March 2013
John Schowalter

In San Francisco, while we were having a drink, a fellow Life Member asked me whether or not I had made a bucket list. He knew that Ellen and I have loved to travel since we both retired almost 10 years ago. His question came shortly after he and I had agreed that it is better to be over the hill, rather than under it. The image of kicking away the bucket on which an about-to-be-hanged man stood just before he ended up below Boot Hill may have been on our unconscious minds. We were, after all, sitting in a bar just below Nob Hill - close enough perhaps? The question, however, made me uneasy. I simply answered that I hadn't, and the conversation immediately returned to the more comfortable topic of Academy politics 15 or 20 years ago.

Life Member LogoAfter I got home, I googled "Bucket List." The term was made popular from a 2007 movie with Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman playing two terminally ill men taking a road trip to accomplish a wish list of things to do before they kicked the bucket. I have not seen the movie, but the concept got me thinking.

I retired relatively young because there were places and things I wanted to see and do while I was able. It is obvious that I had preferred to think of this in a positive sense, rather than focusing on impending decrepitude and death. An important difference between me and the movie characters is that they were terminally ill and knew it. Although I have known since adolescence that life is a fatal endeavor, beyond estate planning I've never found that particular focus to be very helpful for my everyday life.

One year ago in this e-Newsletter I argued that rumors that a Mayan revelation doomed the earth in 2012 were false. [Fortunately, I was correct] In fact, since becoming involved with the Life Member Group, I have found my positive views about the future reinforced. While the LMG provides an opportunity to reunite with other Owls on our website and at our Annual Meeting events, there is also the generational satisfaction of aiding the careers of medical students and residents through our mentoring and our travel grants to the Annual Meeting. This is akin to creating each year a swarm of new grandchildren who all have the good sense to want to be just like us, but to do it better. Many of us feel a thrill of warm feelings when we read the written and hear the spoken thanks from our Life Member-sponsored medical students and residents. These appreciations can re-open our eyes and allow us the privilege to run our sunsets backwards and to again see sunrises!

Bucket lists seem to be a lot like New Year resolutions. They are ambitious promises to oneself that probably won't last and maybe won't even be started. I do confess, however, to having one New Year resolution that I have never failed. I heard about it on Sesame Street about 20 years ago. It is the Miss Piggy Diet and it consists of never eating anything you can't lift. I recommend it for your use.

Be healthy & helpful,

John Schowalter

PS: I much thank Ginger Anthony for becoming the new Editor for the Owl e-Newsletter!!