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Growing old

Growing old

Botchi Santos

Aging, death and taxes are the things that are inevitable in life. Cynics would like to add traffic, corruption and general inefficiency or maybe incompetence dealing with living in the Philippines. But we Filipinos are a resilient bunch. We learn to thrive despite the difficulties that face us. We are all survivors, always smiling, come what may.

And this hasn’t escaped me and my motoring life. Since my serious bout with an ulcer last year that saw me perilously close to calling it quits, I’ve lost a massive amount of lower body and core strength, I have difficulty getting into a regular sedan, and there were times getting into a sports car or any low-slung sled nigh impossible. My on-going battle with chronic kidney disease and all its complications (please take good care of your health) has taken a massive toll on me and affected my preferences for daily mobility.

Moving to a tiny condo in BGC so I am nearer to the hospital for my treatments sees me walking more. I feel healthier that way. And I experience what it is like to move freely on a regular basis with my own two feet and be thankful that I can still ably move (albeit with some difficulty). Things I took for granted when I was still ‘healthy’ or rather, undiagnosed of my ills. I also see just how undisciplined drivers and motorcyclists are, and how the sacred pedestrian crosswalk is grossly disrespected by motorists, motorcyclists and bicyclists alike, often taunting pedestrians as we walk along the crossing when the lights are telling us to go and we as pedestrians have the right of way. We have a long way to go to make our cities pedestrian safe and friendly, and BGC is a very nice template for it. But I’m sure we can achieve it.

Because I walk more, I drive less. I fill up each of our three cars once a month at most. Of these four cars, two are crossover SUVs. My Audi A1 hatchback was left in the care of friends while I am isolating, and my old Audi S4 wagon is my other non-SUV / crossover vehicle. I love taking the crossovers because I sit in them and I don’t lower myself in like a sport scar, sports sedan or coupe. Huge difference from many years ago where I firmly thought who would ever want a cross-over / SUV over a traditional sedan, let alone a sports car even for everyday use because of street cred, practicality and ease of use be damned. I guess getting old happened to me.

But getting old also teaches you many things. Adapt, learn new techniques, and survive. I recently had with me the latest Honda Civic Type-R and it was amazing. Sure, the clutch was on the firm side, a little more weight on it and it would have been impossible to use it in traffic. But it was marvelous. And difficult to get in and out of because of the low ride height, even lower seats, the wide door sills, and the deeply sculpted bucket seats. After experimenting with ingress / egress techniques, I found a way to allow easier entry and exit: stick my left leg out, slide my bum to the outer edge of the seat with a slight push from the glove box in the middle. This gives my legs a better angle to push my torso up and out, then pull myself with my left arm on the A-pillar. Sometime I brace my back and push against the B-pillars too, especially if the door can’t open wide. Sounds like a lot of work for simply getting out of a car, but it becomes second nature after a while.

Since my diet has been restricted (no red meat and any processed food), I get cold quite easily. Thus, my A/C temp is at 23-25 degrees on most days (21 degrees when it’s really hot) and I am always wearing a jacket. Funny considering I’m still somewhat big and fatty. I guess there’s a lot less fat, more flabby skin.

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Back to the Civic. I realized how much I missed driving for the sake of driving, instead of tinkering away endlessly on my car/s. I’d much rather spend time with the missus and our dog during the day, and go on a quick but highly enjoyable night drive. These days I dislike spending an entire day tinkering with my cars like I used to and waiting for the perfect blue moon situation to find time to actually drive these cars. Nothing wrong with the latter except when you’re older and married, you have your priorities set. So, less modding, more driving. And I am really looking forward to explore our beautiful country by land and explore the new highways and byways. With my wife and our dog. You see, feel, experience and meet more people this way rather than flying.

I write this as I lie in my hospital bed. It’s taken far longer to write this as I am under medication now, preparing for my kidney transplant tomorrow. That has been an even longer struggle, taking over three years from diagnosis to resisting the inevitable, to finding a donor, starting my work-up and dialysis, and finally this. But cars, custom car culture and most importantly, the people around it, have made me feel loved and supported. I’m not the young gun that I was when I started my journey 20 years ago. I’m not exactly old, but no spring chicken either. Nonetheless, the people in the scene have showed so much warmth and goodwill, I know I will miss them all during my 6-12 months of isolation. But it’s time I faced this challenge, so me and family, especially my wife can get on with our lives. Growing old means change, adapting to your limitations, experiencing new things and learning new tips and tricks to continue onwards, forward and upward.

I admonish everyone to please take good care of yourselves, not just for your sake, but for the sake of everyone who cares for and relies on you. God speed!