Make to-do list a job in itself

My mother was the ultimate list maker. On Saturday mornings, with her extra cup of coffee and a stenographer’s pad (spiral at the top), she made THE LIST. We all were all to keep working until it was done. It wasn’t a big list, but it did get the work done quickly so the afternoon could be spent doing what we wanted: watching television, reading, doing homework, or ironing.

Whether it’s a to-do list or a bucket list, we, who make lists, are more organized, satisfied, and frustrated by the non-list makers. My friend Wanda June is a list maker; her husband Leonard is not. I think he was trying to impress her the other day when he left a list of projects that he needed to do on a table by his chair. On the list were some mighty big projects: repair the pump to the water well, buy and mount a new rain gauge, clean out the flower beds to remove all the dead vegetation, water the living plants, wash and wax the car … She was impressed. After all, the last time Leonard had that much energy … Jimmy Carter was president and the in-laws were on the way into town. 

She didn’t tell him that she’d seen his list. She spends most of her days puttering around the house on different projects: cleaning, cooking, quilting, and reading. She didn’t notice him leaving the house for pump parts or retrieving the shovel and hoe from the garage. She drove the car to the store about mid-afternoon and was able to locate it in the parking lot by the dust on the trunk. The morning glories in the front flower box had drooped in the one-hundred-degree heat, and the old rain gauge still had a big crack down the side. 

There was some evidence of Leonard doing things around the house. The empty milk carton was sitting in the refrigerator. The newspaper was spread out on the floor around his chair. The pill bottles which needed refilling were sitting in the middle of the kitchen table. Judge Judy was on the television, and Leonard was asleep in his chair, resting.

Wanda June joined him in the den, changed the television to the home and garden channel, and woke up Leonard when she asked him, “What are you going to do today?” 

“Oh, I’ve got lots to do. Probably won’t have time to get it all done,” he said, “but I’ve made a list.” He dug through the papers beside his chair and brought out the to-do list. “Anything you want to add?” 

It was 4:30 in the afternoon. Wanda June noted, “I don’t see any of these marked off.” 

Leonard took the list back. “Well, I’ve done a lot more that I didn’t bother to write down.” He took out a pencil and began to write at the top of the page. He wrote: get the paper, answer the phone, recharge the cell phone, order that new book the preacher recommended, call the church and see if I left my hat there on Sunday, find the remote, and catch up on the news. Each time he wrote one of these things down, he dramatically marked it off. “See,” he said. “I’ve been busy.”

“You forgot a few things,” she said. She took the list and added: drank all the milk, scattered the newspaper, and left the pill bottles out for me to re-order.” She marked them off with the same firm hand.

He frowned and said, “Now where’s your list?”

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