Friday, April 22, 2011

My buddy Keebler

No, I've not become a sudden follower of the merry Nabisco elf—I'm talking about my good buddy Wes, who over the years advcanced from being my neighbor to being one of my closest friends.
When Wes and his wife, Susan, moved in next-door seven or eight years ago (heck, I can't keep timelines straight), they were pudgy West Texas bubbas who thought that Judy and I were nutty folks because we rode our bikes everywhere, recycled, gardened in the buff, and didn't drink Coors Light. What an education those poor guys had to go through! I think the photo explains why my friend Scott nicknamed Wes "Keebler," which stuck.
The Keebler family, a few years back—sis, mom& dad, Susan, and Wes
The male branch of Wes' family has had an ongoing losing feud with heart disease, and after I told him that he "was too young to be so fat" (you know me and my diplomatic language, that's what I said to him, early on); after he and Susan had a beautiful little daughter, Anna; and after recognizing the real risk of croaking prematurely, Wes started to train. We'd ride down to the brewpub, and the few miles damn near killed him, but he stuck it out. Then he and Susan witnessed (as temporary officials) the feats of all those athletes at our local Ironman qualifier, the Buffalo Springs Triathlon, and their fate was sealed: They applied themselves and now here we are, a few years later and 50 pounds lighter, and Wes has completed several half-Ironman races (among them the World Championship in Florida last year) and Susan runs half-marathons.

Wes finishing his first half-Ironman, the 70.3 in Oceanside, CA

So why am I writing all this? This morning, Wes gave a speech as part of the dedication of Covenant Hospital's new Cath Lab Waiting Room, which is named in honor of his late dad, JD, who—unfortunately you guessed it right—died two years ago of heart failure. Ever since, Wes has dedicated his racing to his dad's memory, raising more than $26,000 in donations which in turn helped open this waiting room. It was a passionate, hopeful talk that Wes gave to the admittedly mainly septuagenarian and octogenarian crowd—he must have come across as the über-Mensch that he definitely is not when he talked about how training changed his life. But the message was clear: We are the ones who determine whether we want to try to better ourselves, or whether we just accept the cards that we're dealt. Wes didn't like those genetic cards, and he has done (and is doing) his part to make sure that he breaks the cycle.

I can't tell you how proud I am of him and his family.


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