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My self-directed medical diagnoses tend toward neglect. That ache? It’ll go away. That stabbing pain? Wait a few days.

I’d like to think my self-diagnosis is a sign of optimism instead of denial. Those aches and pains usually do go away, even if they’re replaced by other maladies elsewhere in my mortal coil.

I get my copasetic attitude toward infrastructure maintenance from my father and my pickup truck. I’m the first and only owner of a four-wheel-drive Toyota that turns 20 years old this year, and there is not one moving part or joint or sheet-metal junction that hasn’t creaked or squeaked or chattered at some point in the last two decades. But over 200,000 miles, the chariot has reliably delivered me to job interviews and first dates, and across time zones and continental divides.

My Toyota has hauled kids and dogs, several tons of lumber and firewood, herds of gutted deer and antelope and boats, sheep, hitchhikers, sheetrock, buffalo skulls, groceries, decoys, tents, saddles and a broken-down trucker who told me he was Al Capone’s illegitimate son. It’s driven from coast to coast multiple times and through redwood groves, across deserts, through corn fields and sagebrush and more gumbo than I ever thought possible.

It’s been stuck a few times, though not nearly as often as I might have expected. Its radio still works. And though the windshield has more cracks than the windows of a golf course clubhouse, I can see through it. Well enough.

The brakes are a little sticky, and the engine revs in neutral. But the pickup starts even at 40 below, and if it uses a little oil, its puny appetite for gasoline makes it easy to own and drive. Yes, it makes a lot of noise: low groans and high-pitched squeaks, wheezy gasps and an occasional clatter. But most of those sounds, like my own niggling aches, tend to disappear after awhile.

Or maybe I just quit noticing them.

But, sort of like me, my pickup doesn’t really act its age. That could change — for both of us — over the next year. My twin boys are ready to learn to drive a stick-shift, so my Toyota’s next miles may also be its hardest.

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