Don: Everyday Hero in our Lives

We meet people in our lives who are extraordinary in ordinary ways. If we are lucky, they stay in our lives long enough for us to know we should thank them. If our hearts are in the right place, we remember to thank them and tell others about them.

This is an acknowledgment of Don, who has struggled against so much, I can’t believe how often I hear his big, full-meant laugh at the silliness of ordinary life.

Don in the old house

Don in the old house

Don is a friend of my husband’s. They met in a transformational seminar, both in search of a new way of looking at their lives. Don has enough health challenges in his life to make most people quit. The shortcut to the real point of the story is that Don will not quit. Pills, monitoring, adjusting is simply part of his day. He never complains, he never pulls out the health trump card. It’s that very issue that gets him in trouble occasionally. He overreaches what his body can provide.

Don was going to ride across the country on the passenger side of the moving van, with Kent driving. We all assumed he was too frail to drive. When he offered to drive part way, it sounded like a good idea–carefully monitored, of course.

When the truck turned out too be too small to hold the motorcycles, and we rented an additional truck, Don quietly volunteered to drive the second truck. We accepted. With lots of rules to protect his health the way we thought it should be protected. Don carefully steered us to the idea that he was in charge of his health and in charge of knowing how much he could manage. And he would manage it. He did this so carefully that it sounded like a good idea.

I was relieved, as my job was to fly to Phoenix, pick up the cats that had been shipped already, keep them in my apartment, complete the purchase of the new house, and move as much as I could into the new house from my apartment. I’ve seen corporate board meetings with less logistics than this move.

So Kent climbed into one van, and Don into the other (after kissing Judy and telling her he’d see her soon) and headed West. A 26-foot rental van hauling a trailer on which sits our personal van, followed by another van carrying three motorcycles, a large ficus, and random leftover household goods is a caravan of two that can’t back up. So they only drove forward. For 2,400 forward miles–through the rolling hills of Virginia, the mountains of Tennessee, across the Mississippi river, the plains of Oklahoma and Texas, into the mountains of New Mexico and Arizona and then South onto the Sonoran desert floor. It took the better part of six days.

In the following week, Don helped unpack, cut down overgrown trees and vines, installed electric outlets on the kitchen islands, removed a chandelier from the ceiling of my office, and exchanged it for a ceiling fan, replaced toilets, fixed faucets, hung shelving in the laundry room. And to the joy of my heart, he and my husband got the motorcycles out of the van (after the effort it took to get them into the same van), put the handlebars into place, and made them road-worthy. I never heard him complain of the heat. I never heard him complain at all.

Don worked every day. Hard work in hot weather. Every night the three of us spent time in the pool, looking up at stars, grateful that all the logistics had worked, that the whole move was coming together. Don can make you laugh, and laugh hard. He can also make you think and explain how mysterious household devices work.

You may be holding your breath for a disaster here. But there is none. Only good news. In the truck, along with our motorcycles, we had brought Don’s. And after being with us a week and a day, Don fulfilled a dream that had driven him to climb in the van in the first place: he drove his motorcycle back across country. I was hugely worried, but Don, along with Dirty Harry, knows his limitations. He drove through sun, and unfortunately, through a good deal of hurricane-spawned rain. But he drove. Don lives riding a motorcycle like no one else I know. 2,400 miles back across the country. He arrived back to Judy in good health.

Everyone should be as lucky as to have a Don in their lives. He is an inspiration for everyone who has a life-threatening disease and a bigger inspiration for those of us who are healthy. It takes a big friend to do what Don did, and a big dream to ride a motorcycle across the country in sun and rain, wind and sand. And Don did what most of us put off till it’s too late: he went after his big dream, and he completed it.

So thanks, Don, for making the move possible. Not just for doing hours of work to make the house great, but just for being in our lives and serving as inspiration and a role model of what friendship looks like. And it looks great from here.

–Quinn McDonald is proud to know Don, and to call him her friend. She’s a writer and certified creativity coach who helps people dream big and follow the dream. She can take no credit for Don’s dream or his work. That was all Don’s character. (c) 2008 All rights reserved.

4 thoughts on “Don: Everyday Hero in our Lives

  1. What a man Don is. What an inspiration. But also, what a genius to recognize his limits and live life to the fullest within them, not in spite of them.

    I liked the little detail of not being able to back up. You have to think wayyyy ahread when pulling into a motel, into a gas station, a diner for lunch, all those places. I drove a moving van that COULD back up, but carefully, merley from Boston to Richmond, VA a long time ago. My worry was the height of the truck, and if it would fit under gas station canopies or overhanging motel roofs. Usually an adventure for the young. Hats off to all you brave people.

    —-Everything you say about Don is true, for sure. About backing up: the van had a reverse, but who wants to back up a 26-foot van hauling a 23-foot trailer on which sits a 2,000 pound, 19-foot Dodge Caravan? (OK, I have no idea what it weighs.) To avoid that, Kent and Don always pulled into truck stops for gas, as the big van took only diesel, and asked about hotels. Many hotels on the interstate have a big parking lot, and with a bit of thinking, you can drive in, drive to the back, park taking up about five spaces (but waaaaay in the back) and in the morning, pull out only going forward. Kent and Don dubbed this “A–hole parking” but there were never any other cars close to them.

  2. Congrats to Don for getting across country on his motorcycle in some of the weird weather we’ve had lately. Next time he comes out, hope you all can take a trek north to enjoy some mountain riding.
    We were hoping to get out east a thousand miles or so this coming week but with Gustav on his way up and inland those plans are probably being put off: a bit of rain is one thing, but he’s supposed to drop 20 inches in east Texas this coming weekend! yeek!

  3. What you wrote here makes me love and applaud Don, and I know no more than you have provided in tis writing. Persons like him are precious and a privilege to call friend. G

    –We are already planning for his return trip! I’m glad I realized how rare it is to find a friend like this. –Q

  4. Quinn, I feel both so moved and impressed that I don’t know what to say or write.

    I hope that there will be more wonderful dreams for Don and that he will be able to live them all.

    —-Don and Judy are planning a return visit in the Spring. They are driving, but bringing their motorcycles. We are planning some great rides! -Q

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