I got a letter from a man named Mark. Mark is 78 and lives alone with his Chihuahua, Boo Boo, who has a very active bladder.
“I’m always taking Boo Boo outside,” says Mark. “Even at three in the morning, I don’t want him going on my rug.”
Mark has been stuck indoors since the COVID-19 outbreak. His life is a good one.
He gets his groceries delivered. He has a guy cut the lawn once per week. But he feels pretty depressed lately, being stuck in his den. He was so sad that he wrote to me.
Here’s what’s on his mind:
“When I was young,” says Mark, “I always wanted to see Europe, with a backpack, and just live my life, but I never did it, I guess it’s too late now. Isn’t that silly?”
Silly? No. In fact, I got to thinking about all the bucket-list things that I have wanted to do but probably never will. Such as rope a steer, win the lottery, or figure out how to make beer.
Also, I have always wanted to hang glide. One time, I actually got a chance to hang glide with a professional. He gave me a call one morning and asked if I wanted to come. Free of charge. I told him I was busy.
I realized a valuable lesson that day; I do not want to leap off a cliff.
Although I did go bungee jumping once. I do not recommend it. The reason this happened was: My wife called me a wuss in public.
My wife was only taunting me. I am a cautious guy who has a hard time paying a hundred bucks at an amusement park to throw himself off a building. Which is basically what bungee jumping is.
“I am not a wuss,” I insisted.
“Are too,” she said.
The next thing I knew, a few teenage experts were leading me upstairs to the top of an enormous theme-world building. They fit me into a harness and made me sign release forms which all pretty much said the same thing: “Don’t blame us if you die.”
I stood on a ledge, looking downward hundreds of feet. I don’t know if you’ve ever been on the ledge of a tall building, but trust me, jumping is not the first thought that comes to your mind.
After about ten minutes one expert finally said, “You want me to push you? Sometimes people want us to push them.”
I kindly told him to stay the hell away.
I jumped. And when it was all said and done I had proven to my wife that I was not a wuss. Then I went home and changed my pants.
Also, I have always wanted to visit Canada. I want to taste a dish they call “poutine,” which is French fries with cheese and brown gravy.
And I’ve always wanted to ride a passenger train. I used to be obsessed with trains as a kid. But when you get older, it just doesn’t make good financial sense to mortgage your kidneys to ride Amtrak.
I have always wanted to see a ballgame at Fenway Park, built in 1912, the oldest ballpark in the U.S. This is a major bucket-list thing for me. This year my wife and I had planned on visiting Boston to do exactly this.
But then the coronavirus happened.
I’ve always wanted to know what it was like to eat oysters from Chesapeake Bay. I know that sounds dumb. But when I was a boy, one of the first true novels I ever read was James Michener’s “Chesepeake.” I read it to impress my father. I wanted him to think I was a smart kid since this book was about the size of a queen mattress.
Midway through the novel I fell in love with reading. But I’ve never tried Chesapeake oysters.
The truth is, I haven’t been many places or done many things. And this has always made me feel embarrassed. Sometimes, I hear about my friends’ adventures and I feel about as well-traveled as a tub of margarine. I haven’t crossed the Atlantic, I’ve never visited Spain. For crying out loud, I haven’t even seen Nebraska.
But then I start to think of all the meaningful things I HAVE done.
Once, for instance, I facilitated the birth of six newborn puppies. You’ve never known joy until you’ve seen a mama dog whelping on a September evening.
And one time I was in a Methodist church lobby where a hobo walked through the doors and asked an usher for a handout. Several people in the lobby reached into their pockets and gave the old man close to $800.
Once, I held the hand of a dying woman in the hospital who asked me to sing to her. I sang “Mona Lisa,” by Nat Cole. She squeezed when I sang. She died an hour later. Joanne was her name.
And once, a 78-year-old man sent me a letter. A man who wished he could tour Europe, but doesn’t think he’ll ever get the chance.
A man whose letter reminds me that even though my own life hasn’t been glamorous, adventurous, dazzling, or noteworthy, it doesn’t mean that my life hasn’t been rich, colorful, surprising, or sweet. And it doesn’t mean that guys like us haven’t truly lived, or breathed the thrilling air of summer. It just means that we haven’t done those things in Europe.
I’m sure Europe is great. But who needs Europe when you have a Chihuahua named Boo Boo?
A dog who just left a very special gift on your rug.