The time I had with my dad was very short…12 years to be exact. He died a young man of 36. Believe me…we had our ups and downs, but the focus of this post is set on the ups. And there were plenty.
Being I was his first son, our relationship was pretty darn special. At times, I believe we were attached at the hip. He would take me everywhere. I mean everywhere.
The old man was a little rough around the edges but back then, I thought that was cool and I loved him dearly. He had an obsession for the automobile…the faster, the better. He just couldn’t get enough of it.
I remember Dad tooling around town in his black MG…man, he loved that car. He thought he was really something driving that thing around with the top down. And I’d have to say…I second the motion.
He also had a white Ford named “White Lightning”…and for a good reason. But I believe his favorite was his stock car…#92, which he would race at Fairgrounds Motor Speedway on Saturday nights. But more on that later.
I also have vivid memories of riding down the highway on the back of his friend’s Harley at 10 or 11 o’clock at night. It was a little scary…but apparently that didn’t stop me.
We would hang out at beer joints. He would drink beer with friends, discussing cars, while I would drink cokes and play the bowling machine…the kind where you would slide a disc at the pins about five feet away. Rather than fall, these pins would flip back on their hinges. By today’s standards, it would be pretty lame. But back then…it was a big time.
The only thing Dad loved more than cars, was racing them. He adored every facet of the sport…from working on the engines, to the thrill of trading paint in a 20 lap feature on a Saturday night.
Mom hated it with a passion, though much to her chagrin…his love for cars began rubbing off on her son.
I recall spending every Friday and Saturday night at the speedway. And Sunday afternoons when we should have been at church…well, just put it this way…our house of worship was at the local drag strip.
I loved hanging out at the track. Dad would bring me up close and personal to the action. It made me feel like one of the guys, and man, was it fun! I thought it would last forever. It didn’t.
In the fall of 65, Dad developed brain tumors, and in less than a year, died from his disease. Needless to say, that hit me pretty hard…it hit us all hard. But that’s another blog for another day. As I said…this post is all about the ups.
Although he was no longer with me, his love for racing cars remained etched deep in my soul. I later helped build some pretty fast cars myself.
But as the years passed, so did my dreams for racing cars. As much fun as it was…it also came with a lot of baggage that wasn’t conducive for a family man…and a family man is what I needed and wanted to be.
I met and married a wonderful girl who helped changed my life forever. We both decided to go all in and raise a large family…which by the way, was the best decision I ever made. It was the only thing that had the power to get me out of myself. And at the time…being deep within myself was killing me.
Over the years, I believe I’ve transitioned pretty darn well….though, with my past, I’ve always felt a little two faced disciplining my kids. It was a struggle going from “wild, why not, and anything goes,” to…”you want to do what!…over my dead body.” Thank God I have a level headed wife who always kept things in balance.
As much as my life has changed, one thing hasn’t…as least not completely.
You see…even to this day, I can’t watch the beginning of a stock car race…as they come screaming around the fourth turn for the first time, without getting a cold chill and thinking of the old man. And quite honestly, I hope that never changes.
Last weekend, my son Billy and I had a day at the Kentucky Speedway. We were really looking forward to it. After we arrived, we both suited up, climbed into two different race cars, strapped in and went for a six lap, white knuckle ride of our lives. I was in the 48 car while Billy was drafting in the 88 car doing roughly 175mph.
It wasn’t until the car started moving that I got that familiar cold chill I was talking about. It was at that point when I realized there was some additional excitement in my car. I always knew if we can’t find the Lord…He’ll find us. And after all…it was Sunday and we were at Dad’s house of worship. It was as if we were, once again…for a full six laps, attached at the hip. I had a ball.
It was over almost as fast as it began. As we climbed out of our cars, there was this calming effect that came over me as I looked at my son…and it just felt like everything was right. And I really believe it is. What a blessing!
A Father’s Love Goes Full Circle.
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