Recently, my son-in-law, Lars, bought season tickets to his alma mater’s football season. He told our daughter, Amy that it was a lifelong dream. When my wife, Muri, found out, she asked me if I had dreams like that, adding that she’s never had lifelong dreams or made bucket lists. I’ve been thinking about it ever since because, to my surprise, I don’t. Oh, I’ve had plenty of things I want to try and things I want to see. Even a few things I’d like to have, as materialistic as that sounds. And if I kept score … which I don’t … I think I’m doing fairly well at trying, seeing and having things I want. And I’ve always regarded bucket lists as rather theatrical, as much as I enjoyed the movie of the same name.
Looking back over my life there are many things that I regard as peak experiences or accomplishments. Being married to … and in love with … the same woman for nearly fifty years is perhaps a dream in retrospect but it was always just what we did as we lived it through good times and bad. Getting a doctorate is one of my proudest accomplishments but I never dreamed of a graduate degree. Having my own business and the degree of financial security that brings is in the same category. We have taken many vacations in places we love and they are fond memories … but none of them were an answer to a dream. OK. After visiting Italy a year or so ago, I felt that it was dream in retrospect. Some years ago, I decided I wanted to publish a novel, actually wrote one and submitted it several places. Eventually, I decided I was not willing to do the things required to get a novel published and settled for the publication of a short story in a little known magazine. Yes, and a blog. It never felt like a dream lost … just a choice made.
So, what do I make of this discovery about myself at the ripe age of (almost) seventy-two. I have to admit, it makes me feel a bit more boring than I’ve pictured myself. Have I lived a too-cautious life out of fear of having dreams that I could not achieve? Did I simply wander through seventy-two years of life, taking opportunities as they came but missing the chance for something extraordinary? Worse, am I guilty of taking the many gifts God has given me and living small? Am I like the Settlers in the current run of Direct TV commercials?
The person I am most like in this respect is my Mom. Mom came from a family of modest means and married a man from similar roots. Together they built a good life for themselves and three children. We had our own home in the suburbs, everything we actually needed, including a loving family. The fact that she was content doesn’t imply that there weren’t things she wanted or imagined doing. She would have loved to see the Vatican and there were many times on our Italy trip that she was there on my shoulder. When we attend a classical concert, I often feel her sitting there with me. Often on our Sunday drives, she liked to drive out Ridge Road in Hamden, where the rich people lived to look at the houses. She used to say, I’d make a good rich person. I’d do a lot of good with the money. But I never heard her say she dreamed of being rich or of travel or of having one of those houses out on Ridge Road. She had an acceptance of life as it was. She had something else, too. She had an eye for the small things. She knew when the meteor showers were and sat in the yard with us watching the show. She knew the names of the birds and the flowers and the plants that grew in the yard. She was delighted by the first crocus poking its head through the snow or a monarch butterfly settling on a rose outside the front window. I don’t know if I got this way via genes or just watching her live but yeah, I am like my Mom. Dreams or not, that’s OK. It is also why Marcel Proust’s saying appears at the top of my blog:
The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes
but in having new eyes
I do believe Mom would have agreed.