My Dad and the Bucket List
Herman recently got for me from Netflix a film called “The Bucket List.” It stars Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman who meet as hospital roommates as they are both diagnosed with terminal cancer.
They forge a camaraderie after initially being put off by each other.
Freeman’s character was writing out a list of things he wanted to do before he died and wound up throwing the list on the floor. Nicholson finds the list, adds to it and challenges Freeman to live out his dreams before he dies. It helps that Nicholson is a millionaire tycoon and can fund the adventure while Freeman plays a garage mechanic who gave up education and his dreams for his family.
Ironically, Nicholson’s character actually owns the hospital and as they are setting up their rules that there were to be no private rooms, Nicholson had to follow his own policy or he never would have met Freeman.
One of the recurring scenes is Freeman’s character watching Jeopardy! and getting all the answers right. This brought back a bitter sweet memory for me. As my own Dad was dying back in 1987 of pancreatic cancer, I remember him with no energy and the chemo dripping, guessing letters on Wheel of Fortune and solving every puzzle.
One of my most heart-wrenching moments is of him looking at the TV and saying, “Pat, I’d like to buy a vowel.”
I think I also got some of my love of classical music from him, because as he lay in the hospital he loved to listen to classical music, in particular the violin.
I think his most favorite violinist was Itzhak Perlman and it was a great thrill to me to actually meet Perlman backstage at Saratoga Performing Arts Center one year.
I have a very vivid memory of my Dad conducting from his hospital bed and using a fork and knife as batons as he listened to the music of Perlman.
I recounted the story to Perlman when I met him and I told him he was very lucky to have my dad as a conductor-to which he responded with a bemused smile.
For my father’s “bucket list” he said number one would be for me to beat the MS and be able to run on the beach again. But that was like him putting others before himself.
He and I used to run together (back then it was called jogging) in the mornings before he was off to work as a pharmacist and I to school.
I often say to Herman how much I wish he could have known him. He does hear about Dad from me additionally I have two folders of letters he sent me while I was in college. One very brave day I shared them with Herman.
In these wonderful letters I can sort of see what his bucket list would have been, by writing about his dreams and aspirations. His priorities, like Freeman in the movie, were about those he loved, me included.
Nicholson also got something special from Freeman in the movie, but you’ll have to watch the movie to see what it was.
Kathryn Spira, a native of Cleveland who pursued an acting career in NYC and Los Angeles, now pursues free lance writing from Caroga Lake in Fulton County. Previous columns may be accessed at her web site www.kathrynskorner.com