Seeing eight decades in the rearview mirror, I realize this aged body is a machine, a motorcar–quaint term, motorcar, you don’t hear it today–a highly complex assemble of parts and processes performing with unnoticed and unappreciated precision. And life is a road race, like Le Mans.
It’s all here: engine, transmission, frame, running gear, cab, seats, the works. With fuel, an occasional oil change and tune-up, despite blow-outs and dents, a burst radiator hose, a broken fan belt, near-fatal crashes and a major overhaul, over three-quarters of a century my little race car sped with precision and dependability I have no right to expect.
For something like a million miles my 1937 Alfa Romeo–Ferrari’s predecessor–powered around hairpin curves and up steep grades, fender-to-fender with the swiftest. Now it struggles just to keep up. The bearings are loose, the engine strains, the radiator leaks. Decades of grit, pebbles and stones leave the body weathered, scratched, dented. Uncounted impacts of bug, bird, sleet and hail leave the windscreen glazed.
With the finish line lurking around every curve it seems prudent to ease up on the accelerator, to retire from racing. Before I run head-on with a semi, drive ‘er over a cliff, or coast slowly to the side of the freeway, it’s time to slow down, way down. Besides focusing intently on the road ahead, it’s time to look around, inside and out, appreciate what, caught up in the chase, I missed. It’s never too late to enjoy the ride.
Oh, I almost forgot! The big rarely asked and for me never answered question: Who’s driving?
For this I’m wholly in debt to the Buddha’s two-and-half-millennia old wisdom.