Three years. It has been three years since I have been to "the greatest spectacle in racing", the Indianapolis 500. But this year, I finally get to go again.
I guess I have to clear a few things up on this matter. First of all, I am not a sports person. In fact, my family has never been much for sports at all. We have played baseball in the backyard and watched the Super Bowl, I think, once or twice, and that is about it. People around here talk about all these athletes and teams and I don't know what the hell any of it means. I really don't care who wins any of those things. My dad and I still believe in the Chicago Cubs and that is it. So I've never, ever been in that loop. However...
My dad has been going to the Indianapolis 500 since the early 1970's. When I was twelve years old, he took me to my first one and I have loved it since. The experience of attending an event such as the Indy 500 is the chance of a lifetime. The live broadcast of the race on television captures a mere shadow of what it is actually like in person. It is insanely exciting. It's also fun to read up on the history of the track and all the racers leading up to that year. The race has hundreds of wonderful stories that date back all the way to the first one. Historically speaking, the Indy 500 is rich with it.
And yeah, I know the same could be said for countless other stadiums or racetracks or whatever, but there is something special about the Indianapolis 500. Maybe it is because Indycars are not the most popular sport in America, so it's not constantly being shoved down your throat by the mainstream media and pop culture (please, please never mix up Nascar and Indycar in front of me; it's not funny). Maybe it's because the race takes place the day before Memorial Day, so my emotional connection to the race rings deep. Memorial Day is an extremely heavy day for me as you might imagine (I could write a post about that alone).
Or the reason that is probably most true for me, because the Indy 500 is really the only "vacation" I've ever been able to experience with my family.
OK, it used to be that camping trips were our family's thing. But then my youngest sister's health problems became too much for her to be able to go camping with us anymore. So that means whenever we go camping my mom has to stay home with her. We don't go camping nearly as much as we used to because it just isn't the same if we're not all together. The original purpose we went camping in the first place is to get away from the grind as a family, so camping nowadays feels like it's defeating that purpose. So what does my family do together for "vacation"? Oh, not much...just what we've been doing since my youngest sister was born, which is roughly six to thirteen trips to Mayo Clinic every year, the shortest being one day and the longest a potential two weeks. That's right. Since I was four years old my family's idea of a "vacation" is to drive a few hours to a hospital where we sit in waiting rooms all day, eat cafeteria food, and if we're lucky stop by the local strip mall or the bookstore. Besides that our other "vacations" have been to attend a relative's funeral. I don't exaggerate when I say that if I hear someone is going out-of-state to such and such a place my first thought is, "who died?" I just have a hard time fathoming that there are people who actually go to cool places merely for the sake of going to the cool places, and they do this routinely and bring every member of their family with them when they do it. That sounds almost like a cult to me. Growing up, if I was going on a trip, it meant someone was either sick or deceased. It sounds morbid, but it's just a fact: I have always associated family vacation with hospitals and funeral homes, and I am okay with that.
That is why I love the Indianapolis 500 so much. It is a time I can actually get away from life for a few days and indulge in something that is bigger, older, deeper, smarter, and cooler than me. I get to learn about the racers, cheer them on, read about the cars and the track, and have a real "vacation", a break from everything going on back home. I can have fun without being surrounded by waiting rooms or gravestones, and that sounds pathetic but it's a big deal to me and my siblings. Of course the catch is that my youngest sister can't go to the race because of her health problems, so guess what, my mom stays at home with her. And my mom is okay with that because she likes when we get away so she can catch up on stuff. But still...go figure. I can never get to spend a vacation with my whole family. It's just not going to happen.
I don't know why I am just ranting on something really stupid. Maybe I shouldn't even be complaining about it. There are much worse things to complain about than the fact that I never got to go on cool vacations growing up. I guess I wouldn't feel so inclined to rant about it if I didn't have to constantly hear my relatives and friends talk about all the vacations they get to do. All my cousins are wealthy enough so that they were going around the country and to Europe and Asia before they graduated high school. And on the rare occasions I have met with my extended family that is all I hear about...how awesome life is going for them, all the places they've been around the world. Good for them. Even with my less than wealthy friends, they are going on trips that aren't for hospitals or funerals all the time. And I get to be the inexperienced, uncultured one because I haven't done any of those things.
Last Sunday at church I was explaining why I wouldn't be there on the 25th because of the race. Of course around here the Indy 500 is dubbed "cars making 200 left turns." So when I gave that as my reason for not coming they seemed to think it was funny that I would even want to go to an event like that. Apparently it's a big waste of time and money...coming from the same people who think a bunch of giant boys chasing a rubber ball is a honorable spectacle. Yes, I know that's not all there is to football...so why can't they acknowledge that there is more to Indy 500 than they like to think there is? Luckily, one of the people actually hushed up when I went on to explain that going to the race will be a good break for me and plus I get to see my brother who I haven't seen since February. At least they tried to understand me.
In summary, the Indianapolis 500 is kind of a neat thing for me. I get a trip that isn't to a hospital or a funeral home; I get to see my brother; I get to see a great spectacle in person, and pretty much the only big spectacle I ever have and ever will see in my life; and getting away is always healthy for me because it's a chance to look back and rearrange my thoughts and priorities. It is the only reason I like this time of year. This month has been very hard for me because college is getting complicated, I have a new part-time job that costs me more time and other things, and my youngest sister has an unexpected surgery on Thursday. I am trying to get in shape and battle my severe caffeine addiction, and things have also been hard on my parents. Indy 500 will be a good break from all that, if only for a week. But I can see my brother and forget things and rearrange my thoughts so that when I come back I am refreshed and I got to spend some time having fun with at least part of my family.
I am sorry for the long rant. When I get back from Indy I will post better things on this blog.