My Bucket List

Harper's CornerMy Bucket List
By Jessica Harper
August 2012

"While I may have no serious bucket list of my own, I am the self-appointed cheerleader of a couple of people who do..."

Recently it dawned on me that I lack one of an aging boomer’s essentials: I have no bucket list.

Tom and I were having dinner on the patio of a pretty restaurant in Barcelona, when Tom said that we could now cross the city off our respective bucket lists. As I mentally attempted to do that, I realized that I had never gotten around to composing such a list.

How could I have reached my current ripe age without it?

I asked Tom what was on his list, besides Beyonce.

“No,” he said. “That’s another kind of list.” He and I have often discussed our “free pass” lists, which feature the names of people we would allow each other to sleep with, should the opportunities arise. I mean, if Beyonce beckoned, I wouldn’t hold it against Tom if he succumbed. If Denzel Washington sent me a DM on Twitter, I’d be free to follow up. (Okay, so we’re delusional.)

“Well, what about….grandchildren?” I asked Tom.

“Different list.”

“Oh, for Pete’s sake!” How many lists can a person keep track of? I’ve already got the grocery one, the “do it today or else” one, the “do it when you have a ten minute window” one, the “ignore as long as possible” one, and others. What I really need is a list of my lists.

“Okay, so what the hell is on your bucket one?”

Tom began by saying that some of his items were things he knew were beyond his reach. (Right up there with Beyonce.)

“Climbing Everest. Probably won’t do that.” He would, however, likely get a chance to go helicopter skiing, possibly play golf in Augusta, and maybe sit center court at Wimbledon.

I was beginning to see a trend. His list (which, not to sound sexist, reeks of maleness) was about athletic spectacle and physical challenges.

The physical challenge that interests me most is getting my teeth whitened. (That item has already been committed to my “get around to it when I’m having a slow week” list.) I really would be just as happy not to run a marathon or parachute from a plane. But what do I want to do before I drop besides Denzel and grandchildren?

See, I believe that the best things that have happened to me in life are the things that I could not have imagined (marriage and babies, I assume, having been items assigned to that other list, the one with the grandchildren). They are events or achievements that exceeded my expectations or desires and were therefore never listed anywhere. For example, I would never have written, “Go to Tlacotalpan, a small village in Mexico two hours from Vera Cruz, where it is 110º and the bugs are the size of your foot.” But when I went there for work, I had some experiences as surprisingly magical as any I’ve had anywhere.

So maybe I won’t get too specific when I create my bucket list. I think I’ll just write, “More fabulous stuff,” and let the forces of life fill in the details. And I will continue to be a cheerleader for my husband as he works his way down his list, as I will be for another guy I know with an agenda that has us PXEers in mind…
Dr. Steven Schwartz
My retinologist, Dr. Steven Schwartz, has, I believe, one item right at the top of his bucket list, which is to cure blindness. At the Jules Stein Institute in Los Angeles, in two clinical trials, he is surgically implanting embryonic stem cells in the eyes of patients, to test safety and effectiveness of this treatment. So far, the results have been significant.

(Check this link for CBS’s report: Giving Sight to Macular Degeneration Patients)

The last several times I’ve visited Dr. Schwartz, I have been struck by his commitment. His eyes are often tired from the long hours he works and the delicate surgeries he performs before most of us have had our morning coffee. But they light up when he talks about the research.

Dr. Schwartz feels strongly that ultimately (within the next few years) stem cell treatment will be available and effective for most if not all of us. (Let’s hope the political landscape doesn’t change such that embryonic stem cells become unattainable!) Unlike Tom’s quest to climb Mr. Everest, Dr. Schwartz believes this really can be achieved, and he is glowing with optimism and pride.

Maybe, as my husband would say, Dr. Schwartz’s pursuit belongs on another list, not the bucket one. (It certainly should not be on Beyonce’s!) Maybe it’s on a list titled, “Here’s How I Intend To Change the World.” But whatever list it’s placed on, it’s good to know there’s a man who will change things on behalf of those of us with limited or no vision, who won’t take no for an answer.


For more on Dr. Schwartz and the clinical trials, here are some more links:

Stem Cell Treatment for Eye Diseases Shows Promise
Stem Cell Eye Therapy Shows Promise

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