Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Lonely Race Car


Recently I've taken to archiving old family photos. I'm sure my father was rather proud of this one. It's a picture of a midget racer that he built himself from scratch, but I can't help wondering if he shared some of my feelings about it. I've named the photo "Lonely Race Car." The car built, after he lost all custodial rights to my brother and me, is a symbol of all he'd given up, as well as being his achievement. It's hard to even remember how I got the pic because we weren't able to see him during this time. I imagine my grandmother sent us a copy trying to bridge the chasm of our alienation. 

For many years when I looked at this picture. I felt a sense of pride at my father's accomplishments. Not only was my dad a top race car driver, but he raced motorcycles, and in his younger twenties a Golden Glove prize-fighter.  But in revisiting this photo I still feel an underlying sadness. Not only does this car represent the loss of my father, but the end of him being able act as my father. The car was actually named after his girlfriend. His friend Donny, told me that the name "Chris's Cross" was given, because it (his race car driving) was her cross to bear. Truly, the name "My Family's cross" would have been more accurate. I remember Donny laughing as he told me this story, but I remembered the heartbreak of feeling forgotten and passed over. It still stings a little after all these years. It's not there hasn't been forgiveness,  and it's not that there hasn't been acceptance, but the loss of a father affects a person over a course of a lifetime. I know some people have felt it terribly romantic to have a race car driver/boxer/motor cycle racer/all around sports enthusiast for a father but the passion and drive it required, took its toll on all of us. 

My father died at Westboro Speedway during a race. He wasn't in "Chris's Cross", or the usual one he drove for the man who sponsored him (Eddie's Deuce). The brakes were bad on that car. Turned out that the car that he finally chose to drive that day had bad brakes as well. I wasn't there. I had just seen my 12th birthday. The raceway has since been torn down, and replaced with a shopping center. I am grateful that my father died doing what he loved, but there is not a day that goes by, that I don't think of him, and wish I had a few more years. 

 It is odd having a father that died so young. I'm coming very close to doubling his life span now and I have had my way of taking risks. My dad never knew what it was like to become a grandfather, to deal with aging, or losing his parents. He preceded both of them on that account. It was just his time for whatever reason, and the lesson of loss learned early for my brother and I. That's just the way it works out for many of us.

My dad's memorial site.



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