Derby-do it now
I have been around horse racing my whole entire life. Literally for over thirty years not a day has gone by when it did not involve a racetrack or results. When I was younger we used to drive to the tracks, but when I got older we got OTB’s and Telecast on tv. Today was an emotional Derby Day. Today was the first day in my adult life where I did not call my grandfather and ask him the results or ask him to place a $2 bet for me. I always play my birthday combo and I do an $2 exacta box. My grandfather passed from this world a few days ago. I asked my husband to place a bet for me using his old numbers for the Derby, and not surprisingly it didn’t come in. I knew he wouldn’t let me win with his numbers as he was watching me from above.
My grandfather loved to spend time with me at the horse races. I liked to watch the horses and I loved to read, so we were good company for each other. It would be a big deal, we’d get dinner on the way home, eat lunch at the track and play a grey horse for my grandmother.
If I went to his house in his older years he would be watching on tv, when he was not able to drive in the past few months he asked me to stop and get his program on a Friday and a Saturday, the last time I saw him doing well in the hospital, he told me he wanted a program for the weekend because he wanted to be at home by then, but then said wait don’t buy it until I know for sure because it’s almost 4 bucks. It was those words, that made me lose it. I kissed him goodbye and had a cry in the elevator. Here he was planning on being home in his chair watching his favorite thing, and here I was knowing it was not looking good. I could not get past him planning to do something so ordinary for him, something so second nature, something he loved and not thinking it might not happen. It was then that I realized that is life. We always think I’ll do that later, tomorrow, next week, next month. I am a planner, I plan everything and you know what life doesn’t go on our schedule. I was so sad for him, I just wanted to be able to freeze things, make this happen for him. Make his weekends of horse watching never ending.
When I was little he wanted me to be a jockey and so did my dad, as I got bigger they said, well I guess you’ll need to drive the sulkies now. I never had any plans of doing so, but I always wanted to go to Saratoga with my grandfather and to take him to the Derby. I even got on a list for Derby tickets, but then I moved, so I have no idea what happened with that. As he got older and I knew the Derby wouldn’t happen, I was thinking the Preakness would be fine, closer but still cool. And now, I will never have that trip either. Why? Why didn’t I take life by the horns and just do it? Why did I wait around?
I won’t be able to look at the races the same way without getting a lump in my throat and it will be hard because my father calls me all the time to check the Daily Racing Form for results. It will bring me memories of my grandfather, it will remind me of happy times together. But I will also remember how sometimes I just need to live a little, to take a chance, to go for it. That has been the hardest part, talking to him about his plans to go back to normal activities when I knew that wasn’t going to come. It makes me sad to think about it, even now. I just hope that he was watching the Derby looking down and thinking this is by far the best view of the Derby that I have ever seen, with all his friends, cousins and his parents who he has missed for so long. I love you pap and I miss you more than I could have ever imagined.