Sunday afternoon found me in an old familiar place. I was at Turfway Park helping out with a handicapping contest. For many moons I ran the show, but on this day I was helping a friend continue the tradition. You could say it felt like old times…
My job was getting people registered, answering questions from players, and shaking hands with friends I have not seen for a while. It felt good to be a part of the swirling humanity, and the people are always the best part of the day. Normally, I would be sitting right there amongst some of the best, but this day held another agenda.
P.G. is a the kind of guy you would have thought played for the Giants in his early days. His stands 6 feet 5 inches and still has the vise-grip of a younger man. He looked good, but I noticed he had lost about 50lbs.
After getting all checked-in he said, ” let me get situated, I want to sit down and catch-up with you a little later.” I agreed, and off he went to his table near the windows. Things started getting hectic, and we had contest players to tend. The last hour before first post flew by like a spring day, and I found myself having a little handicapping time. They played for Vegas, and I was shooting for some extra Christmas cash.
After three hours P.G. came up to the table with his computer all packed away. He had finished quickly and said he couldn’t find an elephant in the men’s room. Translating to my ears meant that he had gone empty early and had packed it in for the day. We made our way over to the rail seats, and we watched the last race at Turfway cross the line. I asked if he was going to play in the “last chance” contest in Vegas and he answered “no” in a quiet voice. He told me that he had pancreatic cancer, and his diagnosis wasn’t good. He wasn’t sullen, and even said his odds were so high that even he wouldn’t bet on them.
I swallowed deeply and told him that I was sorry to hear about the news. It was at this point that he answered, ” hell no, I have had a crackerjack of a good time.” He then began to tell me briefly about raising his two sons, and how they had both gone into the service as career men. They are both married, and he has been blessed with seeing all three of his grand-babies born. He was a professional in advertising for his career, but his calling in life was reaching out to touch others. “Practice what you preach,” he said. He gladly spent most of his time helping others and volunteering his time. His sons learned first hand, and they still continue his teachings of passing it forward.
P.G. stopped on a dime and said “I wanted to thank you… Thank you for always taking the time to help, answer my questions, and make me feel welcome.” He said he had followed me on my course of working in racing, and he said the kindest words I have ever heard. ” You care, Ed. I can tell when people are just working hard, or going through the motions. But, you care. I don’t know when we will see each other again, and I just wanted to stop by and say thanks.”
I shook his large hand and watched as he made his way slowly to the elevator. The doors opened, and he walked in and vanished. All that I could do was watch… Everything had been said, and I had this electric energy surge to get up and help bring the contest to a close. The winners were congratulated and the losers consoled. But the day was a winner for me. I had the opportunity to meet a gentleman. Someone who does what he does best. I began to think of how lucky his sons were to have a father that led by example. He looked up the mountain, found a pass, and led the team. I sure enjoyed seeing my friend, and feel lucky for meeting him as we pass through life. For the many racetrack characters that have made me scratch my head, laugh, or turn a frown, all sat in the cheap seats. This man held his head high, and didn’t seek the limelight. He was the kind of guy who enjoyed cheering more for you than telling the tale of how he won. I miss him already but thank him for stopping by…