Sunday, October 16, 2011

RIP Dan Wheldon & James Packard and others the track has taken...

Betty, Lisa and Jim Packard at Indy 500, May 1960
I was born to a millionaire, but he didn’t know it then. There were still races to win and years to live. He would have let me work with him in the business because he trusted my mother and I am like her, smart and business-minded. He would have built a great empire in the racing world had he lived....I would have been treated like a princess, a real southern brat, I meant belle.


Dan Wheldon with the Borg Warner Trophy
But it didn’t work out the way it was supposed to. My daddy he got killed in a race car in Fairfield, Illinois on my mother’s birthday. I was 11 months old and missed him every day, ‘where was my kiss, daddy?’, ‘where was my daddy?’ My mother, who was very pregnant with my brother couldn’t answer, choosing unconsciously, protectively to stare out the window without a tear. Stoic she felt was the best way to handle this event, but in so choosing she drove a wedge between me and her that no one could ever figure out how to remove.  She grieved him more in later life it seemed than at that moment, but people grieve in different ways. I learned to understand her and let go, but the wedge remained to remind us of our loss.


My brother, on the other hand, grieved a grief few know of; when we were young and skipped school together and sat by the creek smoking mom’s Viceroys, he would say as he looked at me, “I never felt my father’s touch.” .....What do I say his pain? I just puffed and handed him the cigarette for his turn…. within a few years I would do the same with a joint and we would feel a bit mellow but the pain remained and does still. 


Dan Wheldon died October 16, 2011
I was at a race once, after being a mom myself for nearly 30 years and I happened to turn my head just right to see a young girl of maybe 10 or 11 give her daddy a hug. He was dressed in a driver’s suit and turned to walk after his car as it was pushed from the garage towards the starting line. I choked on my emotion and I couldn’t breathe. If there is a God, please don’t let that be the last time that she gets to hug her daddy. 


Dan Wheldon at Las Vegas Raceway where he died on the track 2011

It happened again today, another child’s daddy taken by the track, so young and oh so sweet his boys looked in all the pictures I poured over,  driven to find, driven to relive as if somehow watching the horrific crash would scald the pain residing in me into numbness

But no such luck, the witness, the pictures, the YouTube just made my pain more sharp and raw.   

Now there is nothing left to say, there are no words, and to steal a phrase from a woman that has experienced such pain and sorrow, death comes quietly as if on cat paws in the night.  

5 comments:

Matt said...

What else can I say to such a post...I love you so and wish that you could have known your Daddy more...you were so special to him

Miss Sara said...

I love you, Momma. As soon as I heard of this I thought of you, Grandma and Uncle Jim. Things like this aren't supposed to happen anymore.... Love you.

dirtzoo said...

..................... thanks sis

Tom H. said...

*I* was at this race - honest! - and it was in MY hometown - a very small southern Illinois "town" - on a dirt "horse-racing" track at the Wayne County (IL) Fairgrounds out west of town on Main Street in tiny Fairfield, Illinois (62837). It was to be the big highlight of the annual Wayne County Fair, on a still-warm Saturday night, October 1st 1960. I had just turned 13 less than 2 months earlier ...

Many of us in the grandstands saw a huge cloud of dust as Jim's car veered out of control, then tumbled end-over-end, then over the guard-railing (wooden fencing?) as the car entered what would now be called "turn 3" on most oval tracks; after running at top speed "down the back straightaway" - in a south-to-north direction on the east side of the fairgrounds track.

All further racing was halted, of course, as word of this terrible tragedy spread like wildfire thru the audience and, indeed, out into the midway of the fairgrounds.

In a tragic irony, the Fairfield Memorial Hospital could clearly be seen not terribly far - maybe 1/2 mile? - immediately east of the race track itself ... but the injuries to this fine, up-and-coming driver were simply too severe.

I've never forgotten that night over my entire life ...

R.I.P. Jim Packard.

gg said...

Last Friday, the day before my brothers 51st birthday, the brother that has been forever traumatized by the death of our father while he was in utero, I received a gift of unbelievable proportions! Tom H. left a comment on my post about my fathers death. Tom H was at the track a young bright eyed 13 yr old on a night that would for many, become unforgettable. His description of the events that took my father from this earth have been a rare and unusual gift. Thank you Tom H. Thank you!

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