A List Of Things To Do While I’m Alive


People my age are supposed to have “bucket lists.” I don’t know where that term originated, but it makes me think of a bucket being kicked somewhere and I don’t like the sound of that.

Creating a list of things I want to do before I die is not the way I want to go about list-making. I don’t want to be constantly reminded that I’m getting nearer to the end of the list. What do I tell myself when I’ve checked off the last item? “Well the list is complete. Time to die.” I think I like the idea of working on a list and continually adding things to it. Dying can happen along the way, if it wants to, or whenever it seems appropriate. I don’t want to be involved in that decision.

My list is titled Things To Do While I’m Alive. Admittedly, it’s an odd, even bizarre list. It has come about because there have been times in my life when I learned something and thought “I would like to see that.” So it’s an odd, bizarre and old list.

For example, I have wanted to visit Abraham Lincoln’s grave for decades. This year, Saint Mary and I traveled with a group of friends to Springfield Illinois to see Lincoln’s Presidential Library, museum and gravesite. Standing at Lincoln’s tomb, realizing he is about fifteen feet away gave me an eerie feeling. I’ve spent a lifetime studying Lincoln. The very fact that I was able to visit was fortunate, considering his coffin has been moved or re-interred seventeen times. His son Robert finally got fed up with tomb raiders and re-burials, and encased Lincoln in concrete ten feet below an empty sarcophagus. That was the end of that grave-robbing business.

So Lincoln’s tomb is checked off the list.

Though I’ve never agreed with his policies, I’ve always been fascinated by Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s story. In particular, I’ve wanted to visit the Little White House in Warm Springs, Georgia, where he died. A couple of years ago, Mary and I flew to Atlanta and drove to Warm Springs to see what is still referred to as the Little White House. I don’t think the entire house is as big as my garage. It’s hard to imagine a President staying in this little tiny house. I don’t know why FDR liked this place so much. The whole area reminds me of Missouri’s Ozark region. I guess it allowed him to get away from people. There’s also a really cool and interesting Roosevelt museum on the site. We spent several hours there, then came home. I now know why the press always referred to Roosevelt’s Warm Springs home as The Little White House. It’s because that’s what it is. A little white house.

Check the Little White House off the list.

A recurring list item is Dealey Plaza in Dallas, the site of John F. Kennedy’s assassination. They say it’s been pretty well investigated; Over a thousand books have been written about it. It is the most investigated murder case in world history and yet I think they still need me to travel down there and check things out. Lots of times I like to just stand around and look and stare and think. I like to pretend. An older friend of mine who has since passed on, once described visiting the site of Custer’s Last Stand at the Battle of Little Bighorn. He said, “If you stand there and be still, you can almost smell the blood. You can see them lyin’ there, all tommyhawked up.” Well, that’s’ what I do. If I stand there and think, I can see it happening. And, since Dealey Plaza is a recurring item on my list, it serves as my fail-safe, insuring that the list will never be empty.

So mark Dealey Plaza off the list—several times.

I’ve had a fascination with Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow since I was in high school.  Sometime this year, I’m going to fly to Shreveport Louisiana with a couple of friends, then drive about fifty miles to Gibsland. Nine miles southwest of town on route 154 is the site where six lawmen ambushed Bonnie and Clyde in 1934, pouring hundreds of bullets into their Ford V8 in about 30 seconds. Killed them both. Well it really wasn’t their Ford, since they stole it, but If you’re looking for a good example of overkill, this would be the definitive and literal example of that word.

I’m looking over my List Of Things To Do While Alive, and there seems to be a trend toward famous people getting themselves dead. My fascination with death is ok, as long as it’s somebody else’s.

5 thoughts on “A List Of Things To Do While I’m Alive

  1. Great writing Dick. I share a reverence for Lincoln. When I was in Springfield touring the Lincoln home where he lived while practicing law there, I asked the tour guide what, if anything, in the house was original and would have been touched or used by the man. She told me the handrail on the stairs going from the first to the second floor was the original handrail present in the house when he lived there. I told my wife I had to go back through the house so I could slide my hand down the same handrail used by The Great Emancipator. She looked at me incredulously, and said she would wait for me in the air conditioned visitor’s center. It (the handrail, not the air conditioned visitor’s center) gave me goosebumps. …the sense of history was so real.


  2. I’ve been making a list similar to yours, Dick. Several Presidential libraries, burial sites, battle sites, and many state and federal parks are on the list. Music festivals, beer and wine festivals, and food festivals are also on the list. I’ll keep adding to the list as long as I can stay mobile.


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