Way back when, back when I was diagnosed as Stage IV, back in the once-upon-a-time of the summer of 2018, some people suggested that I might want to spend my remaining time checking off items from my bucket list. I didn’t take these suggestions well at the time because: 1. I always thought the concept of having a bucket list rather morbid, like a scavenger hunt against the grim reaper, and 2. what difference would it make anyway, what difference would achieving a few earthly desires make when faced with the gaping maw of eternity?
Sure, there are things that I’ve wanted to do or to see. I’ve wanted to travel more, both to Europe and to other parts of this country, and to learn things or accomplish things that I have not learned or accomplished yet. I might still see, or learn, or do some of those things, but it won’t leave an ache in my heart if I don’t. The way I look at it is, if I’ve reached 62 years of age and have not accomplished them by now, then they weren’t really that much of a priority for me. I don’t feel that I’ve sacrificed anything along the way, at least nothing critically important. As I look back, my life experiences up until now may not have been remarkable, but they have been fulfilling.
I remember seeing the movie The Bucket List starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman when it came out. This movie did not invent the term bucket list, but it did popularize it. I remember watching it at the time and thinking, “well, that’s all fine for rich guys who can afford such shenanigans, but what about the rest of us working stiffs?” Are our lives less complete because we never traveled to the Himalayas? I’d like to think not. What was really important, I think, in that movie was not the things they did, but the relationships they formed or repaired with their families and with each other in the time that they had.
To me, that’s more important than some trivial list of personal achievements. While thinking about this topic, I came across a great article. I won’t attempt to repeat its advice, it’s a short article and worth a read: https://www.asaging.org/blog/kicking-bucket-list-mentality. The article is about retirees and aging seniors, but it can apply to anyone who has become all too aware of their own mortality.
Their predicament in no way dismisses the importance and joy that bucket list events can offer. But focusing too much on such events can quickly become part of a larger attitude that puts one’s own gratification over the possibilities of a life more deeply engaged with family and community. It is aging with a bang versus aging with a purpose.Marc E. Agronin
The author goes on to suggest that these people infuse their goals with meaning by doing things that connect to others or to their community and allow them to grow. I have to remind myself that these are the things that are really important.
Having said all this, let me tell you about my bucket list. Well, it’s not really a bucket list, but it’s some things I’d like to accomplish this year. One of them came much closer to reality today.
Ever since I was young man, I’ve longed to own a two-seater convertible roadster. I don’t know if it was Tod and Buz from Route 66 or Dustin Hoffman in The Graduate who inspired me, but the idea of hitting the open road with the wind in my hair and the open sky above me was always appealing, When I received the good news of my most recent scans, I told Lynn that I was going to do it, I was going to get that two-seat convertible roadster. To my surprise, she not only supported me, but encouraged me and even went so far as to drive me to the car dealer today to close the deal. So, I guess this is a bucket list item, but it would have no value to me without Lynn. My plan is that at least one weekend day a week for the rest of the summer, we will pick a spot to visit and drive there. We could do that in our current cars, but we probably wouldn’t. The new car gives us a not just a means, but a motive to enjoy this time together. We’ll work out later which one of us is Tod and which one Buz.
The other two prosaic goals have more to do with challenging myself. I’m not sure that I will be able to accomplish either one, but I’m putting them in writing here so that maybe that will goad me into actually accomplishing them. I have never run so much a mile before, but with my health getting stronger, I want to push myself to run a 5K before the year is out. I’m setting a target to do this by Columbus Day. I figure that the weather won’t be too hot or too cold by then. I’d like to run it in a respectable time for a 62 year-old couch potato, but if I have to run/walk it I’ll do that. Right now, I get winded running to the mailbox, so I need to start training.
Finally, I’d like to walk in the footsteps of Thoreau and Emerson and hike Mt. Monadnock in New Hampshire. There’s no deeper meaning to this than that. It’s one of the most climbed mountains in the world, and it’s right here in New England. The total time to climb to the top, enjoy the view, and climb back down is about 5 or 6 hours. Not an easy walk in the park, but doable with preparation. I’m hoping to be able to post pictures of the panoramic views from the summit.
The other things I want to do probably wouldn’t make good bucket list items. Mostly, I just want to remember daily to appreciate the gift of life that I’ve been given and to appreciate the people that I get to share it with. It’s so easy to lose sight of those things, especially if you have your head stuck in a bucket.