By: William McDonald/Author/Old Friends (Endless Love)
I want to know what it feels like to say, “I am Tommy Howard. I am 76 years old. I’ve lived in a 1997, 33-foot Airstream Class A motor home for 15 years and camped my way through 55 national parks, 49 states and 31 countries.”
I really want to say that.
But I can’t.
Because I can’t dance.
Tommy Howard can dance.
Like popcorn over a hot fire.
So I’m out. I cannot say, “I am Tommy Howard.”
But I can say I know him.
I can say I know of the time he white-knuckled his way down an Andes mountainside behind the wheel of a six-ton runaway Winnebago. I can say I know of the time he hiked up the side of an active volcano in Guatemala and I know of the time he woke up in the middle of a civil revolution in Peru.
I tell him it’s pretty amazing that he came out of all that alive.
“Life is a dance,” he says, waving his hand in the air like he’s shooing a fly. “Just keep moving your feet.”
He does a little North Carolina two-step.
Tommy Howard talks about the stars like they’re a thousand angels glowing in the dark. He talks about meeting a whale in Mexico that told him the meaning of life.
“So, what is the meaning of life?” (I had to ask).
“Beats me. I never learned to speak whale.”
He talks about a woman in his life that is? was? so special that, “I’d walk through hell wearing gasoline pajamas to get to her.”
He talks about beating cancer like it was a nuisance that had to be dealt with.
He drives a 1973 Jaguar XKE.
He hikes where most of us would be afraid to walk.
He has a glass of red wine every night.
He’s 76 years old.
He’ll dance till the music stops.
He’s just finished writing his autobiography, An Unexpected Journey. One reviewer spoke for a lot of us when she wrote:
I would read three or four pages of Tommy Howard’s book and then gaze off into space remembering and recalling those days in my past. The adventure, the excitement of waking up each morning to the wonders of what was going to happen next. And I cried and I mourned the death of my own hopes, dreams and expectations. Then I would pick up Tommy’s book and dream again.
I hear people say, “You’re never too old.”
I hear Tommy say, “You’re never old.”
I am privileged to know Tommy Howard, the 76-year old man who says life is a dance.
Years ago, another friend told me I would never get old if I would always remember to dance to the music of the child in my heart.
Maybe that’s the secret of life?
Learn to dance.
William McDonald is an Emmy Award winning writer and published author who, for more than 30 years, specialized in emotional communication in the broadcast industry. For several more years, he was a caregiver in assisted-living homes, memory-care homes and private homes, and it was there that he met many of the old friends who inspired these stories. He writes full time from his home in Colorado. Available at: www.oldfriendsendlesslove.com