A new way to look at ‘to-do’ lists

Published 12:00 am Saturday, September 28, 2013

There are some things you can do, and some things you can’t.
Maybe you know that. I hope you do. It’s one of life’s lessons that I keep trying to learn.
I’ve had a lot of good teachers in my time, but no one has taught me more than my three children. I was in my 20s when they were born, yet I often felt I was growing up with them.
Sometimes I still do. They are older now than I was when they were born. Two of them have children of their own.

I have learned all sorts of stuff on my own, much of which is useless. Recently, for example, I finally learned how to use a cellphone that is now obsolete. I drive a car that is older than some drivers. I am older than my mother was when she got old, and nearly as old as she was when she died. I think twice before buying green bananas.
But every time I’m with those people — my children and their others and their children — they make me feel young and teach me something new.
OK, sometimes they make me feel like I’m ready for the rest home or the Great Hereafter. But that’s another story. This is about what I learned recently when my oldest came to visit.
I don’t get to see the boy often. Not nearly often enough. I live in Las Vegas. He lives in L.A., five long, hot hours away. Lucky for me, he drives over whenever he can. In return, I treat him like a bear at the zoo: Feed him plenty, let him sleep and laugh at everything he does.
There is always lots to talk about, old memories to revisit, new plans to make, hopes and dreams and such to share.
I also share him with my husband. A little. They talk about the Warriors’ chances for next season. It’s an ongoing conversation, one they’ve been having for years. They never seem to tire of it. And somehow, I never tire of listening.
Men often tend to relate in somewhat different ways than women do. They ask different questions, tell different stories, laugh at different jokes. But in the end, on the whole, they relate just the same. It’s a beautiful thing to watch.
Sunday morning, after a late breakfast, the boy was packing up to leave, when we began talking, he and I, about things we need or want to do, and how hard it can be to focus.
“I like to make a list,” I said, “if only in my head. It gives me the illusion of having some control.”

He laughed. Then he told me about a kind of to-do list he had learned about somewhere.
“I divide a page into three columns,” he said. “In the middle, I write everything I can think of that I need to do. Then, in the left column, I list just the things I’m going to do today. It might be a short list, but by the end of the day, I can cross them all off. And finally,” he said, “in the right-hand column, I list the things I’m going to let God do.”
There are moments in a parent’s life when we get a glimpse of the kind of person our child has grown up to be.
Such moments are almost too lovely to bear, and yet, whatever would we do without them? They make up, more or less, for 20 years of sleepless nights.
The boy hates it when I cry, so I didn’t. I just grinned the way I do when I’m trying not to lose it, and said, “I like that a lot.”
Minutes later, I was standing in the driveway in my bathrobe waving like a flag on the Fourth of July watching him drive away. I kept waving until he was out of sight. Then I walked back inside, composing in my head a whole new to-do list:
In the middle, I named things that I need and want and hope to do before I go to the rest home or the Great Hereafter.
On the left, under things to do today, I noted “change the sheets in the guest room.”
Finally, on the right, in a long, precious list of people and things I’m leaving to God to look after, I wrote the boy’s name.
Contact Sharon Randall at www.sharonrandall.com.