Our Life So Far…

By Susan Phillips

If you are looking for hard-hitting racing commentary or a heart-warming story about building memories at the track with my son, maybe you should stop reading right now. Hopefully you will continue as I tell about the direction our lives have taken since the memorable evening of May 18 when George and I were married at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The honeymoon was exactly that, a time to take time out from our lives and be entirely irresponsible. We had the BEST condo at the beach, which sadly was sold shortly after we left. We have contacted the new owners and they assured us the condo would be back up for rent by the time we want to go back after Indy next year. It was the perfect time. We never really had time to experience the let-down that signals the end of the Month of May. I believe we have begun a new tradition.

After we returned, the honeymoon was truly over, as we had to pack up George’s entire three-bedroom house with plenty of room for storage into a two room space at my mother’s house. The “plenty of storage space” part of a house really comes back and bites you in the butt when it’s time to move. We filled up several dumpster loads, gave away a bunch of furniture, and the people at Goodwill knew us by name. The day came for the big move and off we went. Most of the furniture went into storage and we managed to fit a few of George’s pieces into our “new” home.

Although she must use a walker and suffers from dementia, I am not really ready to move my mother into assisted living or a nursing home, so several years ago I moved out of my home and moved in with her. Taking that leap was scary, but it brought me to where I am today.

Our new life is more of a road course, than an oval. Plenty of twists, turns, and bumps. Many of you do not know this about George, but he has a daughter with Down Syndrome that he has cared for as a single parent since she was 7. Top that off with the fact that she is diabetic, and you will never see a more devoted and responsible father. After being on a waiting list for about 8 years, Katie moved into a group home in January. She LOVES it there.

Before you guys jump up and down about trying to get rid of the special needs child, Katie is thriving there – much more than if she were still unattended at home. She participates in programs that are suited for her, and at the age of 24, she is attending her very first prom next week. That would have never happened if our life had not taken that turn. George and Katie are like 2 peas in a pod, both are routine-oriented to a fault. It was a bittersweet day when George moved her into her new life. We later went and put up her year-round Christmas tree—she is happy, but George misses her. But I think he has finally experienced the freedom that comes with sending your child into a safe and happy place.

I have another son, who is not into racing (believe it or not) and he lives here with us. Michael is a painfully shy young man, and I have to drag him into every new experience. It was a very special day for me when he got his driver’s license a few months short of his 18th birthday. Now I am preparing him to fly the nest, as he graduates (hopefully) this May 18th. I think the thought of it terrifies him, so for now, I have to impart a certain amount of fearlessness. He still won’t drive on the interstate. Even though Graduation Day next May will be on our first anniversary and Indy 500 Pole Day, I look forward to the proud moment when he clutches that diploma in his hands. We are still trying to figure out a way for me to get to Indianapolis immediately after the graduation ceremony to join George for our anniversary – you know where he’s going to be. What kid wants his parent around on graduation night anyway?

Anyway here we are; newlyweds with my mother, an 18 year old and 3 dogs. My mom was not thrilled to have the addition of the dogs (or George, for that matter), and she counts them almost every night. It has become a joke with us, “one…two…three dogs. Where did they come from?” I have always had lots of dogs. We have George’s yellow-lab named Luckey. Then there is my little dog Chia, whose life is pretty much growling at everything and having a special fondness for undergarments and tomatoes; along with my mother’s dog Mattie. In July I had to say goodbye to my oldest dog, he was the first dog that I had ever walked while doing volunteer work at the animal shelter in 1998. The best we can tell he was 15 when we finally put him out of his pain. It was such a sad day. He was at peace with it–I could see it in his eyes. He was different that day–his legs just couldn’t hold him up anymore.

My mother continues to worsen as the days go by. She is notorious for standing in front of the TV and asking “what is so great about watching a bunch of cars go around and around in circles?” We have to laugh—we can’t get mired in the pity party of seeing someone who raised you, slowly lose their grip on reality. What can you say when your mother asks who your husband is, asks him who he married, is this her house, and is it day or night? We just answer and move on. To quote a much used cliché “It is what it is.” We will go on this way until we can no longer care for her. It is our way, and if we use humor to get through it, who is anyone to judge us? It is hard, I’m sure many of you have been through it—we will do what we have to in order to let her stay in her home as long as she can.

I’m sure many of you are wondering what the real Mr. Oilpressure is like. Hmmm…where do I begin? Yes, he snores—yes, he steals ALL of the covers and then complains about it being too hot to sleep. We are pretty much opposites. As regimented as he is, that’s about how spontaneous I am. I don’t have a plan. He makes plans and has lists. I just figured out how to do a spreadsheet at work. Somehow it works. We have hit that magic formula where opposites attract—and sometimes drive each other crazy. But the crazy is where you learn and bend and mold to each other’s ways. That where you form the attachment that helps you get through the years where YOU start to lose your grip on reality and sit around and count your dogs. And YES on October 6th, he will be mounting a hopefully trusty steed and taking a trail ride with me. This is a man who hasn’t been on a horse since 1974.

It has been life-changing. It has been a lot of work. It has also been a tremendous amount of joy. I think you appreciate those things that require change and work just to keep them going. It is with that deep love of racing that he keeps this blog alive. I don’t know how he does it. True, he has an encyclopedic mind for racing (I love to take him to the racing trivia tents during races). He has shared that love for racing with me, I will be forever grateful for that. The friends we have made through racing are so precious to us. It’s like those friends you have that you only see a few times a year and no matter what has gone on in your lives while you were apart, you just pick right up where you left off. That is a gift that racing and this blog have brought us. We are honored that each of you read this blog every time we post. We are grateful for the chance to be “brought along” to races we are not able to attend through Twitter and your comments to this blog. It’s almost like being there. We hope to attend a few more races next year–we will see what life brings us between now and then.

Would we have done some things differently way back when we dated in college? Maybe. Would we trade the experiences that brought us here to this moment of challenge, love, and humor? Not a chance.


7 Responses to “Our Life So Far…”

  1. Well said, Susan. Take pictures of that horseback ride. Maybe next you can get him to spend a night in a Bed & Breakfast.

  2. I appreciate that you thought enough of us to share the current details of your life together.

    I rode a horse once. “Once” sums up both that experience and my feelings about horses.

  3. Excellent post Susan. “And in the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.” (Abraham Lincoln) It sounds as though you and George are getting the most out of life these days. Thanks for this blog and my best to you and the family!

  4. What, no poll asking all of us if we approve of all of your life choices? I disapprove of no poll today!

    Seriously, though, it sounds like you guys are doing great. I’ve been saying/thinking this for, oh, going on about 54 weeks now, but the Phillips and the ‘Geek clans will have to get together for lunch or something sometime. Until then, take care, and don’t let George railroad you into anything you’ve been avoiding for some 35+ years.

  5. Megan K. Bickel Says:

    Susan & George-

    As I’ve known for years, you two are truly special in so many ways. I feel so privileged to know you both. You live my motto – choose to be happy and take care of life. The racing world (and blogging world at large) are richer for you guys being a part of it. Thank you for sharing and letting us get to know you better.

    Roll on!

  6. I had a blast at the wedding and I thought that your preacher was awesome.

  7. Matt Borger (Dayton, Ohio) Says:

    As I’ve written before, I feel like you and George are my friends. You both have such a welcoming and open spirit about you and express that so well in your writings. It’s cool that you are everything I said above and also have that Indycar passion. My kindred spirits! Bless you both and your families.

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