Tuesday, May 12, 2015

The Rest of the Story

Fifteen years ago today, I laughed and told Adam Petty that I hated skinny people.

Two hours later, he was gone.

It was the kind of thing you didn't expect to happen at a track like New Hampshire. Talladega? Yes. Daytona? Absolutely. Atlanta? Maybe. But not at New Hampshire. It just wasn't supposed to work out like that.

To this day, the rest of the weekend remains a blur of memories.

The look on Andy Santerre's face.

Calling Jeanie in chambers and once she got to the phone, breaking down in tears.

The memorial service in the scoring stand that afternoon after the garage closed.

Nobody, but nobody, wanting to be there.

Not wanting to write a story more than any other story I've ever not wanted to write, but having to any way.

Until that day, working for Winston Cup Scene had been a giddy dream. Afterward, it became a job. I still loved it, but I experienced first hand what could happen on any given weekend.

I may be wrong, but I believe Jeff Green won the race. He won everything else that year, so it stands to reason ... or was it Tim Fedewa? Honestly, racing that weekend ... just ... didn't ... matter.

That was on a Friday, the worst Friday of my life. The worst Wednesday followed just five days later. I'd just sat down at my desk in Charlotte when the phone rang.

 I heard Jeanie say, "Now, don't freak out, but ..." Immediately, I freaked out. No good can possibly come from a sentence that begins that way. And then ... then she said this ... and the tears are welling in my eyes as I write it.

I found a lump this morning in the shower.

It was straight up 9 a.m., and even though seventy two miles separated Scene's Charlotte office and our home in Hamptonville, I was in our driveway at 9:50 a.m. I lost my mom to breast cancer when she was just forty-seven years old ... and now my wife has found a lump?

My God, no. Please. No.

The rest of the day was a kaleidoscope of bad memories, just like the previous Friday had been. Jeanie had a biopsy done that day at the breast clinic in Winston, but they didn't get enough to tell for sure. Can you possibly come back tomorrow?

We'd been trying for two long and disappointing years to have a child, and had an appointment scheduled for the "baby doctor" the next day, on Thursday. We'd been there before, but nothing had happened. Jeanie had always been on edge walking into the office, wanting so desperately for it to happen. I was on edge, too, because I wanted it for her.

Jeanie called and told the baby doctor's office what was happening, to see what we could possibly work out. Incredibly, they said they'd stay open late, just to work us in. So Thursday, Jeanie had the second biopsy ... it was benign, hallelujah of all hallelujahs!

Afterward, we flew over to the baby doctor's office, rolled in on two wheels and almost literally ran inside. And that was the day two little boys were conceived, less than a week after the tragedy at New Hampshire.
Adam Houston, wearing his namesake's cap.
We named Adam in memory of Adam Petty, and it's funny today to see just how much they're alike. Neither ever met a stranger. Both had a personality as big as all outdoors. Adam Petty was evidently a handful as a child, and Adam Houston's mouth sometimes has a way of getting him into trouble. Both had good hearts.

I miss Adam Petty, but in a lot of ways, he's still with us. There's the Victory Junction Gang Camp, of course. And there's a fourteen-year-old boy who lives at my house, carrying on the tradition of living large every day of his life.

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