Remembering Dad on Father's Day
It’s Father’s Day today. Many of us in the racing world, whether its drivers or fans, got into a racing because of our dads. So we should thank them and be eternally grateful.
Countless drivers I’ve interviewed for this RaceChaser blog credit their father as their main influence. Many dads still play a huge role in their kids’ racing endeavors — I think of the Gerdes family out of Villard, the Lee family out of Starbuck, the Pederson family out of East Grand Forks, the Langland family out of Enderlin, the Arnesons out of Fargo come to mind as some examples. There are many, many more.
My dad, Stan, is the reason I am a race fan. He raced when I was little and I went a few times, but he spent many nights taking us to races at Madison, Canby, Montevideo, Redwood Falls and Alexandria. I can’t tell you how many trips we made to Madison in the 1980s and how many nights we left their fired up over some controversy.
I’m forever grateful he took the time to take me and my brothers to the races growing up. I was the only one of the three to become a diehard fan but my brothers had bonds with my dad in other areas of life.
My dad died in Sept. 2017. He’d battled COPD and for the final three years of his life, interstitial lung disease (which basically permanently scars the lungs), which is also terminal. The final six months, in particular were tough. I remember him coming up for my daughter Addilyn’s first birthday, a few months before he died. He couldn’t bend over to put his shoes on without being out of breath. It was tough to see.
Racing season seems to be the time I miss him the most. His lung disease prevented him from going to the races the last few years of his life (the dust and humidity were very hard on him) and that broke his heart. I underestimated how ill he truly was until the end.
Our relationship wasn’t perfect by any means and we disagreed plenty. Trust me. Fathers and sons do this. There was one time, late in his life, that we really butted heads over a family reunion I wasn’t going to, that I recall pretty vividly. We were both a little stubborn :)
My dad was much more extroverted than me — he could talk to about anyone, and was never afraid to start a conversation with a stranger. He was a county commissioner for 10 years so that quality was pretty useful for him. We’d go to a race and he’d usually start a conversation with some stranger we were sitting by. I’m much more introverted and if I don’t know you prior, have a difficult time going up and striking a conversation.
Many times after my dad became ill and couldn’t go to races, I’d text him updates where I was at — Fergus Falls, Alexandria, Grand Forks, West Fargo, you name it. He’d ask plenty of questions about who was there, who was running well, etc.
About 10 days after he died I went to Sheyenne Speedway in Lisbon. I picked up my phone to text him a few times that night, and it took a second to realize he was no longer with us. That was kinda tough.
Even nearly three years later, it’s still a little tough to be at a race and realize he is no longer here to talk racing with.
When it comes to racing I’ll never forget the influence of my dad.