My bucket list, if I ever had one, took a big spill. At the time, I had two light mysteries to my credit; I would go on to publish 17 more in the next 9 years. I hoped I would stay productive in the writing field, but certainly couldn't predict my other accomplishments. I learned to drive a small motor home and change flourescent light bulbs. I have used a car wash and checked the air in my tires for the first time in my life. I can dump the tanks on my motorhome and yesterday I reset the garage door opener so that the remotes work again. I didn't want to learn any of these things--or rather, I didn't want to have to learn any of these things.
But life is finite and nothing brings it home more than the loss of a spouse. I'm not giving up. There are more books I would like to write, trips I would like to take, and high points to experience. However, I am more aware than ever that each day is a gift and the future is not a given.
Dying a Little Bit at a Time
I'm a war baby. During the Depression and the war, birth rates were way down and ours was a very small generation. We are so small that we don't have a name or even a president. Not one president was born between 1924 and 1946. Clinton, Bush Jr., and Obama are all Boomers.* So we have kind of sneaked through life sandwiched between the Greatest Generation and the Baby Boomers and no one noticed us much. No big deal; but the upshot is that most of the attention just misses us, especially research and advice. The media began looking at college preparation and choice shortly after I got my BA. They focused on issues raising toddlers as our kids entered high school. 'Empty nest' became a common term long after our birds had flown the coop. We were in our late 50s when magazine articles began to worry about middle-aged crisis.
So what's the point here? Well, as we have aged, we haven't had the benefit of much outside guidance and have had to discover things about getting old on our own. So there was no advance warning to me from talk shows or Dear Abby about the most disturbing realization of aging. And that is, that you aren't going to get it all done.
When you are young, it's like a kid with a toy catalog: "I want that...and that...and that..." There is no limit. So you think "Someday I'm going to build a log cabin on a lake" and a few days later, "Someday I want to visit China." And so on. It's not a bucket list because there is no deadline, no end in sight. So never once do you think, 'Well, if I build a log cabin, I won't have time to visit China. Ever.' But in your seventies, you have to face that fact. Not that you can't do those particular two things, but that you can't do everything. You realize that even though you're not at the end of your road, you can see the exit.
So I have accepted that I am not going to live and write in a garret in Paris or become a Rockette. This will be a shock to some but I have also given up on perfecting my triple axel. I don't think I will run for Congress or sail around the world in a small boat. Actually, this acceptance should make life simpler.
I am not trying to be morbid here; I just want to give you Boomers a head's up to expect lots of discussion of this topic in about five years. Meanwhile, I wonder if I have time to learn a few French verbs this morning...
* This is not to say that we have had no impact. This no-name generation includes the Beatles, Mick Jagger, Barbara Streisand, John Denver, Nelson DeMille, Robert deNiro, Wilma Rudolph, and John Kerry, to name a few.