Don’t have to look far to find items for a bucket list


The business-size envelope that stirred up the dust in my mailbox was plain, white and postmarked Washington, D.C.

There was no clear indication of who or what organization sent the letter, only the puzzling message, “Notification of Member Benefits.” Perforations were added on each end to make it look more official and more likely to be opened by the prospective member who stood to gain from all those fantastic benefits.

It only took a few seconds for me to put 2-and-2 together and figure out who might be interested in prodding me to join the rolls of their membership list – and I wasn’t about to take the bait in what some whipper-snappers today might call a “phishing” expedition.

I was on the cusp of slam-dunking that unwelcome and uninvited piece of junk mail into the trash, but out of some sick curiosity I decided to crack it open, just to verify that my hunch was correct.

And there it was, exactly as I suspected: a letter that has become an inevitable rite of passage for every human in this country turning 50…a direct mail solicitation from the American Association of Retired Persons.

With great defiance, I crumpled up the letter and the envelope and piledrove them right into the garbage. To do otherwise would have been a clear act of conceding to the notion that I’m becoming an old geezer, which I am not! There’s a slight chance I may have been more open to receiving the sales pitch if they had just waited until I actually hit my 50th birthday, but this letter came a full two weeks before the date.

I found the organization’s desperation and chutzpa a bit unbecoming. I mean, geez, can’t you at least wait until I finish blowing out all 50 candles on my birthday cake?! I know that may take a while, but can’t you chill until the final hour when I can no longer credibly say I’m “40-something?” Throw me a bone, for heaven’s sake.

Besides, AARP takes titular pride in being committed to serving as an advocate for Retired Persons. Well, I may have the salt-and-pepper locks, the chronic fatigue syndrome, the brooktrout facial expression, the well-stocked medicine chest, the cynical disposition and the slumped posture of someone who’s been hacking away in the workforce for nearly 30 years, but I’m a looooong way from being able to retire.

I guess they had enough intel on me to know where I lived and to determine I was turning 50, but apparently they didn’t have enough to know I wasn’t, in fact, retired. The data-mining sleuths at AARP ought to be able to figure out that at the rate my retirement nest egg is getting scrambled, I won’t be able to sail off into the sunset until I’m 120. If they’re going to insist on aggressively recruiting people who haven’t yet been put out to pasture, maybe they should change their name to the American Association of People Who We Really Believe Are Old But Who Stubbornly Don’t Want to Admit It.

It’s ironic that during a time when folks are living longer and retiring later in life, AARP is reaching for a younger and younger audience. In a few years they may be setting up exhibit booths at LSU’s freshman orientation day.

In any event, I have no intention of even considering signing up with AARP until the day I’ve turned in my official retirement forms to whoever is supposed to receive them. This hard-line stance is difficult for my friends and family to understand. Not that they don’t already think I’m hard-headed, but they also know I’m cheap – I mean frugal – and they can’t fathom why I would pass up all the wonderful discounts and moneysaving opportunities offered by AARP.

My response is that I’m simply applying my personal Walmart parking lot policy to the situation. When I go to Walmart I always park a farther distance away from the front door instead of taking a closer spot so that all those old and infirm people in my community can have a shorter walk. If I ever do get old I’d want someone to do the same.

Similarly, I don’t want to hog up the free travel bag sign-up incentive item or selfishly siphon off any of those great discounts when someone else who really needs them might be able to have them. It’s a tremendous sacrifice, I know, but it’s a sword I’m willing to fall on to promote the welfare of my fellow man.

While bearing down on senior citizenship doesn’t bother me in the least – no sir – I am feeling a bit of pressure to come up with a “bucket list” as folks of a certain age are doing these days. I’m not sure what the rules are on bucket lists, but I’m trying to come up with some items to include.

The problem is that – following the “eat dessert first” principle – most of the adventures I really wanted to experience I took care of when I was young, back before fatherhood when I had more time and money. I got my master’s degree, traveled to most of the destinations I cared to see, earned my pilot’s license, learned how to sky dive, drove a race car and viewed the world from the lofty vantage point of a hot-air balloon. The only things I can think of to put on a bucket list at this point in my life mostly center around trying to be a better husband, father, son, friend, employee, church member, citizen, servant, etc.

I guess I could put down “swim with the dolphins” or “spend a month with the Aboriginals in Australia,” but my wanderlust waned years ago as the people and places I’ve visited appear to have more similarities than differences. What’s really important seems to reside somewhat closer to home.

There is a trip to Jerusalem my church is taking next year, which some might consider a good bucket list item. I have to think seriously about spending the time and money on that experience. At this stage in life, I don’t want to do anything to fall out of favor, if you know what I mean.

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