Originally published in South Carolina Woman in the September 2010 issue…
Pretty much everyone knows what a bucket list is. Just in case you’re one who doesn’t, a bucket list is a list of things a person would like to do before they die. They often include way out there things like meeting celebrities or climbing Mt. Everest. Sometimes they include other items such as mending relationships or finishing a monumental task. This list is not my bucket list. Rather, it’s my ‘under the bucket’ list. These are items I’ve done that I would like to forget. Some of them are regrets or mistakes. Others are just plain old bad experiences that I would prefer to erase from my memory.
Now, we all make mistakes. Some mistakes we commit and forget. They’re small, inconsequential, or no one saw us do it, like hitting the brakes too hard for an imaginary dog in the road and squishing a donut or three between us and the steering wheel.
Other people dwell on certain mistakes. They haunt them. They have nightmares, daymares, and violent flashbacks at the worst moments. These are either the most dire, most life-changing, most embarrassing mistakes, or just the ones that our friends, family, and the news media won’t let us forget.
I’m not really a commit and forget kind of guy. I dwell on my mistakes. Each one, and I average one a month, is a weakness to me, a failure of some kind. I not only remember my mistakes. I make lists of them. Then I alphabetize the lists. Once alphabetized, I reorganize the lists under subject headings. Then I list them in both chronological and reverse chronological order. Then I add footnotes and bibliographical references for the hardback annotated edition. For the multimedia version I attach photos and video. This is all so that I don’t make the same mistake again. Oh, you should see the process I go through when the same mistake occurs more than once. That solution requires a peer-reviewed committee meeting.
The biggest mistake that I make on a regular basis is to underestimate my kids. Right now I have two boys. They’re very rough and tumble boys because I’ve raised them that way. We’re pretty rough when we wrestle, and they can be just as rough back to me. Since they were old enough to walk I’ve taught them martial arts. Even so, I still lose track of just how good they can be at their wee age.
My oldest son (the six-year-old) and I were sparring in my dojo one day. I grabbed both of his arms and held them up by his head, but was careful enough to hold him far enough away so that he couldn’t kick me. I was confident that I had him stuck so I leaned in to head butt him in the stomach. Just when I did that he smacked me right in the nose with his knee. I hate to admit it, but struck in the right spot, a six-year-old can put a man down on the floor.
I’ve also learned to never drop my guard around women, especially drunk ones. Back in my paramedic days I was transporting a drunken woman to the hospital from an auto accident. She wasn’t hurt bad, but part of any examination when a patient has to be placed on a backboard is to test for PMS (pulse, motor, sensation) or neurological function in the extremities. I always start at the feet. You know how it goes. Wiggle your toes. Move your foot. Then I lightly tap the foot and say, “Can you feel that?”
I started my exam like normal, but the minute I said, “Can you feel that,” her hand shot out in a vice grip on my privates and she yelled, “Can you feel that?” I meekly squeaked out an affirmative and asked her not to do that again. The rest of the transport proceeded normally with me sitting squished into the far corner of the ambulance and hopefully learning a valuable lesson from the experience.
In my youth when I could walk outside and feel the cool sea breeze blow through my untamed mane of hair I used to experiment with wild hair colors. My hair has at one time or another been changed into all of the seven colors found in the rainbow. Everyone always said, “You’ll lose your hair if you keep using that stuff.” If you could see me, you would understand that this is a lesson that confronts me every day in the mirror. I had a good time with all the color changes, but it sure would be nice to have hair again.
We always tell our kids not to stand too close to particular animals at the zoo. It’s not so much out of a sense of danger as it is often a lesson learned from prior experience. We know that some animals just don’t play nice with the tourists. It doesn’t really matter if it’s in the wild or at the zoo. I learned the hard way as both a child and adult that animals can be mean and very expressive with their body fluids. Birds have pooped on me several times. Llamas have spit on me. Monkeys have played catch-my-poo with me. Bear in mind that none of this is voluntary. Honestly, I didn’t want to play, but when they’re in the trees overhead and following you, it’s hard not to get hit.
Parenting my children is the area where I have made the most mistakes and expect to make many more in the future. One of the worst mistakes, aside from catching a flying knee to the face, is misjudging the explosive strength of my son’s bowels. I was changing a number two diaper one day, trying to do my best to clean him up. As I removed the dirty one, my Spidey sense activated, and I felt a sense of impending doom pass over me. About the moment I realized something bad was about to happen my son’s rectum exploded in a liquid cloud of dark matter. It sprayed the changing table, the wall, inside the wipe warmer, and my hand.
I turned away, keeping one hand on him to keep him from falling off the table or sliding away in a pool of black, green, and brown goo and screamed for my wife. She ran in just in time to rescue me. It was good for her to relieve me of my diaper duties, as it is much easier to clean up one mess with a baby than two messes as my retching indicated I was about to do. The lesson here, never turn your back on a child in diapers and don’t ever trust that they’re completely done with their business.
For the last mistake I’ll bring up (the other eight and a half are just too painful to mention) please let me set the stage. I’m a dapper twenty-something attending a lecture on a college campus. I’m single and there are beautiful women all around me. I find a seat and drop into it. On my way down, moving much too fast to stop myself, I realize that the seat is too narrow. The pockets of my pants are wrinkled out just enough that the arm of the seat catches them on both sides and just about rips my pants off of me. In slow motion I can hear the rip as I descend. The pants are shredded on both sides and plenty of bare skin is showing. So much for impressing the ladies. Always check the seat before you sit down.
That’s a very small partial view of my overall list. I’m quite sure I’ll add more in the future. Hopefully it won’t involve poop from babies or monkeys. No ripping off my clothes in public or being groped by strange women. Maybe I’ll just do something simple like slip and fall in the parking lot. Something not so public. Something no one witnesses. Maybe then I can just forget about it and move on.