Celebrating the magical 70

Wisdom doesn’t automatically come with old age. Nothing does — except wrinkles. It’s true, some wines improve with age. But only if the grapes were good in the first place.

— Abigail Van Buren, American advice columnist and radio show host

If you’re turning 70, don’t fret because it’s not the end of the world.

A recent study showed that true age is not just the number of years you lived so far, but the quality of life you have enjoyed during that time.

In the old days of King David 3,000 years ago threescore and 10 or 70, was the number of years that God allotted to mankind.

Psalms 90 said:

“The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labor and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.”

The late chief minister Pehin Sri Adenan Satem knew this well and when he was on his deathbed he told his wife “I am flying away”.

But consider the fact that Tok Nan was 70 when he succeeded Tun Pehin Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud as chief minister.

At that time Taib was still a “young” 78 having married a second time four years earlier. And still at the helm as Governor, the 84-year-old’s longevity proves there is life after 70.

Current Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg will turn 70 on Aug 4.

Similarly Sarawak billionaire Tan Sri Effendi Bustari Yusof will turn 70 soon while Tan Sri Effendi Norwawi’s lucky number is 7.

So as I turn 70 today, I welcome the dawning of my new age.

I can also thank my lucky stars that I was born under the Chinese zodiac sign of Tiger — apparently the bold and outstanding type who is unafraid of a challenge.

In fact, my father police commissioner Datuk Seri John — also a tiger 36 years my senior — displayed all the tiger traits.

 A champion athlete and rugby player, he joined the Singapore police before becoming a top crime buster in Penang in the 50s.

I followed suit and became a top crime reporter in the 70s.

Last Sunday, I met another illustrious Sarawak Tiger — Malaysian Armed Forces chief Tan Sri Affendi Buang.

As a young jet fighter pilot, he has won numerous awards for acts of courage in the line of duty. Since taking over in January, he has seen the change of government and experienced the untimely coronavirus pandemic.

Married to the King’s sister, the pair’s visit was timed to present Hari Raya gifts to Armed Forces personnel — often unsung heroes, some having to celebrate the Muslim festivity in the jungle.

 In fact in the midst of the pandemic, Affendi visited the frontline where his men had uncovered 49 illegal entry points along the porous Sarawak-Kalimantan border.

A kampung boy from the village of Kampung Lintang, he has not only swum the Sarawak River many times, but has crisscrossed the Malaysian skies umpteen times.

Joining the air force in 1980, his meteoric rise started when he joined an elite group of officers selected for the RMAF MiG-29 Project Team in 1994, which later became the MiG-29 RMAF Technical Team in Russia.

Affendi was also one of the founding members of the RMAF MiG-29 tactical aerobatics team popularly known as “Smokey Bandits”.

 He rose to become Chief of Air Operations in 2014, Deputy Chief of RMAF the following year before taking over command as 18th Chief of Royal Malaysian Air Force in 2016.

On Jan 2, he was appointed Malaysia’s 21st Chief of Defence — a great honour for a son of Sarawak who is now etched in the annals of Malaysian history.

Affendi, who is 13 years my junior, will turn 58 on Aug 21.

Tigers aside, a dear old friend of mine, Paul Charles Morley, who will be celebrating his 79th birthday soon, believes that “age is just a number and like good wine we mellow with age.”

But like Mark Twain, he also believes that “age is a case of mind over matter; and if you don’t mind it, it doesn’t matter!”

So cheers to all my dear friends out there and celebrate.

The views expressed here are those of the columnist and do not necessarily represent the views of New Sarawak Tribune.