How The Month Of May Saved Me

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By Susan Phillips

As usual, my post will not be all about racing. I think at the moment, everyone is posting about Indy analysis and looking forward to the Detroit race. It was been a crazy Month of May for me. My mother took a fall last month and has been a rehabilitation center for the past 6 weeks, so I took this opportunity to have major repairs done around the house. We had a new roof put on for one thing—I cannot even imagine what would have transpired had she been here with all the roofers stomping around on the roof every day for a week starting at 7 a.m. I hate to think of it. She will be returning on Saturday to stand in front of the TV just as the green flag comes out and asking the age-old question, “What fun do you get out of watching cars go around and around a track?” It is part of our lives. Dementia is a hard thing to watch as it robs your parent of their short-term memory. We live the movie Groundhog’s Day—am glad she has finally realized that I no longer have a job and my little dog died in February. It was hard to relive those experiences on a daily basis. It is part of our life.

We headed up to Indy for Opening Day, which was a treat for us. We picked up our credentials and headed to the track. There is nothing more thrilling to me than going under the tunnel to enter the Speedway grounds EVERY time—it never gets old. It was chilly and we were glad we brought sweatshirts. We headed to the Social Media Garage—which has really gotten better this year. The “Indy 500 or Bust” campaign has been one of the best I have seen anywhere. We met up with a few of our fellow bloggers and some of our favorite drivers. Pippa Mann was on there and so was Josef Newgarden. Then we headed to the stands to get George a Tenderloin sandwich—which did not disappoint. It is a little too much sandwich for me, but I’m sure eventually I will acquire a taste for it. Then it was back to Nashville for Graduation Week.

I have posted many times about my son, Eric, who attends the race with us every year, but I have another son, Michael, who does not share our enthusiasm for racing. Maybe we will convert him someday, but he stands at the cusp of AirSoft guns and playing Halo 24/7 and going off to college. To say the least, this year has been a struggle with him, in November, his grades were not compatible with graduating in the Spring. We had a long road ahead to get his grades back up to graduate. Two weeks before graduation, got the word that he was not only graduating, but receiving an award for overcoming obstacles in order to graduate. Then it began to set in—my “baby” was beginning the road to become his own man. Those of you who have had children make this milestone realize what a bittersweet time it is your life.

Graduation was upon us and I was so busy trying to get him there, I didn’t realize that he would be off to live his own life. I struggled with my emotions that entire week. George headed off to qualifying weekend and I stayed behind to watch my son take this big step. George has gotten some grief about not being here to see his step-son graduate, but it was OK with all of us—especially my son, which to me, is all that mattered.

I would be lying to say that I did not miss George’s support as I ran the gamut of emotions leading up to Graduation. There were times I was sad, but was immensely cheered by his phone calls and his posts showing me that he was having the time of his life being able to experience the entire weekend of qualifying. My son Graduated (I cried when I saw him on the stage to receive his diploma—the reward for all our struggles) and I was flying up to be with George on our first anniversary. I am so glad we made this decision, as my son was off to celebrate with his dad and his family and I would have been left alone. I arrived in Indianapolis with mere minutes to spare to be there on the DAY of our anniversary. I love airport greetings and this one did not disappoint.

The next day we went to Bump Day and there was a pretty good turnout considering there was only one car to be possibly bumped that day, but I definitely enjoyed myself and it took my mind off my “baby’s” Graduation the day before. We wandered around the track and got re-acquainted with some friends we see mostly at races. We took a side-trip to the scene of our wedding the year before, and enjoyed a Long’s Bakery alligator anniversary cake. It was a great day. Then back to Nashville we headed.

It is always a busy week between Pole Day and the actual race—much preparation to be made. I decided to head to Portland, TN for my annual strawberry purchase. Strawberries grown in Portland, Tennessee are like none I have ever tasted. I thought I would spare George the stop on the way back from Indy this year—as much into tradition that he is, I think this one is one he would rather leave off—especially after 2010(?) when we had to pick our own. I had definitely decided that this week I would not send a bunch of resumes out unless the job was really, really interesting.

I spent the week baking, canning and basically keeping busy so I didn’t think about things too much. On Thursday before the race, I learned that I did not get a job that I REALLY wanted. My mood plummeted. I put on a good front, even though I was so disappointed—I didn’t want to put a damper on George’s mood—which is just like waiting for Christmas morning. I did not have that feeling this year, I just couldn’t get into it. My mood continued as we loaded the car and began our journey. I took in the usual sights, the exit where we stop and get strawberries, the Corvette Museum—all the usual sights we see on our trek northward, nothing got me out of my funk. Then we crossed the bridge in Louisville and as usual, I tried to get a good picture of the “Welcome to Indiana” sign. After trying almost every time we drive through—I finally got it! My mood was changed almost instantly.

We were race-bound and I was looking forward to every minute of it. We checked in to the hotel and headed for the track. It was Carb Day and we missed most of the cars on the track, but saw people we knew and basically absorbed the mood—which on Carb Day, is a bit hard to define. But we were as excited to be there as everyone else was (without benefit of being drunk). I tried to persuade George to go to the Poison concert, but he’s just not a fan. We left the track and met up with George’s family and headed to the Mug-N-Bun. Our final destination for the evening was the Burger Bash. I think we waited too late to get there, because I think we missed most of it. Next year we will plan on getting there early.

Saturday we went to Legend’s Day, where they were all in heaven, seeing all the old roadsters on the track. We then took a trip to the Dallara Factory for a tour. That is the second time we have been there and to be honest, I was almost dreading it. I had already seen the factory and was not looking forward to seeing it with a group that consisted of George’s brother and nephew, who are both engineers. I was wrong, it was just as fascinating as the first time we visited. Through their eyes, I saw things that I would not have taken notice of before. Sean, gave us an excellent tour and knew the answers to pretty much all the questions thrown at him, by our knowledgeable group. We had dinner with friends and prepared ourselves for a chilly race day. My son had to work the day before the race and was not arriving until midnight, which led to some worry that he would be waiting in the lobby at 6 am on race morning. My fears were ungrounded as we arrived in the lobby and saw Eric and Charlie waiting for us.

The day was not without disasters—in other words, breaking of traditions. George has “race day boxers” that he wears to every race. Those were left at home by mistake. He has a tradition of shaving on race morning, but since we went out the night before, he shaved for Saturday night’s dinner instead. We headed to the track and had no problems getting there. I don’t know what was done differently, maybe it was the fact that IMS sold infield parking and there was no “race” to park in the infield or what, but it was heaven. Maybe next year we can leave a little bit later (dream on). We walked in and simply absorbed the race day feeling. There is nothing like it. We met people we knew only through their twitter handle—always nice to put a face with the name. We saw old friends, and George did his pre-race post. We headed to the track and then to our “new” seats in Grandstand A.

It was my 10th straight Indy 500 and it was the best race by far to me. We had hoped for a Tony Kanaan win for 10 years and our wishes had finally come true. Eric was elated—or as elated as I have ever seen him—his hero had finally won. We then began to make our way to the Media Center so George could do his post race wrap up. Eric and Charlie waited (and waited) outside. I could tell Eric was a little disappointed as he had not gotten his annual TK autograph, but then I got a text that TK was in the media building. I headed down there and sure enough TK was doing what was the beginning of hundreds of interviews. Eric and Charlie then headed out to the track—even the yellow-shirts have to go home sometime and they went to Victory Lane and gathered souvenirs. I joined them later and we went through the garage area and saw the track closing down. It was time to go back to the hotel. The beginning of PIDD (Post-Indy Depressive Disorder) had begun to set in.

The next day, all of our people left early. George and I, who did not want the weekend to end, headed back to the track for TK’s press conference. We went to the gift shop and just basically absorbed all of the Indy feeling we could to last us until next year.

How did Indy save me? I cannot describe how I have felt since I lost my job in January. I never thought I would still be looking for a job in May. It has been a harsh reality. My other job is being a parent–while I will always be a mom, my days of truly parenting my kids are coming to a close. Graduation really hit that point home for me. I was spiraling into a dark place where I had never been. I don’t want a pity-party, many people have lives far worse than mine. I have a good life, sometimes it is hard to remember that fact. This year I truly realized why there are sports and fans. It is to get us out of our lives for a time. We can root for our favorites and be happy–no matter who won for the simple fact that we were there to witness it and get caught up in the feeling of the contest. At Indy, I am not a person without a job, whose child is about to go out into the world. I am a fan, just like everyone else. At Indy, it is one thing we all have in common. I will remember that I am in good company.

So for now, I will do what those who were in the race do. Win or lose, I will square my shoulders and face forward.

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2 Responses to “How The Month Of May Saved Me”

  1. billytheskink Says:

    With all the debating of GWC and JR Hildebrand and whether or not there will be passing in Detroit, it is nice to be able to read about Indy from a different angle, Susan.

    You took me back to my stint of unemployment back in 2011. I was laid off a few weeks after I returned from my first trip to the 500, but I was able to put that out of my mind for a weekend as I watched the Milwaukee race.

    Congratulations to your son and keep looking up.

  2. Very nice column Susan. It was great for my wife and I to finally meet you and George in the Social Media Garage on Sunday morning. It was my first time at Indy and I can now relate to the feelings you and George have about the place. It is awe-inspiring. Congratulations to your son and best of luck to you on the job search.

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