This month I’m going to tell you a happy story about a really brave couple. There’s a good chance that you have a similar story, but read mine anyway. In May, my lovely wife Kris, my best friend Dave, and his wife Teri went on a Mediterranean cruise with stops in Pompeii, Rome, and Florence, Italy; Cannes France; and Palma and Barcelona, Spain. The cruise package was put together by Advance Auto Parts, so there were over 1000 of my peers together, making acquaintances, exchanging ideas, and enjoying the sights. AAP had put together several meetings and entertainment packages throughout the trip, and that is where the story begins.
On the second day of the cruise, a reception was planned for early evening. There was a band playing hard rock, and since it was not an extremely large room, and also because the volume is usually inversely proportional to the quality of the band, it was very loud and having a conversation was nearly impossible. I really looked forward to each of the band’s breaks. During one of those breaks, my wife and two friends decided to take a walk through the stores on the ship. I was having some foot pain and wanted to save my feet for the onshore excursions, so I decided to stay there. Since it was quiet for a few minutes, I turned to an elderly couple on my right. (Editor’s note: Jerry is 69 years old, so if he thinks they are elderly, you can just imagine.) Thinking they were part of the AAP group, I said ”Well, now is when we are supposed to get to know each other.” I introduced myself. They introduced themselves as Jim and Donna Bonner, from Nova Scotia, Canada. We got to know each other, and I found that they had nothing to do with the automotive business. That didn’t matter one bit. We had a great conversation. I found that they had been following the band on whichever cruise ship they had booked on. They had been aboard a ship for 86 of the last 90 days. About that time, the band fired up again and got loud. Kris, Teri, and Dave came back in and I introduced them to my new friends. With the volume of the music, we didn’t try to carry on a conversation. I just had a bourbon and watched. Oh, what I watched! First, the Bonners got out on the dance floor. Remember, the adjective I used was “elderly”. What I hadn’t known was that Jim had to use two crutches just to walk, but there he was, holding tight to his crutches while he danced with the love of his life, Donna. They danced several dances, then when they sat back down, each guitar player came over, one at a time, knelt down right in front of the Bonners, and played his part in ZZ Top’s “Sharp Dressed Man” directly to Donna and Jim.
At the next break, I commented on their dancing, even with Jim’s crutches. This opened up the story of their life together. It’s too long to go into in depth, but these two lovebirds had experienced many things together that might have beat down lesser people. Donna had recently had her complete stomach and part of her colon removed, and still had some cancer that needed to be addressed. Jim was scheduled for new hips and one knee. Yet there they were kissing like school kids, dancing like nobody was watching, and partying like ZZ Top. They told us that with all of the medical problems they had, they had just decided to live their lives like there was no tomorrow, as there very well might be. They had to physically be in Canada for a certain amount of time each month to be eligible for Canadian health care, but they had decided to spend every other available minute cruising, dancing, meeting new friends, listening to music, and loving each other. Several days into the cruise, I said to Donna “This cruise is wonderful. I’m seeing parts of the world that I have always wanted to see. I am sharing time with my wife and friends. I have met many shop owners and managers from all over the country. Yet the highlight of my trip has been meeting you and Jim, and sharing your love for each other and for life.” She cried and hugged me, so I cried and hugged her back.
I hope every one of you reading this takes a lesson from the Bonners. Live and love like there is no tomorrow. Find something you enjoy and just do it.