Lately I only seem to be writing in airports between flights. It’s not that I am particularly busy; I’ve just been working on other things. Like ignoring my garden and pretending to winterize the house before all of a sudden I am shoveling the driveway and wondering why the pioneers didn’t just keep heading south.
But that is not what I want to write about today. I want to write about good advice that sometimes falls in your lap when you want to take a nap.
Today I left the house at 4 a.m. to make it in time for my 7 a.m. flight in Salt Lake City. By the time the plane pushed away for the gate I was ready to shut my eyes and wake up in Chicago. Naturally, my seatmate had other plans. Phillips asked me if I wanted the armrest and then never stopped talking. He reminded me of an older Sam Elliot. So I obliged. Seven miles above Iowa he was three Budweisers deep and telling me about his bucket list.
“Don’t wait until the end of your life to start it,” he said. “Complete it as you live. That’s what I have done.”
By 70 Phillips has lived in every state in America at some point save for North Dakota, Alaska, and Hawaii. He works as a safety manager on construction sites and he doesn’t plan on retiring anytime soon. He recently put a bid in for a job in Alaska and he has high hopes. The water’s too cold to swim, but it will be pretty.
He started smoking at 12 to be cool. He quit at 52 because the doctors found a spot on his lung. That day he talked to God and they worked it out. He hasn’t smoked since. Every year he takes his family on a vacation somewhere new.
“I don’t want them to spend their inheritance on bills. Cause they will,” he said. “If I don’t take them away I worry they’ll never go.”
Phillips wears a gold band but he isn’t married. He doesn’t see the point. He loves his spouse and he hasn’t stopped for decades. He just likes what the ring means.
“It’s not the words you say to each other, it’s the deeds you do,” he said.
Phillips fell asleep 15 minutes before we landed. In all honesty I wasn’t sure what to make of him. He couldn’t talk baseball. I couldn’t speak Nascar. But we tried. He doesn’t read newspapers, follow politics, or exercise. He just wants to figure out where to go next to watch the sunset.