. Michael Weber
Dear class of 2006,
I'd like to leave you with a short story.
Once I had a VW bus, Beulah. She was a mutt, part '72, part '74. I had
Beulah for 10 years, from the time I was 23. She was a constant work
in progress. I rebuilt the top half of her engine the first time out
of a manual, the original Idiot's Guide to rebuilding your VW. GREAT
text, fantastic illustrations, wonderful bits of philosophy woven throughout.
Anyway, I was ALWAYS working on that car, trying to keep her running.
I sweated out many an afternoon on the side of the road mashed within
what couldn't have been more than 14 inches of clear space between the
pavement and the burning hot fins of her pancake engine. I traveled cross-country
with her several times, planted trees with her through two winters,
and spent many months living out of her. I'd be driving down the highway;
she'd break down. The first thing I'd do was to make myself something to eat.
Sometimes I'd follow that with a nap. Then I'd tackle the mechanical
problem at hand. That car is an indelible part of who I am ...she was
such a pain in the kiester. I grew very attached to Beulah. I like to
think that instead of working on her, we were working on each other.
There came a time while in architecture school that I plainly had no
time or money left to deal with her anymore. She needed major work.
I had been in Italy for a year and returned home enriched, but dead
broke. The day I drove her to the car recycler, what did she do? She
stalled out as I was turning left across traffic traveling at high speed.
It's true. I kicked in the clutch, glided through the intersection,
pulled over, checked my pants and shook my head. She almost took me
with her. I've driven low maintenance Japanese cars ever since, the
type that go forever, but remain nameless.
The vast majority of the harder stuff I worked with through the course
of med school concerned my former wife. The problems were huge and painful.
Ironically, in spite of the pain, or more likely because of it, they
forged an intimacy that continues to feed us both despite new living
arrangements. As with Beulah, the struggle reinforced life and nurtured
growth. As many of us, myself once again included, prepare to cast off
toward lands and experiences largely unknown, take heart in the fact
that you've received a solid education here. When things get tough,
remember to take a few deep breaths, get a bite to eat, steal a nap
if possible, and hold to the truth that struggle can enrich life. It's
been a privilege to be one among you.