Table for Two

by Ed Meyer

posted on August 10, 2016 in Blogroll, General Discussion, Horse Racing, | No Comments >>

It starts with a call or a text in our modern day of technology. The words are always the same and how could they not be ? – You feel the deafening silence, and the lack of words takes away your breath. Thoughts race, and memories flood and as you recall past moments as fleeting as smoke through a keyhole. Then as you sit and numbness takes over, you slowly start to realize the design of life as we know it.

I received a call last night from an old friend. He was heading home to be settled in for the evening after a long commute home from work. He had just received his call, and immediately dialed my number as he hung up. – I was informed about the passing of one of the good guys. – You know, the kind you smiled about when you would hear their voice or saw them suddenly. He was a gentleman in the truest meaning of the word. The kind of person who made the room happier upon arrival, and a much better marking of time when they left.

If you’ve read once or a hundred times here. I have a genuine interest in the people I’ve met along my journey in racing. – I’ve always said; “the people are the best part of the sport.” – That part has never changed for me.  – A few things I’ve always insisted was privacy for those I write about and the complete truth. – One never knows who stumbles upon their loved ones name, or if they had a secret side of their life they never shared with their family and associates. For the sake of respect and friendship, we’ll just call him by a nickname the servers used to call him. – “Sunshine.”

Sunshine was fitting as he would greet many with a handshake, and the gals always got a hug. – To be joyful in your daily journey is not as easy as it sounds. But Sunshine managed to walk easy in stride without a care in the world when he entered the track daily. – I was a younger man who was working in the admissions department and had the title of race book manager; the guy you spoke to if there was a problem or if you had a particular request. It may have been some the happiest times of my life working at the track. – Shaking hands and kissing babies was what we called my daily trek and all the while getting to play the races. Believe it or not, that part was encouraged as I would spend time and sit with players. We would chat and I would listen. These brief times allowed me to be a part of their lives and they knew they could always have access to a manager whose job was to sit down and listen. – Oh, there were a few that I mainly just stood and had a brief chat, but they were outweighed by a thousand good folks who wanted to just sit and chat. – Just imagine how happy I was to find there was a job that paid me to talk horses and get to know our greatest assets.

These were good days at the track. You had to get there early to have a good parking spot, and you better have made reservations to hold your table. – Sunshine had a standing reservation, and his table was close to the windows. He would make about three to four plays per day, and they were large place or show bets. He was surrounded by his friends for over forty years, and there was never a bad word spoken. – Sunshine would always pick up the tab from his table of five daily, and scoot out at stroke of 4:00 p.m. daily. – I always wondered why he left quietly at 4 p.m., and one day I asked a server about his “disappearing act” at the same time. – “Ed, he goes home to care for his wife. His daughter comes during the daytime hours. For years she used to beg her dad to go out and visit with his friends and finally he did as she asked.” – Sunshine was a loyal man, and if the weather was sour, they were only a handful of days a year he would miss his daily routine. From all of the conversations over the years he never once said a word about his wife’s illness. – Some things are private and have no place in conversation. – He would always insist on asking about my new baby boy and how was my life. Never a tense word, and always with a genuine smile. – He would interject many times over the years with asking if he could help in anyway. – One of the good guys for sure.

One day I saw him stay a little longer, and the following days thereafter he started staying until dark. – I figured his daughter was staying longer and his visits would extend with old friends. – I guess we all figured out why Sunshine was allowed to stay with his buddies. He never lost his smile or the glimmer in his eyes. – As the years rolled past I moved up the ladder a few rungs and my daily routine was not as close. I would always stop by a few times a week. One by one there would be one less friend at the table in time. It finally came down to Sunshine asking for a two seat table instead of the large round one where he and his friends held court. This gathering of friends had dwindled and time can be a cruel reminder.

I saw Sunshine about a year ago, and he still had a smile that lit up the room. He was by himself and greeted me with a hearty handshake and asked how my son was doing. – That was Sunshine. He was truly interested in you and what you had to say. Never one to garner attention or complain in the slightest. I can’t remember one four letter word uttered from his mouth, as that would have been poor behavior for a man. He was the definition of a gentleman. The kind of man many would aspire, but lacked the commitment to himself and others. – Upon hearing of Sunshine’s passing I went to bed thinking of a man I met in my travels. I fell asleep with a feeling of gratitude not sadness. It is rare to meet such a gentleman, and I had a front row seat with one of the good guys. Thank you for your kindness and gentle friendship, Sunshine.