Ted Kennedy crashed and crashed again during the early turns of his life, but somehow he kept on going through the sorrows and tragedies over which he had no control - and the self-destructiveness over which he did.
And in the final laps, he won.
His children loved him, his contemporaries - even those who often opposed him - admired him, and those whose causes he championed, thanked him.
To what else can a man aspire?
His personal friend and sometime political foe, the longtime Republican leader Bob Dole, told me the day Kennedy died that what impressed him was "the Kennedy boys could have gone through life and never worked a day," but all of them did.
The thousands of laws that he authored changed the lives of millions who were less fortunate, a legacy few could match.
In a sense he was the classic American hero - the imperfect man who was sorely tested and yet in that testing found a way to overcome personal flaws and go on to accomplish great things.
You didn't have to agree with his politics to appreciate what he achieved.
Ted Kennedy made a difference.