Note- I first published this two years ago in honor of my late wife, Vicki Silver. In honor of what would have been her 70th birthday today, I’m reposting it. Thanks for reading.
“I just want one thing for Christmas. “
“I know what it is and no, I won’t give you that. It’s dangerous. You could get killed and then I’d be all alone”
We had no clue how ironic that statement would become a few months later.
“What else do you want?” she demanded.
“Nothing. It can be for my birthday too,” I countered, “since it costs about what you’d spend altogether anyway.”
The discussion ended. I gave her no more gift ideas.
On Christmas morning she handed me a thick envelope.
I opened the envelope and then opened the card. A wad of cash fell out. Inside the card she had written, “ Enjoy your 2 -seater ride!”
Ecstatic doesn’t begin to describe my feelings or my love for her at that moment. “Just don’t get killed,” she warned.
Ever since Indycar created their 2-seat stretch race car, I had wanted to ride in it. Now my opportunity was just months away.
I reserved a spot for early May. The morning of my ride she was quiet, fearing the worst as she tended to do. She left for work with just a nod and a reminder to call after the ride. I was about to make a joke that she would definitely get a call from someone, but thought better of it.
I arrived at the Speedway and joined the line at registration. “Please read and sign the waiver,” the girl at the table recited the mantra to each person as she handed out clipboards. No problem. I had signed waivers to get into the pits at races, so this would just take a second. But, wait.. there must be 10 pages here! Reading War and Peace would take less time than it would to get through than this waiver.
Paragraph 3, Page 1 contained the words “maimed or killed”…I checked the next page-“maimed or killed” ,the next “maimed or killed”. The phrase repeated itself throughout.
Scanning the rest of the document, I did not see a sentence saying, “I realize I am about to do something really stupid… “
After signing the waivers we went into a trailer to change into drivers’ suits. I learned that most riders were cashing in a birthday or Christmas gift as well. We had a great time sharing stories about races and tracks until it was time to head to the pits.
This is a very organized operation. The cars are lined up, head scarves, helmets, and gloves get distributed efficiently, the riders are assigned a car and order.
I watched with envy as the other riders got in the cars and returned with a huge smile on their faces. Finally it was my turn. I stepped into the cocoon and lowered myself into the seat. A Mini-Cooper seems spacious now. The crew strapped me in, asking me to scoot lower. Any lower and I wouldn’t be able to see anything. After they lowered my helmet visor, there was an eerie silence and a feeling of isolation for a brief moment before the engine started. Here we go!
We accelerated down pit road. It was fast but not too fast. I’m thinking, “This isn’t so bad”. Then we got on the track. Ignore my previous thought. Pushed to the back of the seat and holding on to the handles, I looked down the backstretch. It didn’t seem so long now. When we turned left I slid to the right side of the tub then back again as the car straightened. I was screaming for joy!
We passed the pits to begin the full speed lap. How do the drivers ever find their pits, I wondered, looking at the blur on my left. On this lap, I noticed that each turn, although supposedly identical, had a different look. The view on the right is white wall, close enough to touch.
In less than three minutes, it was over. The crew unstrapped me and I climbed from the car, wearing the same large grin I saw on the people who went before me. Of course, I dutifully called to tell her how great it was. I’m not sure she understood a word I said.
Just over a month later, the monster appeared. It would not go away; it only exerted its will over her more and more. There were small, short-lived victories, but after four months the monster won. Somehow she knew the 2-seater ride would be her final gift to me. I know it made her happy to give it to me, as we both took great joy in exchanging gifts. It was a reluctant gift given out of unconditional love.