Life is short.
That’s a difficult thing to say.
It’s rarely said by anyone in their twenties, their thirties, or even their forties.
Then one day some errant thought strikes you.
Or maybe you’re forced to deal with the death of a loved one, a contemporary, or a friend.
Maybe even just someone that you used to know.
Then you say it.
Life is short.
And the moment that the words are said, everything changes.
There’s a certain uniqueness to time which makes memories of your youth strikingly clear and fresh, yet at the same time distant, with the strange quality of seeming as if the things that you recall happened to someone else.
Was I ever that young?
I must have been…I have pictures.
How is it possible that so much time passed so quickly, yet everything seem to have happened so long ago?
Will the time still ahead, move with the same consistency as the time behind?
Will the memories yet to be made match the quality of the ones already held?
Questions that require an answer to be sure.
I’ll tell you how this whole thing started with me.
I was hanging around in one of those Internet groups where aging friends and complete strangers who share geographical (though not necessarily chronological) commonalities get together and try to recall every nook, cranny, and memory of the place where they grew up.
We had run out of nooks and crannies, and the posts were slowing down, when someone asked what at the surface would appear to be a harmless question…”what is on everyone’s bucket list?”
A bucket list?
What in the Hell were they talking about on that thread?
I didn’t have a bucket list!
I’m not old enough to have a bucket list!
Good Lord, I am only…
Life is short.
Everyone else had a bucket list; they were prepared. They had given this some thought while I had apparently been just cruising along on the Express Lane of life, not thinking about the future.
So I sat down to write one.
I couldn’t come up with a damned thing, and panic sets in again.
So I read all the other lists: trips to Hawaii, cruises to Alaska and the Mediterranean, skydiving… are they SERIOUS?
Casting your aging body out of a perfectly good airplane is a line item on a bucket list?
So I started writing again.
Alaska cruise: listed.
Trip to Spain: listed.
Owning a ’67 Mustang convertible: listed.
Chin tuck: listed.
Rocky mountain climbing: listed.
Going 2.7 seconds on a bull name Fu Manchu: listed.
WHAT IN THE HELL?
I was quoting country western song lyrics!
That was so wrong.
So I looked into my bucket and I saw a bucket filled to the rim with vacuous desires, yet utterly empty.
I had no bucket list.
All I had was a bucket.
I had to think.
It’s been three three months since that day, it’s taken me that long to write this, three months to the day that I read that question in that forum. And I know that I am not writing it as well as I should, but I am writing it as best as I am able to.
I’m writing this because I’ve just figured out how to fill my bucket.
I’m writing this because I have seen friends and family come face-to-face with their mortality, and people that I used to know move on to the next phase of existence, whatever that phase may be.
I’m writing this because I need to get these thoughts into words, and the words out of me…and that’s the first thing in my bucket.
This is the first thing in my bucket.
This is also the last thing I’ll place in my bucket, or at least the last self-serving wish in my bucket.
I now know what to do with my bucket.
I’ll go on that Alaskan cruise, because my wife wants to go, and because I owe it to her, not because I want to check off a line item on a list.
And even if I find a ’67 Mustang convertible on sale I won’t buy it because the maintenance would be a pain in the ass, and ’67 convertible Mustangs had no A/C.
I live in South Florida, and having no A/C isn’t an option for aging men trying to recapture their youth by driving with their top down on I-95 on a blistering summer day.
I’m not jumping out of an airplane in flight, I am NOT climbing the Rockies, and I will most certainly NOT climb on a bull, even one named Fu Manchu.
I am handing my bucket off.
That’s what I want to do with my bucket.
I am handing it to the people I love the most in this world, and I am going to ask them to fill it for me.
In that bucket, I want them to place everything that they will ever want from me.
Everything that a wife could want from her husband.
Everything that my sons will want from their father.
Everything that a brother could want from his brother.
Everything that my parents could want from their son.
I want them to fill that bucket up with their expectations.
“Be the first sight I see every morning until no more mornings come.”
“Be there for me when I need advice on my children.”
“Be strong when I am hurt, be soft when I’m angry.”
“Help me buy my first house, name my first child, mend my first broken heart.”
“Be there for your father.”
“Be there for your mother.”
Their wishes, not mine.
I want a list of their wishes for me to fulfill.
So, there it is, I really didn’t need a bucket list.
I just needed a bucket.
A bucket that those I love most could fill to the brim with their hopes, their love, their dreams, their fears, and their expectations.
Just a bucket.
And suddenly, the times to come are so much more alive than the ones behind.
My bucket is going to be so full.
Life is good.