First 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.
In 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:
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.
Find 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.
Pamela 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.
Pamela 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……