Christmas times a coming, Christmas times a coming! And it’s during this time of year I grow a little pensive, a little nostalgic, and longing for home.
My older brother, Norvell (some of you may remember him as Junior), died very unexpectedly at the very early age of fifty-two during the Christmas holidays. We had made plans to see each other during Christmas that year, but it never happened. It broke my heart that I was not able to see him again and spend Christmas with him, and I always enter this time of year with great sadness and remorse.
We were brothers, and I loved him as though he was my father. He was fifteen years older than me, and there were no other siblings between us. When I was very young, he always had time for me and would spend endless hours building me houses from the discarded cardboard boxes from the furniture factory in Hahira where he worked as a teenager. He built a whole roadway system in the back of our house for me and equipped it with Tonka toy bulldozers and dump trucks. Years later he bought me my first novel, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s “A Study in Scarlet” which introduced me to Sherlock Holmes and Watson, and opened my mind to reading mystery fiction. He taught me to play chess; he baptized me into Christ.
And as brothers often do, we had our disagreements. As adults, we had times when my way of life or my life decisions, or his, were not in step with the other’s and because of this we sometimes drifted apart. We always found ways to bury our hatchet though and our relationship had grown stronger. I had moved to Atlanta and he was living in Hialeah at the time of the death and though we were on good terms, the miles and years had separated us in a way that petty disagreements could not.
It was the Christmas of 1993, and we were going to see each other again. We were going to hug, and laugh, and eat, and remember…but it was not to be.
So it’s in his remembrance, with an eye on my own mortality and of those who I hold dear, that I submit this week’s column—The Bucket List.
In 2007, actors Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson starred in a movie about two terminally ill men who created a list of things they wanted to do before they died. Their list and the name of the name of the move was called, “The Bucket List.” Although I am not terminally ill, I’ve spent a lot of time over the past week thinking of my bucket list.
My bucket list is indeed a few things I would like to do before I give up this fat, aching body and move on. I also have a list of goals and those goals are different than the bucket list. I keep my goals to myself, I know that is hard to believe as I have a tendency to spout about everything that is happening in my life. In addition to my “bucket list.”
I also have something called a “short list” and I will only share that list with a few of my closest friends or some family members. The “short list” is a few things that I have already done earlier in life that maybe, just maybe I would like to repeat before I die…some of those things involve…well, it’s best that I probably not say more but let’s just say it is a list that would make Hunter S. Thompson jealous. The short list would only be invoked if I was told “you only have a few months left, make the best of it.”
I’ve been fortunate; I have done a couple of things that are on some folks bucket list. I have seen one of The Seven Wonders of the Modern World, The Great Wall of China. I have also been to the Forbidden City in Beijing. Even though my bucket list still has some places to visit I have tried to list it in order of importance, so here it goes:
- Assist in the spoiling of my grandchild. This is becoming closer to being a reality as my son, Simeon, is getting married next year.
- Mend some broken fences with people I have hurt in the past. It’s an ongoing project, and I manage to “try” and mend a few each year.
Those two are the most important ones, and they trump anything on the following list:
- Visit Europe and Russia and eat the native foods at every place I visit. I want to eat real Italian food, real French food and visit all the places that have some historical importance. Okay, well maybe forget the historical places, I just wanted to eat the real food at the places I visit.
- Visit the Great Pyramids at Giza and the Sphinx. I have always been fascinated with the pyramids. I will swap place for food on this one as I’m not sure I would enjoy Egyptian food. Take me out there in an air-conditioned SUV. I have no desire to ride camels or bake in the hot sun.
- See Mount Everest. I don’t care about climbing Mount Everest or even walking up the slope the first one thousand feet. I am too old, fat and tired for that kind of foolishness. Just put me in a ski resort (they have those there right?) at the bottom of the mountain with a cup of mulled cider and let me enjoy the view.
- Go to the Taj Mahal and ultimately ride an elephant through it. I’m not sure that they allow that sort of thing, but this is my bucket list, right?
- And if I complete my bucket list have a t-shirt made with the following words:
“My Bucket List,
Done it All, Seen it All,
Rode an elephant through the Taj Mahal.”