Do You Have a Bucket List?

By on October 7, 2011

By Leona Salazar –

I celebrated my 60th birthday this year…and now fall into the 60+ year old category.

Leona Salazar

Leona Salazar

I figured such an occasion deserved an article so here I am – stuck, looking at my keyboard, wondering what to write.

I said to my husband, “I have no idea what to write.” He asked me, “so what’s this supposed to be about? Getting old? The past? The future?” “I’m not sure,” I said. Seems like I have no idea how I got from there to here.

I grew up in Greenpoint, a small section of Brooklyn, and, after my mother died in 1960, was raised by my father with the help of a wonderful woman who made me part of her family.

I don’t recall having dreams or aspirations or thinking what will I be when I grow up but I knew I was expected to work after high school. I applied to college only because my best friend was going. When my summer earnings were spent by October after graduating high school, I took a job as a legal secretary to pay my tuition. Wages weren’t very high in 1968 and I remember netting around $22 at my second job at Macy’s two nights a week and all day Saturday. I eventually went to law school at night because my (very wise) ex-husband said I should. Hard to believe now, but I sort of rolled with the flow back then.

I don’t mind getting old because I figure I’ve already had 14 more years than my mother had and I’ve survived twenty-five years after cancer. I don’t have a self-identity of “cancer survivor” but I’m grateful for every birthday I celebrate. I’ve had some regrets, not many, but a dear friend recently reminded me, “it’s the big picture that matters. Life’s not easy; even the most successful people have some valleys in their landscape. What matters is the totality of a person’s existence.”

sky diverI do keep a bucket list. Although singing, indoor skydiving and parasailing have been crossed off my list, doing a cartwheel and juggling still remain. A valuable lesson I have learned is that life is too short to read bad books. Another close friend told me, “you’re not in school; you don’t need to write a book report.” I never feel compelled to finish a bad book.

I look back to my earlier adventures going to the Electric Circus in NY where you only had to be 16 to dance until dawn, or later going out four nights a week, coming home in the early morning hours and still getting up to be at work by 8:30 every weekday, the weekend of Woodstock, being in Central Park and watching Neil Armstrong walk on the moon broadcast on enormous screens, appearing on tv as a pink elephant who offered peanuts to Monty Hall for a chance to make a deal, seeing Elvis Presley at Madison Square Garden, moving from NY to CA, passing the Bar in California and Washington, prosecuting child abuse and neglect cases in Los Angeles, and traveling in America, Europe, Australia, Central America, and even in Dakar, Senegal. They all bring a smile to my face, but I can’t say any of them were defining moments in my life. I’m sure if I had had children, I would’ve had a much different life.

What has more of an impact at this very moment is the fact that, for the past thirteen Augusts, I’ve made homemade blackberry jam for a dear friend of mine who lived in Palm Springs. I won’t be picking the blackberries, straining, boiling and making jam this year because he passed away a couple of months ago at the age of 62. He only got to enjoy his well-deserved retirement five short years. He had a beautiful home he shared with his two lovable cats and enjoyed an active and productive life.

Although I hadn’t seen him in all these years, we regularly communicated by, yes, snail mail, and I’ve kept each and every one of his letters because he was a wonderful writer. He was a world traveler and his “travelogues” were the best and his descriptions of what he saw could transport me to whatever country he visited.

I guess after all is said and done, after all the “events” and adventures, what truly matters are the people in my life.

I have some incredible friends, a great family which includes a wonderful sister-in-law, fantastic nieces and nephews and six terrific grand-nieces and nephews. On top of all that, I’m married to the “bestest husband in the entire universe.” I’m truly blessed.

Whether I’m remembered for my legal skills or being able to do a cartwheel really doesn’t matter. What I hope for is that eventually (but not too soon I pray) those that I love will say that “she tried to be the bestest friend, bestest wife, bestest sister-in-law, bestest Cioci (“chu-chee” meaning aunt in Polish), and bestest grand-Cioci there ever was.” Now that would be life defining.

Leona Salazar is an attorney who prosecuted child abuse and neglect cases in California for many years. Married for over twenty years to a defense attorney she met in court, they live on an island in the Pacific Northwest near Seattle. She describes her website, I Don’t Get It, as the “musings of an almost 60-year old conservative woman onpolitical, social and cultural life in America.” It’s not her intention to offend anyone who “gets it.” She just doesn’t. Website: http://www.idontgetit.us/.

About Leona Salazar

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Do You Have a Bucket List?