Erma Bombeck - Inspiration in the real world. Her husband's eulogy of her is about the best I've ever read/heard. It reminds me to live and enjoy every single moment ~ In 1947, three or four couples were outside the Lakeside Ballroom in Dayton, Ohio. We were too early to be admitted for the big-band dance, so we all wandered over to the adjoining amusement park. Not far from the ballroom was the roller coaster. All of the boys began cajoling their dates to ride with them. The girls giggled and said no. It was too frightening, and it would mess up their hair and dresses. I looked at my date and asked her if she wanted to go. She didn’t hesitate. She said, "Sure, I’ll go." I was surprised and looked at her again. She was slight, narrow-shouldered, with tiny hands and feet. But she had the greatest smile and laugh. Her smile had a charming space between her two front teeth. I thought, this is some kind of girl! The Lakeside roller coaster was a rickety old leftover from the Depression. The frame was mostly made of unpainted two-by-fours. No modern inspection by OSHA would have ever approved this for man’s use. The cars were linked together with what looked like modified train couplers. They were mostly red-painted wood with metal wheels and a cog-like device that clicked loudly. The seats had worn, black leather padding. There were no belts, but there were worn steel bars that had to be raised and lowered by the attendant. The attendant was an old man in oil-stained bib overalls. He said little, but raised the bar and she entered the seat first, and I followed by her side. The bar clicked in place just above our waistlines. There were two tapered two-by-fours on the platform, each angled away from the other. He moved the one closer to the car to an upright position. The car moved forward, slowly picking up speed. The metal wheels on the metal track made so much noise you had to yell to your partner to be heard. The car left the level starting track and began a slow ascent. In about 20 or 30 seconds, when the track became steeper, the cog device engaged the car. You could feel it grab. Then there was a distinct rhythmic clacking sound as the cog device labored to overcome the near-perpendicular angle of the track. You felt like it wouldn’t make it, but just when it reached a point that forced the passengers to stare, not at the car ahead or the track, but only at the night sky, it plunged downward, a wild, almost free, fall. Maybe, whatever controlled the speed was now broken. She made her first sound since she had said, "Sure, I’ll go." She screamed and clenched my arm. I said, "Hang on to the bar." She kept hanging on to my arm. Suddenly we were at the bottom, and we both were so relieved that we laughed, and I saw that smile again. The ride continued, with bone-jarring twists and turns, dizzying heights and abrupt plunges. Sometimes we would enter a dark tunnel, so dark the sparks from the wheels and tracks made it look like it was on fire. She kept hanging on to my arm. I was gripping the metal bar so tightly I thought I would bend it. This was some ride. We were thrilled and exhilarated, scared and breathless. We had been in and out of many tunnels. Each time they ended with almost blinding light in our eyes, and then on to another straight-up climb. We started into a tunnel that seemed to plunge deeper than all the others. It kept dropping. We both sensed this one was really different. Finally, instead of the bright lights, we were back at the platform. We looked at each other. We didn’t speak, but we sensed the ride had changed. The man in the bib overalls was standing by the tapered two-by-fours. He started to push one from its angel to a straight-up position. The car stopped. I told him the ride was great, but it was too short; we wanted to go on. He raised the bar. She smiled again. I looked at the attendant again. He said, "This is April 22, 1996 – your ride is over." I looked over at her seat. She was gone.