Every time I’m at a track or preparing to watch a race, without warning, it will hit me that my father is gone.
Of course it was my father who started my journey down the racing path. I was born into it. I was almost born at a track actually. (my mother kept the fact that she was in labour a secret until after my father’s heats) He was a dragster racer. He had a beautiful, shiny, blue metal flake dragster and lots of trophies. I was obsessed with his trophies for as long as I can remember. When we would move I would be in charge of packing and unpacking and re-setting them up. He didn’t really care much about them. They made me proud.
My nickname was “Punk” and I traveled with daddy to all of his races, and car shows, where I would help shine the car to perfection so it sparkled under the lights. (this is also probably where the showbiz bug bit me as well)
I had 165 hot wheels and a refrigerator box of bright orange track and purple tongue depressors as I called them. I loved every car and every minute I got to play “race car driver” with them.
When they adopted my brother, he gave up racing. He crewed for others as a mechanic, but racing was done. My brother got my cars, and tracks, and Tonka trucks. I was handed a doll and convinced to start being a “girl”.
The older I got, the more my journey strayed far from racing, a long career as a singer/dancer kept me from anything to do with racing (except when I got to sing at the Black & White Gala in Toronto one year… oh the irony) Every once in a while though we would have a conversation about the Indy 500 or the Molson Indy if I happened to be in town then and we could share a meal.
By the time I got back into racing as a hobby (wishful career), my father had been gone for several years. So many things I would have loved to have shared with him. So many moments I’ve experienced through choked back tears wishing I could call him and tell him about it. Just this year I got to be on the grid for the centennial celebration of the Indy 500 and was in the pits as the cars roared by to take the green flag. He would have gotten such a kick out of that. He would have bragged to all of his buddies about how his “kid was there”. Much chest puffing pride I’m sure.
Today is particularly emotional for me. Some years it hits me harder than others. This is one of those years. I see all of the tweets from my friends and colleagues who are at the track with their dads, and my heart aches.
Things aren’t going especially well for me personally outside of racing right now. Race weekends are my escape. Were my dad still with me, we would have made this a Father’s Day road trip. We would have driven his ratty old piece of shit truck to Milwaukee, nattering on non-stop about all the bullshit, and gossip, and such. (I inherited my boisterous opinionated personality from him as well…) There would have been many “give your fucking head a shake” exclamations of frustration from both of us, and much laughter.
Oh how we laughed he and I. From the time I was a little kid til just before my 30th birthday when I lost him out of the blue with no warning. He had a hard life too, my dad, but never lost sight of the humour all around him. I try to follow his example when life kicks me in the nards.
When I think of him now, I always think of us laughing.
I guess I just want to say to all of you at the track today, or at home with your dad’s watching on tv. Cherish every moment today and everyday. And laugh.
It can all disappear without a moment’s notice.
Happy Father’s Day
EDIT: Just want to add that my heartfelt condolences go out to Takuma Sato on the passing of this father this week.