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Martti Lahtinen’s Bucket List 2 - 100 Days in Finland

In this second instalment of Martti Lahtinen’s five-part series, Martti elaborates on the concept of a bucket list and introduces Barney, as he waits for the medical all-clear to fly to Finland for 100 days. Hilde Huus

Bucket List destination to die for

by Martti Lahtinen

It's said the term “bucket list” attained notoriety in popular culture 10 years ago, accelerated by a movie of the same name starring Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson. In short, it's defined by a list of “To Do” Items to check off before you die – that is, before you kick the bucket. Punch up Google and find no end to bucket lists; plug into images and discover the variety of visuals that carry them. Believe me: you will expire without having viewed them all.

Two of Martti’s buckets on the right in his own, very Finnish, sauna

You will discover that the bucket list items encompass desires to experience moments that one might deem desirable or pleasurable – climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, for instance. You will also find the compilation to involve less of the aesthetic or adventurous, but more of the status- or 
 success-oriented – to make a million dollars, perchance. The goals aside, I list two types of people on the planet: those who merely hang onto the bucket, and those who manage to let go of the handles, to empty its contents before life washes away the option. I'm of the latter group and have been all my life, circumventing as best I could two major hurdles: opportunity and money. Or maybe three, not to forget health.

Not wishing to beat the kicking the bucket analogy to death, I must add this vinaigrette, although somewhat dated, to the mix. My daughter Kalli gave birth in October 2009 – Sawyer is my grandson’s name – and the event at first arrived with aftershocks. I became a grandfather, and I couldn't get my head around being called “Grandpa.” Sawyer and I got along just fine, and our falling asleep together while watching a coma-inducing Ottawa Senators hockey game on TV during my first solo babysitting gig cemented our bond. But the grandad thing? Jeez, I felt old.

Meanwhile, Sawyer’s attendant needs relegated Kalli’s cat, Barney, to the second tier of 
 affection-seekers in their Aylmer home. Barney began to show signs of ADD – Attention Displacement Disorder – and his initial curiosity about the wailing bundle that needed constant feeding, patting, burping, diapering, escalated into cat-niptions on his part. With his I'm Pissed Indicator crossing the red zone, Barney began peeing on the furniture and the baby’s paraphernalia near Kalli’s preferred feeding station to signal his dropping to No. 2 in popularity, forcing my son- in-law Charlie and Kalli to make a hard choice: keep Sawyer or keep Barney. The cat lost out, and a phone call to the grandparents signalled his free agent status.


Barney arrived in Chelsea with his carrier, leftover cat victuals, a bottle of laxative and, of course, the dumper – including the plastic poop strainer. Nobody willingly leapt into the caring and nurturing of the new family addition, but because Barney’s hours paralleled those of an acknowledged night owl, who was fingered for the food, water and waste detail? Right: good ol’ Grandpa. At about the same time that Barney claimed his squatter’s rights in my downstairs man cave, I ran across a news item that shook me, albeit briefly: “A cat with an uncanny ability to detect when nursing home patients are about to die has proven itself in around 50 cases by curling up with them in their final hours.” This was the subject of a book, “Making Rounds with Oscar: The Extraordinary Gift of an Ordinary Cat,” written by Dr. David Dosa, a geriatrician and assistant professor at Brown University. The doctor suggested that Oscar was able to detect ketones, the distinctively odoured biochemicals given off by dying cells.

Even today, nine-plus years later, our Barney curls up and sleeps at my feet, which might explain the distinctively odoured biochemicals. I do change socks regularly. But I do have a ticker problem – arrhythmia – and the family doctor and a cardiac specialist are in the medical loop should the condition become worrisome. Meanwhile, I see the bright side. A 75-year-old fart with a heart condition gets a CAT scan from Barney every night, in exchange for my feeding him and cleaning out his litter box. And should I ever have reason to question the prognoses of the GP and cardio specialist, I would ask Barney for a turd opinion. It could be news to die for. Litterly.

Meanwhile, I'm going to miss Barney during my One Hundred Days In Finland, while I empty my bucket – being careful not to kick it. Postscript I learned after landing in Finland that Barney wandered about our three-storey house as if in a daze for a week, searching for his keeper and bedmate. Barney searched all the rooms and all the closets multiple times and even clawed open the sauna door -- all in vain. A few days before leaving, my Finnish friends in Oravi were laying bets at the daily coffee sessions as to how Barney would greet me on my return after 100 days away. Either he would pee on my shoes in disdain or he would rub up against my shin, just like old times, to reestablish our bond. I would have been devastated -- probably needing intervention -- had Barney, after a long minute of hesitation -- not chosen Option B.

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