A Very Special Day
When the 1964 Indianapolis 500 was held, I was five years old. No one in my family had ever been to the race before, but my father had always been fascinated by it. He considered a five year-old much too young to take to a race. So he left me with my mother, while he took my two older brothers. I was not pleased.
I wasn’t quite sure what the Indianapolis 500 was at the time, but I knew it was something big and I also knew I was missing it. My mother found it on the radio and we listened to it together. That was my first experience with the Indianapolis 500 and was also my introduction to the great Sid Collins. I’m not going to sit here and claim that the race held my undivided attention. What five year-old would sit there for a four-hour broadcast? But at times, we listened to it together while we both went about doing whatever it was that we did, with the race playing in the background. So, in essence, I shared my very first IndyCar experience with my mother.
Today is a very special day in my family. Today is my mother’s birthday. Ninety years ago today, my mother was born.
By the time the 1965 Indianapolis 500 rolled around, you can bet I had not been left behind. My father bought five tickets that year, as my mother and I were both included. While my father talked racing with my two older brothers, my mother was left to deal with the tag-along six year-old. But I had questions – lots of questions – that she couldn’t answer. My oldest brother ended up sitting next to me to explain the race to me.
You see, my mother was never a racing fan. That’s too bad, because she was left out of a lot of conversations over the years while I was growing up. But she put up with it – a lot.
Throughout the sixties, my mother endured going to the Indianapolis 500. Quite honestly, I think she would have preferred to stay at home and stick sharp objects in her eye. But for years, she put up with going to IMS. She suffered through all that is miserable about going to a race – the crowds, the heat, the cold, the noise, the original snake-pit; while never getting the thrill out of it that the rest of us did. That’s what happens when you have three boys and no girls. I’m not sure, but I think her last race to attend was when Mario Andretti won in 1969. By the time we got into the seventies, I think she had had enough and began staying home.
Many times before, I’ve mentioned how I grew up in a Leave It To Beaver household. I was the youngest kid in a home where my father worked and my mother was a stay-at-home mom. She had a college degree, but chose to stay at home and raise the three of us. We never got into any serious trouble – but we were all a handful, nonetheless. I probably gave her more headaches than my other two brothers combined.
My parents rarely quarreled, neither of them were heavy drinkers, nor did they ever step out on each other and they never divorced. In today’s world, I almost feel the need to apologize for the fact that I did not come from a dysfunctional family. Stability ran rampant when I was growing up and my mother was a big part of that. By staying home with us, that rock was always there – and it still is.
We are all very fortunate. Her physical and mental health is perfect. She maintains a very active lifestyle. She goes to an exercise class three times a week. She still drives everywhere and sings in her church choir every Sunday. She is also very computer savvy. She just got her third computer this past spring and has done a masterful job of figuring out Windows 8.
So how is she celebrating turning ninety? I’ll assure you, not by sitting still. This past weekend, she travelled to Virginia to visit my middle brother. He is now semi-retired. He and his wife operate an aviation-themed Bed & Breakfast, complete with airstrip, near Smith Mountain Lake in western Virginia. My othest brother and his family travelled there yesterday from North Carolina, for the celebration today. My mother lives less than two hours west from me in Tennessee. Since I see her on a fairly regular basis, burned most of my vacation time in May and Susan has to work every weekend – we did not make the trip.
I won’t be the only one missing at the birthday celebration tonight. My father passed away at the age of 68, in December of 1994 – just a year and a half after he and I attended the 1993 Indianapolis 500 together. He never heard of the internet and could not have imagined what it has become. He would have been proud of this site that I started and have maintained over the past few years.
But my mother has been my biggest supporter on this site, throughout the years. She has read every single post I’ve written here; and tries to e-mail me most of my many typos early enough each day, so that I can correct them before too many people read it. Almost fifty years since she endured her first Indianapolis 500, she’s still dealing with those unwanted conversations about racing.
So, with much love, admiration and affection – I want to wish my mother a very happy ninetieth birthday today, with many many more to come.
Happy Birthday, Mama!