The Bucket List
“Wow.” William’s gaze shifts to the floor. He rubs hard at his brow; his hand noticeably tremors. “So, what does this mean?” William asks.
The doctor crosses his hands and rests them on his desk. “Well, Bill, it means you have a second chance at life. This only happens in a very small percentage of cases.”
“I guess I should feel relieved. It just feels… strange. Not sure what I should do.” A swell of uncertainty rises to the back of William’s mouth.
“It’s been a long road. Take a deep breath, and then let that cross slide off the crutch of your shoulders. By now, you’ve probably hashed out a bucket list you never thought possible. Write them down, and do them, one by one. Think of it as therapy for the mind. You once told me you regret never meeting your father,” the doctor sings smartly.
William shakes his head. “I don’t know, Sal. Too many years have passed since he last reached out.”
“More the reason,” the doctor says firmly.
William sits in a hotel room in Philadelphia. He tosses a duffle on a bed while placing a call from his cell. “Aunt June? I just got in. I’m staying at the Hilton.”
“Oh, William. I’m so sorry, dear. Your father passed away last night.”
William sits on the edge of the bed while Aunt June’s voice is swallowed by on-setting guilt. He stares at a piece of paper sitting on the end table, crinkled, creased, and splotched with various stains. The long list of items are all crossed off except for the last: Meet your father for the first time.
William interjects with a constricting throat, “Did he know… about me coming to see him?”
There’s a long pause. “No, dear. We thought… well, it would have been a wonderful surprise. I’m so sorry. William, the funeral is on Thursday. I really hope you join us. You have a large family here that has never seen you. They all know about you, and everyone would love to meet you. I’ve been looking forward to it.”
Be it with guilt or be it with fear, William audibly sighs revealing his intention. “Agh, I’m a little overwhelmed at the moment. Can I call you tomorrow, Aunt June?”
Thursday morning, William, sitting in the airport terminal, stares at the crinkly piece of paper that has journeyed at his side for the last 3 years. His eyes widen, and he then nods himself an invigorating affirmation before abruptly rising to his feet. In a frenzy, he heads back down the terminal.
At the church, William sits covertly in the back row. At the most perfect time, he edges along the far-end aisle. He stands before the casket and stares at his father. Not a religious man, he fumbles on what to do next. He touches his father’s hand. Rest in peace. William awkwardly turns with averted gaze and heads up the center aisle only to be met by a young girl of 10. She’s in a dress of black and is worn with the bluest, saddest of eyes. She stares up at William’s expressly familiar face. “Are you my big brother?”