John Carlson: Makin’ A List, Checkin’ It Twice

There’s nothing like a list to make a fella wallow in despair. Photo by: Nancy CarlsonThere’s nothing like a list to make a fella wallow in despair. Photo by: Nancy Carlson

By: John Carlson—

In the course of a relationship, there are certain familiar-sounding comments that loving partners typically address to each other. For example, there’s:

“Love you loads, baby cakes!” which comes early.

“You’ve made me the happiest individual in the whole U.S.A.!” which rings truest around one’s wedding day and early anniversaries.

And as a married couple’s love matures, ripening into the fullness of each partner’s undying  commitment to the miracle that is holy matrimony, there’s, “For cripes sake! Who the hell ate all my Oreos?”

But right now in our relationship, Nancy seems stuck on, “Add that to your list of things to do.”

This is hardly a surprise. My wife loves a list like nobody else I’ve ever met. She’ll write twenty-five things on her own to-do list in the morning, and they’ll all be crossed off by the time I’m squirting mustard on my lunchtime hotdog. So it really wasn’t shocking when a while into our marriage, she sat  around one morning devising what I came to call her “wish list of surgery for me.” You know. Yank out your adenoids so you don’t snore so loud. Get a vasectomy. Liposuction.

Those sorts of things.

Some I crossed off. Some I didn’t. Eventually I stonewalled enough that things quieted down around here, with me undergoing a minimum of elective surgical procedures. But now with us both retired, my list of things to do just keeps growing and growing and growing. It seems to expand every time I open my mouth.

So why wouldn’t I resent that?

After all, calling it “my” list is misleading. Sure, I’m the person Nancy has in mind whenever she  suggests additions to it. But even though I’m a guy who works with words, so far she remains my list’s sole contributor. If it were truly MY list, it would be full of tasks like, “Check on drunkard buddies at Fickle Peach.” Or, “Spend day watching football and inhaling Pringles while flattening couch cushions like a smelly, wheezing walrus.” Or, “Stock up on milk and bread before major storm hits. Plus buy Nancy new shovel.”

But this list is different. To some degree it incorporates her old “wish list of surgery for me,” being filled with health-related tasks. For example, “Get tested for hearing aids” is already on there multiple times. Furthermore, “get tested for hearing aids” is added again every time she says something like, “Coming to church with me, dear?” and I answer, “Why yes! I’d love some more beer!”

Then there’s “Schedule your eye exam.” She’s been harping on this one lately, but it’s no problem. I’ve worn glasses since seventh-grade, and am well aware that eye exams are vitally important and minimally invasive. Therefore, there’s every possibility I may actually be looking through a brand new pair of sparkling clean lenses along about, oh, the Fourth of July or so.

But “Schedule your next colonoscopy”? Not so much.

Medical stuff isn’t all that’s on this list, either.

She’ll suggest something like, “Put away clothes that’ve hung on your new exercise bike since you insisted on buying it back in April.” Naturally, I sort of balk at this one. When a guy spends $700 on a fancy new exercise bike, he ought to use it for something.

Then there’s, “Think about raking leaves off back deck.” But I’m way ahead of her on that one. I’ve been thinking about it every day for weeks.

Another one of her favorites is, “Wash beard hairs stuck to your man-cave sink down drain after shaving.” I mean, how picayune can a woman get? Does she have any idea how tiny those beard hairs are? I can barely even see the little suckers, plastered under all that shaving cream gunk and toothpaste scum.

Anyway, as patently unfair as this is, I know I’m living on borrowed time. Whenever Nancy urges me to add something to my “list of things to do,” I dutifully proclaim “OK, love munchkin!” in my most chipper, sing-song voice. Then I trot off to my man-cave and – studiously avoiding looking at the little beard hairs dotting my sink effluvia – sit at my desk. Then I busily shuffle some papers before loudly scribbling something, as if I am actually adding to my list.

Sometimes, just to add a note of authenticity to my ruse, I’ll even holler out, “Sweet cheeks? How many M’s are there in ‘immediately’?”

But the day is going to come when she realizes that so far, my “list of things to do” exists only in her head, and that I’m batting a thousand percent on failing to complete any of them. Then I’m going to be in deep doo-doo. In fact, this doo-doo may be deep enough that, to prove I’m not a totally worthless lump of gristle, spouse-wise, I’ll be forced to make a man’s ultimate conciliatory phone call, that last-ditch bid for marital redemption.

“Hello,” I’ll say, with trepidation. “Is this Colonoscopies R Us?”


John’s weekly columns are sponsored by Beasley & Gilkison, Muncie’s trusted attorneys for over 120 years.

About Beasley & Gilkison

We listen, analyze your unique situation, and prepare a course of action that best fits your needs. Contact one of our attorneys to schedule a consultation, or for more information, call 765-289-0661 or visit our Facebook page or website at






A former longtime feature writer and columnist for The Star Press in Muncie, Indiana, John Carlson is a storyteller with an unflagging appreciation for the wonderful people of East Central Indiana and the tales of their lives, be they funny, poignant, inspirational or all three.  John’s columns appear on Muncie Journal every Friday.