Her name was Annelie MacInnis. She was my wife's best friend of 25 years. If you described her as Claudia Schiffer's sister, anyone who'd met her would agree with the likeness. And while she'd had many suitors, and at least two close calls (including purchased rings and fitted wedding dresses), she'd never gotten married. My wife suspected Annelie had trouble making the final leap into marriage because her own parents' marriage hadn't worked out too well. Annelie was a conservative girl who generally took the more cautious route.
But at 38 she was on a successful career at William Morris, one of the largest talent and literary agencies in the world. She still had the supermodel looks, but behind them was a modest, reserved girl. Annelie went to church every Sunday, participated in local jogging events in Southern California, and loved being around our two young kids.
Then, in August of 2001, she skipped out on her 20-year high school reunion in West Los Angeles so she could attend a jogging event in San Diego the next morning. Shortly after the event started she slowed down. But her younger sister, who was also participating in the event, continued on. Then Annelie collapsed, went into a coma and was taken to a local hospital. She died three days later. The autopsy revealed nothing conclusive. Nobody could offer a reasonable explanation of why Annelie died.
A few months later, in January of 2002, Ford introduced the Ford GT concept car. Everything from its racing heritage to its seductive shape had me almost foaming at the mouth. What a car! "But Ford will never build it," I told myself. "It's just too wild for a company that's in the midst of a turnaround effort." About a month later, Ford announced a production plan for the GT. Within 24 hours I'd called my Ford contacts and requested to be "put on the list" for a Ford GT. At the time I had no idea how I would buy it, where I'd park it, or when my wife would put a stop to this hair-brained scheme. But I figured, better to put my name in now and let the plan blow to bits rather than wake up in 2005, discover I have the ability to buy it, but never made the initial call. I knew this car would be hotter than Chinese search-engine stock, and I wanted in on the ground floor.
At first I told no one. Not my friends, co-workers or wife. Why get people interested (or angry, as the case may be) about something that couldn't possibly come to fruition? I simply pondered the possibility in silence while devouring every bit of information I could on the budding supercar being constructed at the SVT facilities in Dearborn, Michigan.
Finally, around July of 2002, my self-inflicted code of silence snapped, and I told the wife what I'd done. I assured her that I merely wanted to be in the running to get one, and that I could always bail out if circumstances (like logic, fiscal responsibility, her filing for divorce, etc.) prohibited me from buying a Ford GT. She took it all with the same trademark good nature that keeps reminding me I'm the luckiest guy in the world. I could tell she wasn't thrilled with the idea, but she wouldn't stand in my way, either.
Stacie's tacit acceptance was great, as was the growing potential for me to actually afford the thing. But neither element truly inspired me to acquire a Ford GT. I loved the idea of the car. I loved my wife more than ever for putting up with my desire to buy it. And I was amazed at the stupid prices people were willing to pay for Southern California property, especially as I watched the value of both my newly acquired house (with a three-car garage!) and my condo (serving as a rental unit) skyrocket. It was actually beginning to look like I could afford to buy a Ford GT, and I now had the garage space to store it.
But the responsible side of me (and believe it or not, I do have one) kept telling me I was simply being foolish to entertain such thoughts. The most expensive car I'd ever bought was a 2000 Honda Odyssey for $27,000. People like me weren't meant to own $150,000 exotics, even if our financial resources and patient better halves allowed it. I was still waffling about what I'd actually do if the Ford guys came through with a GT allocation list bearing the name "Karl Brauer" on it, and my wife knew it.
Then, in August of 2002, within weeks of the one-year anniversary of Annelie's death, Mrs. MacInnis — Annelie's mother, was hiking in Temescal Canyon in Pacific Palisades. She told her friends to go on ahead because she needed to take a brief rest. A few minutes later she collapsed, and 24 hours later she had died. My wife attended Mrs. MacInnis' funeral, as she had Annelie's almost exactly one year earlier.
Then the most amazing thing happened. She came back from that funeral and looked at me with far more determination than disappointment in her eyes.
"Buy the GT!" she proclaimed with a cool, almost militaristic resolve.
It took me several seconds to respond. Was this some sort of grief-stricken madness? Maybe I should call a psychiatrist? This was the last thing I expected to hear from Stacie immediately after her best friend's mother's funeral.
"Buy the GT!" she said again. "I stood out there today looking at those gravestones and all I could think was, 'Why shouldn't Karl buy a GT? He's worked hard and life's too damn short. Annelie lived an extremely cautious lifestyle, and now all I think about are the things she'll never experience.'"
I continued to stand before her in stunned silence. Obviously I wasn't going to argue any of these points — I just expected the roles to be reversed when it came time to deliver them. My incredible wife was actually arguing to me the uh, logic(?) in buying a Ford GT. As amazing as it was, it did remind me of what my father had said to me years earlier.
"Live every day like it's your last and live every day like you'll be around for the next 100 years."
It sounds contradictory, but if you really think about it the advice makes perfect sense. Basically, you should live so that if you died today you'd have no regrets, and if you died in 100 years you'd have no regrets. Not an easy balance to maintain, but a great perspective to operate from.
That day, in August of 2002, I went into full "Buy the GT!" mode. I stayed in constant communication with my Ford contacts. I watched every stage of the car's development, and I was fortunate enough to get two driving opportunities in the early production versions (which exceeded even my wildest hopes for the car). I also continued to work hard, be careful with my various investments, and regularly tell my wife how much I love and appreciate her.
And in late August 2005, three-and-a-half years after that first call to my Ford contacts, I picked up my Midnight Blue Ford GT from Santa Monica Ford. Obviously, I owe thanks to a long list of people, most particularly my wife.
But the person I think of most whenever I'm around my Ford GT is the sweet girl who left us too soon while leaving my wife and me with a new perspective.