Wonderful, An Encore!
Recently back from a European holiday, and with my son (14) back in boarding school, earlier this week I found time & opened Stick's readers' section for the first time again in weeks. Reading a few subs I came across this:
"I’ve been in love with an uneducated bargirl, and I’ve been married to a good girl with a college degree. It was the marriage that wrecked me, not the love.”
Out of a Steve Rosse submission “Men from mars woman from Venus”. It rang a bell! I’ve known Steve, not personally, so perhaps I should say I knew of him & it’s over 20 years ago when I lived in Phuket and he was working at a radio station there & wrote short stories in the Gazette. He was also in love with a girl then who he called Maem. I remember that because of a story he wrote about it. Maybe it’s the girl he married later and is referring to in the above sentence but I wouldn’t know for sure. By the way the book he advertises on the site “she kept the bar between them” is well worth reading. I’ve always liked his scribbling all those years ago in Phuket and some of the short stories in this latest collection are sweet and touching.
But today’s words are in reference to a submission from Tommaso 2 or 3 months ago titled “Wonderful” where he describes the trials & tribulations, the later years of an old Thailand hand or regular visitor. It’s not me though. In fact Tommaso later told me in a personal email exchange that the story was inspired “by the demise of a friend who had always been very kind and patient with me when I visited Thailand.” Tommaso’s words!
So, no, it’s not me but it could well have been. So much reminded me of my own younger years here. Only months shy of my 72nd birthday, my best years are obviously long over. The times when I felt terrific & my girlfriends where wonderful are but a distant memory. I can so easily feel the emotions & sentiments of the old man he describes.
With Tommaso I shared some details of my own experiences here in Thailand, how I came to live here, my ups & downs in over 25 years in LOS. In his reply he congratulated me on having fought back and prevailed in the face of adversity.
So I did, but you know, the sad thing about getting old is that there comes a time when adversity or challenges are not something you have to deal with any longer. Sad, because it’s my belief that these are the very ingredients that make life worth living. To have something to fight for!
Let me explain. At my age the average guy (Westerner) has a more or less comfortable situation. Maybe owning a house or some other property, savings from years of working and a government pension! In other words he does not have financial worries to cope with. So there is no real challenge on this level! There will almost inevitably be health issues or challenges once past 70 but that is not at the core of this submission. My brother who is a few years older once said that past 70 every year really counts for two. I now start to realize how right he was. Energy, stamina, lust and so much more are dwindling.
But what about the small or not really so important things! How to cope with them?
Yesterday I went to the local Kassikornbank to make a transfer to my son’s boarding school. Because it was the day after a Buddhist holiday when banks are closed there was a large crowd of people waiting in line. Banks, offices, bureaus, especially governments offices are not known to be of great efficiency when it comes to customer relations or handling. So I was ready to spend whatever time it took to get served with no complaints. That’s when I was approached by a lovely young lady, bank usher or employee who led me into a smallish back office where my money transaction was immediately attended to in priority. Generous gestures of the girl & of course a great relief to me but frankly it made me feel sooooo old!
I live alone in a large house with a garden. It’s in a small town south of Krabi. After an 8-month experiment in a condo in Jomtien I was glad to come back here & intend to live out my days here. But it can be a lonely place at times. Every 10 days or so a maid comes for a top to bottom cleaning / washing / ironing. She lives in a small village 50 or 80 km away from here. She cannot stay just one day for it’s too long a journey to return in a single day. So she stays a couple or 3 days overnight. The extra bonus of the arrangement is the excellent Thai dishes she cooks for me after a working day. She is an uneducated country girl but a fast learner. Her efficiency is such that she knows already which wine is appropriate (red, rosé or white) to be served with the dishes she cooks & serves. Later in the evening we talk for a while; it’s almost the highlight of the day for me. There is no communication problem even though she does not know more than a handful of English words. Sadly, we are naturally worlds apart in our respective interests. Hers is about making enough money to keep her mother & her own 3 children fed, schooled, clean & looked after. Mine are mostly how to pass another day in a somewhat meaningful way. And no, there is no sex involved in the equation. So, as a last reference to Tommaso; I’m an old man now and certainly not terrific any longer and maybe never was & maid is not wonderful if she ever was. How could she be after 20 years of labour, mostly in the quest of looking after her family?
Growing old gracefully as they say is not so easy. Patience is a virtue but one that was never in my basket at distribution time neither was an even or calm temperament. And believe me, all the many years I have shouldered have not improved the condition. But to all Stickmanites who now are young, vigorous and maybe terrific, or at least within the best years of a lifetime, remember you too will grow old one day so believe me; a quiet evening, a good meal, a glass (or 2 or 3) of wine and some pleasant company can still make for an evening to be nice and pleasant if not necessarily close to “wonderful”.
Personally these days I still step into the occasional gogo bar or have a drink in a girly bar when in Bangkok just for the fun of it but it’s nothing more than a diversion.
I can understand Stick getting tired of the scene, wasting the best years of his life on something he doesn’t really want to do any longer.
Recently, lying in bed at night and when sleep is sometimes elusive I’ve caught myself thinking that if I should kick the bucket in the near future I’d wish for maid to be around rather than being alone in the house when the time has come.