The bucket bet

My father and his younger sister placed a morbid sort of bet with each other when they had reached an age and were both experiencing health that was going from bad to worse: Who was going to die first?

I was never certain what the payoff was supposed to be. Not that it really mattered. Death, in and of itself, was probably its own reward given the misery each was experiencing in everyday living.

Their bucket bet was only one instance of what I considered my father’s sad preoccupation with death. He talked about it often as he got older. Of course, it was always couched in dark humor – hence the bet.

My feeling was that his negativity only guaranteed that it would happen sooner. Of course, it was easy for me to have that attitude. I was flush with youth, happy in my marriage, enjoying the raising of my son and saw years ahead and nowhere but up for my career.

My father died when he was only a few years older than I am now. Always the competitor, he won the bet.

I’m a lot more understanding of his attitude these days, as, I’m sure, are many of my fellow baby boomers.

I get why people are more likely to go on anti-depressants as they age in an attempt to balance out the bleak reality of an ever-shortening horizon.

I get why people turn to sleeping pills in an attempt to bypass the dark thoughts that accompany wakefulness in the early morning hours.

But I also get that we need to take joy and excitement in writing the remaining chapters before our books come to a close. We still have time to create stories worth telling.

My father was ready, eager even, to place and win the bucket bet. I say, why push it?

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