Monday, October 17, 2011

The love behind the dream

Edited to add:
This post has since been syndicated by my friends at Jalopnik. You can read it over there and see the lovely responses from race fans. The title they used is not mine; I do not "let" my husband do things or deny permission to do so as I am not his mommy and he is not five years old. Regardless, as always I am extremely grateful to Ray Wert for promoting my work.

This isn't a funny blog post, or a snarky one, or one about auto shows at all. This is a blog post I composed in my head Sunday night, clinging to my husband, grateful he was there with me. Alive.

That's right, husband. There may be some more somewhat identifying information in this post, too, but today I don't care, and anyway, we're close enough that I trust we can keep this between us, right?

I grew up with a father who had a pretty dangerous job. This is the kind of job where you know that something bad could happen, but you just sort of choose to put that nasty little fact out of your head so you can actually function every day. You know, sort of like being a race car driver.

When he was doing this job there was no YouTube. The media didn't play video of action movie-esque deaths over and over and over again. It was pre-9/11 and disaster porn was at a much more tolerable level, if there's any such thing as a tolerable level of disaster porn.

Without having this stuff in our face all the time, it was a lot easier to ignore the fact that every time my dad went to work he might never come home again. I didn't think this affected me too much until I looked back and realized that I never dated a cop, a firefighter or any active member of the Armed Forces in all my years of dating, and everyone knows the young ones tend to be super hot with bangin' bods, so that's particularly shocking, all things considered.

And then one night this race car driver walked into a bar and it was all over. Bam. If there's such thing as love at first sight there it was. We went on our first date the next day and he was it for me from there on out. Seven years later, three married, my heart is completely entwined with his. I don't know where my heart stops and his begins, but I do know that if his heart stops mine will too.

So here I am, living that life again where you do your best to ignore the very real danger the man who's your everything chooses to face to pay the mortgage. But now it's a little different, because horrifying deaths play out on live TV and get replayed over and over and over and analyzed ad nauseum, and when you see it over and over it gets a lot harder to pretend it won't happen to you.

He and I watched the horrific crash that killed Dan Wheldon as it happened. He knew immediately that someone had to be gone even before the dust had settled. When he saw that helicopter running but no one loaded in for another half hour, that confirmed it for him. He didn't need to wait for the announcement to know. I was the one holding out hope. Maybe this means this, maybe, maybe, maybe. We had friends at the track giving us updates, but they didn't know any more than what the media was releasing.

When I saw Danica crying after talking to her husband the doctor, I finally knew. And I curled up around my own husband and cried.

Last night I lay in bed wrapped around him, feeling his breath on my face, memorizing the feel and slope of his shoulders, my heart breaking that Susie Wheldon will never again experience those things with her husband. I waited until I could tell by his breathing pattern that he was asleep before I let the tears come, thinking of how many long nights stretch ahead for Susie when she will desperately try to remember what it felt like to have Dan's arms around her.

And then I woke up this morning and went with him to pick up his new race suit, and pushed that fear down again so this pro driver of mine can live his dream and be happy. Because that's what we do. Because if he wasn't happy, I wouldn't be, either.