From The Asian Reporter, V28, #9 (May 7, 2018), page 6.
When I’m 64
By Ronault LS Catalani & Caricia EC Catalani Veneziale
I recently turned 64. I used to think, when I was our daughter’s present age,
that 64 is ancient. Un-im-maginable.
So as my birthday neared, I began thinking about those 50 fast years that
passed us since Sir Paul McCartney recorded "When I’m 64." Since he tucked that
rooty-tooty little number inside The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts
Club Band. "Will you still need me," he sang sweetly, "will you still feed
me, when I’m sixty-four? Oooh."
Also back then, we were new to here. To Salem, Oregon. Back then, America’s
boys and men were warring ferociously with our old neighborhood’s boys and men.
Their moms and daughters too. In the Kingdoms of Cambodia and Laos, in the
divided Viet Nam.
During those chaotic ’60s, our Pop and us boys packed our couch to watch CBS
News’ dead body counts — their losses versus ours. A dashboard of sorrows. All
TV networks did this, every evening. Pero you know, even as a squirrely
krotjong I knew, just inside these left-side ribs, that those ugly
government numbers did not square with what’s true, with what our achy little
earth was actually living. Though none of us, not our Pop, not his boys said so.
Also during that dark decade, also in every living room, everyone watched
America’s brightest political leaders and our bravest moral authorities, shot to
death. We saw Mrs. Kennedy patting back into place, the top of her husband’s
head; we witnessed her handsome brother-in-law Bobby bleed out on the Ambassador
Hotel’s kitchen floor; we saw America’s fearless civil-rights elders and
activists pointing at a running gunman as our beloved Reverend Dr. Martin Luther
King Jr. breathed his last. Oh ampun’illaah. Oh God have mercy on us all.
Those evenings I watched our pop’s polished teak eyes while he watched Mr.
Cronkite’s. And I knew — inside the same humming bones every son and daughter
knows the meaning of their father’s eyes, his brows, his lips corners — that our
tough and tender pop was choking back what every good parent resists at times
like this. Regret. Oh Lord, did I make a mistake? Bringing us here.
Fifty furious years ago — years much-much better than our elders’ preceding
50 of grinding Dutch colonial self-loathing; dissolving into brutal imperial
Japanese occupation; devolving into years of dirty warring among our nascent
Indonesian nation’s major and minor ethnic communities; concluding with our
familia’s expulsion from our mother’s home — like I was saying, five supersonic
decades ago, The Beatles were hot, Carlos Santana was cool.
The evening of my 64th birthday, 64 of my tried and truest kualarga (meaning
"familia" in the traditional sense) representing four generations of
transnational mechanicos, gathered to thank our Mom, our daughter and son, and
their rajini-rajini (princessitas) for lending me to our newcomer communities.
Since my birthday, I’ve thought and thought about how to thank you all, for
so honoring our matriarch, her children and her children’s children.
Al’hamdulillaah. But I could not, until I saw our daughter Caricia’s handwritten
poem for my 64th birthday. Please read her poem below.
Pero silahkan (but if you please) read aloud. She and me, write in Indo
djatung style, in which tone and rhythm and volume mean as much as words.
* * *
Antara Tempat (Places Between)
By Caricia EC Catalani Veneziale
To my Pop, on his birthday,
Who, like many of you, has stood
For most of these 64 years
In places between places.
Not here and not back there.
Somewhere that might have become
To my Pop, who had the heart
To build a place for us
In this place between places;
Who shared his love with us
Without any one place to anchor it,
Ground to plant it,
The rights to hold it.
To my Pop, who shared the same boundary-less
Spirit as many of you.
The spirit that builds a community
In places between places.
Our community, made more beautiful
By not belonging to here or there.
Like Brindisi, like Istanbul, like Alexandria and
A place made more beautiful
By being Us.
* * *
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