Bucket List

bbbb the-bucket-listFirst time I heard the term was when the movie by the same name came out a handful of years ago.  It starred Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson, two older gentlemen with terminal cancer who made lists of what they’d like to do before they…kicked-the-bucket (died).  It was a decent movie, poignant as expected and humorous at strange times…also as expected.  And I imagine a whole bunch of people left the theater, went for a pizza and joked about their own bucket list.

My Own Bucket List:  A few days ago, I was going through my once extensive library; it covered one medium-sized wall entirely with the stuff I’ve actually read, as well as copies of what I’ve actually written.  Hard to part with old books, by the way.  Very hard.  But there comes a time when you realize that you aren’t going to read Pat Conroy’s  Lords of Discipline a third time.

aa bucketlist-500x300In the middle of it all, a slender ledger-type book fell out on the floor and opened…to my  extremely tiny writing I used to have as a younger man.   It consisted of several pages of what I seriously intended to complete…before I, too, kicked the bucket.  It was amusing both in its prescience in some ways but also by its absurdity in others.  It was pretty clear to me that our dreams and goals really do change over the years.  Perhaps that’s a good thing.  But if I wrote down then, what’s important to me now, I probably would have bummed-out.

A Short List of Indulgence: If you’ve been reading these essays with any regularity you probably have at least a passing curiosity as to what was on the list.  Some of the stuff that turned out to be prescient:

Edwards tests single-engine takeoffsSolo a jet:  There’s only one way you get to do that and I paid the dues for the bragging rites.

Publish a novel:  Same thing with regard to the bragging rites though……to be honest, the bucket entry said, publish a best-selling novel.  Didn’t manage that, though what I lacked in copies sold in one book, I made up for by writing over 18 books.  Taken together, I think I met at least the spirit of the goal.

pam with flowersFind and marry my grand amour:  This is perhaps my greatest achievement and greatest source of pride.  If you’re still married to your original grand amour, you understand.  And if you aren’t, well…then you really   understand.  But I missed the mark with the bucket wish.  Where the pride comes in is when you can point to multiple decades of not just married life, but happy, horny, exciting married life. Anyway…

The list goes on and on.  Yeah, I’m pretty proud of having patented inventions but the list also missed the mark in oh so many ways.  Run a six-minute mile?  Wasn’t meant to be.  Take a trip in a hot air balloon?  I could  take out my wallet and send a sack of flour up in a hot air balloon, not really something to brag about.  Bungie jumping?????

And then, upon closing the ledger book, Pamela and I went for a walk and decided to try to assess what our dreams for the future are…now, in real time.  Well, I’m here to report that the dreams have shrunk somewhat, somewhat like that wool sweater that gets thrown in the dryer.  You can still fit into it, it’s just a bit tight.

Plymouth Meeting Book Signing rotatePamela kicked off with a thorny one:  How ’bout that best-selling novel?  Sure, that would have been great…I guess.  But these days, the thoughts of financial reward outweigh any desire for notoriety.  I learned on a much smaller scale with my other books, that having people come up to you, having “read your book” isn’t one-quarter the thrill you’d think.  I discovered I was much more private than I ever imagined.

Little red sports car?  Did that several times over.  I finally realized that nobody on the planet likes you any better because of the car you drive.  Cross that one off.

Together we discovered that, the dreams could hardly be referred to as dreams anymore.  As far as the material stuff is concerned, the moment you have it, it isn’t important…at all.  What it does come down to is time, and more importantly quality of that time, not absolute time by any stretch of the imagination.  And yes, that means what you think it means.

End-Game Strategy:  In some ways, I think the bucket list, for me at least, isn’t so much a list…as an end-game strategy.  Unlike the 20s-40s where we perceive ourselves to be eternal ( When I was a teenager, I remember vividly and with great embarrassment looking at a group of old folks in a restaurant and seriously wondering to myself, How come every damned one of you let yourself go?  Don’t you have any pride?)  God, what an idiot I was…   At a certain age, however, you look in the mirror, expecting to see an image, which matches up with your eternally youthful soul and you think, WTF???  And it doesn’t go away.

Ultimately you realize that your eternal voyage on this planet isn’t eternal.  You can actually see that other land off in the distance and it looks a bit dark and forbidding.  It is.   Here is the time when you wake up.  Your thought is, “Okay…  Let’s see now.  What have I done?  What have I accomplished?  What am I going to be remembered for…if at all?”  There’s still time, but it is, most definitely, finite.  The Wicked Witch of the West has flipped over that hour glass.  The sand is pouring out the bottom and she’s lookin’ at you.  Now is the time to put away foolish things.

Wegmans:  We buy our food from a chain store called Wegmans.  Good place, by the way, only, this morning when we went there, the buzz was that Danny Wegman just bought a 3.8 million dollar sports car.  I Googled it.  It’s a little red Ferrari.  Didn’t even look terribly impressive.  I think now of how many operations for young wives, battered children, kids with harelips, soldiers needing prosthetic legs and I think…Danny’s got some growing up to do.  Maybe we all need some classes, early on, as to what to do to actually do some good on this planet…  I know Paul Newman’s charity corporation has raised over 300 million to help kids in need.  Is that as cool as a red sports car?  I think it is.

I’m very curious about this topic, never having had any lengthy discussions about what’s on other people’s bucket lists.  Does it shrink for everyone?  Does it shrink in the same way? Is it even the right question to be asking????  I’d appreciate a bit of input, no matter how crazy or illogical it might be.  We’re all very different creatures, when it comes right down to it.

Pam and pupsPamela and I have our sights set on a new chapter in our lives in a very exciting new part of the world…Black Mountain, NC.  We have a number of friends who are contemplating the same spot.  My son, my daughter-in-law and my grandson have the same place in their own cross hairs and I have my funny, furry, fuzzy little friends who are game for any location we go.  We expect to meet new friends and perhaps spawn an entirely new bucket list.  Life goes on……





15 Responses to "Bucket List"

  1. carol says:

    I’ve thought a lot about a bucket list since caring for my parents. I never wrote one when I was younger just wanted to get married, have a bunch of kids & travel. Well, I have 2 great boys & daughter-in-laws, 4 young grandkid + a 26 year old step grandson. I have traveled but not enough. I want to see much more of Europe, as well as Hawaii, Alaska, more of the USA, China, Australia & New Zealand, Uganda to meet my nieces family…
    My list for when I retired was:
    more time with the grandkids
    More time with my 8 siblings. We like each other & play very well together.
    Read lots of books
    do puzzles
    sleep in the hammock
    I also planned on working on Aqua Arts web a few hours a day for a bit of extra cash (mad money) but am often too emotionally exhausted to think about thinking.

    Now with parents that need lots of care that retirement list has changed again.
    On my list now is more time with the grandkids & I babysit whenever I can & make sure I see them at least once a month. They are 1 1/2 hours away.
    Travel – this has been curtailed my Casey’s health but when we go on vacation I do things by myself scuba – parasailing – sailing/snorkel trips etc.

    I wondered if lists of any kind ( well except groceries or you would forget what you went for & to do to keep me on track) have value other than to keep us striving for new things. Well in my case I don’t care to much about things. I want my next car to use less gas but I sure don’t want to pay big bucks for a car. The only new car ever own lasted me 20 years. I feel like you about how many people could you feed or cloth with 3.8 million or wells for clean water. Books for under privileged…
    When Casey & I talk about winning the lotto & we hardly ever buy tickets we talk about. paying off our nieces & nephews student loans, digging wells, stocking the local soup kitchen, getting the new fire truck the volunteers need in town… Oh we throw in a new house that is all one floor so he doesn’t have to deal with stairs to use the bathroom but not a mansion on the water or crazy estates. (A maid would be very nice) We have dust elephants too but they raise havoc with our allergies.
    Well I’ve babbled enough.
    I have always been blessed with what I need & not necessarily what I want. There has always been love, caring laughter & joy in my life. What more do I really need.

    • Henry Harvey says:

      Thanks Carol!
      I am continually amazed to see how much we all have in common, despite our protestations to the contrary. Republican or Democrat, Catholic or agnostic, for the most part, we want to live a happy life and insure a safe happy life for our children…and sometimes our parents, depending on what generation you are in.
      It’s still a wonderful planet.

  2. Frank Harvey says:


    It’s funny that you mention, and wrote about, the bucket list. I’ve been thinking about my “bucket list” too in recent weeks. When I was in school, I naturally gravitated to business things…

    In sixth grade I started a yo-yo business. Bought cheap yo-yos and inlaid them with sparkling gems from dimestore jewelry and sold them to my classmates… and, of course, you had to have one of my yo-yos to be a member of my “Yo Yo Club”..

    Then there was my nightcrawler business which, I’m convinced, screwed up my sinuses permanently .. bent over for hours at night, catching the buggers in the wet grass.

    And I had a recurring dream/goal of “being a vice president of a company listed on the NYSE by time time I’m 40″… and achieved that in my mid-30’s.

    And a dream of starting my own company, which I did and ran it successfully for 12 1/2 years. I still get orders for the magazine disk library today… together with frequent letters from former subscribers (who were in their teens and got into programming careers as a direct outgrowth of their experiences.)


    • Henry Harvey says:

      It’s interesting to look in the “rearview” mirror and see which slender threads of our youth wove successfully into our lives. With you, it was business and you did very well. With me it was reinventing things. Had my “laboratory” in the cellar. Now it’s a big studio, but the effect is the same.

  3. Terri Adams says:

    My bucket list keeps changing. It now has intangibles such as having more time to explore and to learn new things,
    to develop friendships, and to enjoy my surroundings. I am also interested in helping battered wives and children with disabilities. Possessions just do not mean much to me any more, but I appreciate raw materials to create art that engage my inner artist. I finally have some free time and I plan to spend that time creatively and not waste it. Giving back to the community means so much more to me now. I no longer want the big house and all that goes with it. I want quality time with my husband.

    • Henry Harvey says:

      Hey Terri,
      Yup… Remember what was possibly one of the best movies ever made? Citizen Cane? That was Orson Welles’ at his best. But the message finally became clear. It’s not the money and it’s not the material. It’s whom you loved, the friends you’ve earned, your integrity, and the things you held sacred to you. I don’t think anyone ever dies, clutching their check book to their heart. Sad if they do. …….Rosebud….

  4. Jim Briggs says:

    Great read! Have contemplated my own bucket list. Have to write it down..

  5. Henry Harvey says:

    Yours will be a very interesting bucket list!

  6. Pam Farrior says:

    Henry and Pamela,
    I include Pamela because even though she did not write the article you are as one to me and Wade.

    I loved your article. I plan on printing and sending to my brother who has just been diagnosed with stage iv lung cancer. I think you an count one of your triumphs as making a difference in people’s lives, be it firsthand or through your writing . My dream.

    Pam and Wade

  7. Henry Harvey says:

    Dear Pam,

    Thank you for your letter. We are both terribly terribly sorry to hear of the diagnosis of your brother. Though death is the natural culmination of every one of our lives…still it always comes as a shock. There’s no way around that aspect. Again our very best wishes and prayers for you.

  8. Henry

    As one who has gone through many chapters in my life, I found this more than thought provoking. Painful chapters brought me through to great joy and chapters that were very shallow in their nature taught me to seek a more meaningful path.
    Elizabeth L.

  9. Henry Harvey says:

    Thank you, Beth. You leave me speechless.

  10. Robert Moravik says:

    I enjoyed reading your latest essay
    Congratulations on your decision to uproot yourselves from Pennsylvania and move south to Black Mountain, N.C.
    Keep up your writing. No bucket list yet for me. I know I should have one. Very thought-provoking essay.
    Bob M.

    • Raylene Johnson says:

      Hey Bob!
      Well, now you’re about a quarter as far away as before. Maybe, once we’re down there, we can get together and bitch, moan, reminisce about the “olden days”. Anxious to hear what your bucket list would entail.

  11. So, I had to give this one some thought. And as I reflect, I really am a Que sera sera person who takes it as it comes. Always planning the next trip; ready to embrace the next personal or professional opportunity when those doors open, but relatively little time creating nor thinking about a bucket list. Actually don’t even like the term.

    But if I had one gargantuan bucket list goal, I happily reached it nearly 25 years ago. Took the pressure off all else. I had an Uncle, my Father’s middle brother (two years or so older than he) who died suddenly in his early 40’s right after we were married. It was a real shock in so many ways. But from my early 20’s onward my singular bucket list goal was that if I were to die like that it would be with NO regrets.

    As I approached my 40’s I felt very much like I met the goal. Extensive travel around much of the world, married to the one and only love of my life, two great kids succeeding at all the major and minor goals of kid-dom, and a career that had been terrifically varied, challenging, engaging, and at age 41 working in the White House complex for Bob Gates and Brent Scowcroft. Wow.
    Rich Barth

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