The young woman who stopped to chat last Saturday and sample the homemade Cajeta with slices of tart apple, is much too young to be drawing up a Bucket List. I don’t have one either, but not for that reason. She has a 30-before-30 list, and was delighted to be offered a chance to come milk the goats (and cross off #15).
My Mom lives in Assisted Care at St Leonard’s in Centerville. She is articulate, but frail and very forgetful. Climbing into my truck for a trip thru Fall countryside, she shifted her feet carefully over some sections of track rail. “What are those for?” she quipped, “Ballast?” She’s 99. (Wheel weights)
But later, when I tried to dispose of some magazines she had sitting around, she protested that she hadn’t read them. “Mom, they’re 2009’s! If you haven’t read them by now, you never will.” Her face got the furious, congested look of a mutinous 3-year-old. “I will too! Put those down!”
Only later did that “never” sound tactless. But take it a step further. If hoarding magazines is a way to avoid facing impending death, what about the rest of us? For example, me?
For some reason, I’ve never found it hard to think of death. Jess knowsI hope for the option of consciously refusing treatment, in preference to 10 or 15 lingering years of frailty and dementia. This line of Juvenal’s expresses it:
“Pray for a brave heart: one that does not fear death,
That counts long life among the least of Heaven’s gifts.”
So the dustup with Mom over her New Yorkers got me looking honestly at clothes I never wear, pans for delicacies I’ll never bake, the flower press I’ve used once, fabrics for doomed sewing projects, furniture I won’t get around to refinishing. One way to get your feelings lined up with reality is by behaving as if they already are. Besides, I needed the space.
It was a good thought-topic for mowing: enjoying the sun, the variety of insects and the squadrons of dragonflies that appear to hunt them, the low hum of the engine thru the ear protectors. The sense of accomplishment from finishing the big hayfield, plus the satisfaction of surviving steep scary turns, have a way of putting things I may never do into perspective. So I came up with a kind of Empty Bucket List: things I will be perfectly happy to die without doing:
Lose last 5 lb gained when I started college (1965)
This approach makes me more optimistic about things I would really hate to die without having done:
Hike Bernheim Arboretum
Learn Navajo (beyond the polite inquiry “How many sheep does your Mother have?”)
Finish the double-diamond saddleblanket that’s been on my loom for 2 years.
See Mt Abrams again
Paint my bedroom (had the color picked out 6 years ago and still like it – “citron’ – like a pale apple-green.)
Camp out in my own woods (Nope, never in 23 years!)