Feeling like a Celebrity January 2, 2014

Friends and Family,

Between Christmas and New Year’s Genevieve and I went to San Diego to visit her 97 year-old father. Walt is a great guy, a former captain of industry-type with rock solid values. One of Walt's values is common-sense thrift, like not buying a new car when the old one works just fine. That's why he is still the original owner of a 1951 Woody.

About ten years after marrying Genevieve, I finally passed some secret test of either character or marital longevity, and Walt deemed me worthy to drive this beauty.

It has been an experience like none other. Just driving down the road in this purring machine brings smiles to the faces of complete strangers, and is guaranteed to start conversations any time the car rolls to a stop. The one-car parade has just come into town, and as the driver, it's easy to feel like a rock star.

Walt also has a second car. He is the original owner of a 1986 pale green Chevy sedan. This one is not so classic. Walt estimates that it has about 400,000 miles on it. It was "totaled" once, but Walt decided it was more cost effective to repair it than to take the insurance money and buy another car. Not that anyone else agreed with him, but who was the captain of industry in this room?

It has only one rear view mirror, and you have to yell a little to talk over the engine noise. I keep checking to see if I've left a door open because of the loud wind noises, but I finally figured out that it was just that the doors don't fit so well any more since the car was totaled. I found the emergency brake pedal lying on the floorboard, and the paint is faded.

All these limitations aside, Walt set the record straight. We were joking about this car the other night at dinner, but Walt was having none of it. He looked me square in the eye and said, "It runs well, doesn't it?"

I had to admit he was right. That car deserved my respect. Every time I have borrowed it, the car has been completely and unquestionably reliable. You have to admire how the darn thing just never gives up. It may look like a heap, but that beat-up old Chevrolet Celebrity just keeps on running.

Yes, that's right. I feel like a Celebrity. Not the rock star driving the classic Woody, but that beater Chevrolet Celebrity car that never gives up.

I've had more of that Celebrity experience over the past few weeks. I've been having temporary back problems that have almost no connection to the cancer, but which have left me feeling instantly (and temporarily!) a whole lot older and a whole lot more beat up. I'm wearing a back brace, and I have had to use a wheelchair on a few occasions (taking my grandkids to OMSI, getting through the airport) where I would have had to stand for too long.

Again, this is a temporary inconvenience, and I definitely don't want sympathy. I'm doing physical therapy, icing, massage, yadda yadda. It will get better. But when I look at the laundry list of things that have happened to this old beater body lately, I started to wonder how many more parts I had left that could fall off.

Then I took the Celebrity out for a drive, and I realized how much we had in common. Anyone can look at either one of us and say, "How can that body still be on the road?" It defies all logic. In either case, it doesn't matter. It works.

So my friends and family, I may look and feel more like a Celebrity right now, but I have a mission. One day I plan to grow to a ripe old age and turn into a classic Woody.

Have a healthy and happy New Year!