Begin with the TV show Twilight Zone
An imaginative old Twilight Zone program told about an elderly guy who was a master street salesman, a pitchman who could sell anyone. He spoke about his own goal, his last remaining bucket list item. He dreamed that he might consummate an important last sale. It would have to be “Big enough for the heavens to open up and the angles to take notice.”
Of course, he succeeded in a way not possible in his early days. His salesmanship skills had become so advanced that he, like a Faustian figure, could fool the Grim Reaper, save the beautiful child’s life, and complete his life happily.
It was a make-believe story of male grandiosity, but it spoke to an itch that many guys would like to scratch.
At this stage of life, we know so well the advantages of youth. We understand the grandkids can outperform us in athletics. We see young people so much more flexible, quick-witted, and looking to an endless future.
All coins have two sides
But I also learned the yin and yang of life where all coins have two sides. There are some things only we as grandparents do, or do so much better. We now have unique resources of time, experience, steadier finances, patience, mellowness, and hopefully wisdom. If not wise, at least a familiarity with how things work. We can marshal these resources towards usefulness, unique goals like Twilight Zone Man. Though a bit creaky we are capable of some extraordinary things.
After climbing the rungs of the ladder all through life we can lookout with a new perspective. We no longer obsess about the next higher rungs. We’ve been planting all our lives, and this is the time for the harvest. The sowing was just a prerequisite for what comes after. It’s time for reaping.
I dig down into my bucket list. What do I care about these days? There has always been family, of course, travel experiences, and seeing friends?
But those have always been constants in my happiest hours all through life. Now there are previously unseen ingots in the bucket list that show up. There are items that uniquely age-appropriate, new ideas that were never accessible or visible before.
You can learn from a nine year old
One such ingot is seeing the entire sweep of life’s many stages and how the circles of Yin-yang events come go and return. It is an intergenerational vision wasn’t there in my twenties and thirties.
An example was my granddaughter in her Peter Pan/Wendy stage of life. She offered me a lesson. She’d devoted her nine-year-old lifetime to becoming an expert on pixies. She knew all the literature and the difference between pixies and fairies. Sadly she’s today a cool teen, and the fairies are all gone. While in the pixie stage, she was a staunch advocate for the most magical imagination.
At one point, walking in the woods together, she scolded me for not see the fairies under the forest’s toadstools. I told her I believed in all kinds of miracles but could not detect anything down there under the mushrooms.
“Grandpa,” she stammered, “You’ll never see things if you don’t make the effort to see them! You are not even trying!”
I still don’t look under toadstools, but it was a valuable lesson about the value of “Living in a bungalow of ideas rather than a warehouse of facts.” I no longer require proof for everything I believe and have resolved to look more closely at mysteries.
What is it that scratches my itch?
But of more concern, having passed through so many stages of life, today I can see the full panoply of life’s stages. I can visualize a future when my granddaughter grows up and retires herself. I can imagine her once again free to study magical imagination and mysteries. And I hope she will find a nine-year-old pixie expert to guide her through that retirement stage.
Knowing life is a succession of scenes, with their discoveries, joys, and disappointments that is a nugget in my bucket list today. That vision wasn’t available in my thirties. It may not measure up to a salesman making “one big sale that opens up the heavens or makes the angles to take notice.”
But it scratches my itch.