’s assigned days have lapsed. (“Come in, number twenty-nine, your time is up.”) But by seventy-one, he has absorbed that trauma, and is in a better position to “lift up eyes to Him that dwelleth in heaven.” For the date or year of one’s death can only be of interest to historians, insurance salesmen, and tax collectors. When a thousand years have passed, and vexation is over, surely the immortal soul loses interest in “vital statistics.”

I think back to when the numerals were reversed — when I was seventeen and not seventy-one — and thanks to Julian, dear surviving friend, I’ve been given a photograph of myself with the other five tenants of “45 Soi Phet” in 1970. We are all young, especially wee “Bu,” who was then only two, and mischievously trying to squeeze out of the frame. I stare at this picture, which seems to preserve a mythic time, unreachable by the common. Yet I could return to it, as if subsequent history had been a dream. I am slain by nostalgia.

The sense of loss comes with this world, and continues until, eventually, even the sense of loss is lost. The dead will bury their dead.