Chapter 15: Since I Last Saw You

Chapter 15: Since I Last Saw You

Since I Last Saw You
A story of love, loss and gratitude

The most important thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother.” ~ Theodore Hesburgh 

Chapter 15

August 30, 2008

“Ring around the rosie, pocket full of posies, ashes, ashes, we all fall down!”

Zoe squealed with delight as she and Isaac dropped to the floor. “I won, daddy! I won!”

“You sure did, Honey Bear . . . again!”

Ali felt her heart contract with intense joy as she looked up from the bunny-shaped cake she was frosting to watch her husband and daughter playing nearby.

Looking at the two of them, she thought to herself gratefully, I’m living the life I imagined for myself, and it’s everything I hoped it would be.

“Daddy needs a little break, Pumpkin. You’ve worn me out!” Stooping down to whisper conspiratorially in Zoe’s ear, he added, “You stay here and play while I sneak up on your mom and give her a big ole’ kiss!”

Zoe crinkled her face, hiding her eyes beneath her hands and giggled in approval.

Isaac made a dramatic pretense of creeping up behind Ali just as she added the sixth and final candle to the cake. Placing his strong hands on her shoulders, he proceeded to massage her skillfully as he nuzzled her neck.

Melting under his masterful touch, Ali cooed, “Oh, I love when you do that. Sometimes I think it’s the reason I married you.” And turning to face him, she rewarded him with a passionate kiss.

With a deep sigh of satisfaction, he said softly, “This is heaven, right?”

“Oh, yes,” Ali stopped to admire her own handiwork and melted backward into Isaac’s embrace. “You ought to recognize it. We’ve been here for quite a while.

“You know, I can’t tell which of you is more excited about her birthday,” said Ali.

“Oh, I can tell you it’s definitely me! You have to have lived a few years and have known some sadness before you can really appreciate this kind of happiness.”

“Are you sure she’s old enough to go to the speedway with us?” Ali still felt a little apprehensive.

“Ali, don’t worry. You’ve been there enough times to know that there are lots of kids there even younger than Zoe. I think she’s going to love it! She plays with my sprint car models all the time, and she’s been around #76. She’ll be fine.”

“You’re right. I’m being silly. Besides, I’m really looking forward to it, too. I always envied the families I’ve seen there. Now we’ll be one of them. Mom, Dad, and Nathan are meeting us there at six-thirty. Chloe can’t get there until closer to eight. I hope the traffic isn’t too heavy. It is Labor Day weekend, after all.”

***

As they drove up to the speedway, they were welcomed by the now-familiar sign, Skagit Speedway ~ Where families come to have fun.  Everywhere she looked, Ali was reminded that this was more than just a tag line; it was obviously a mission that track owner, Steve Beitler, took very seriously. At just fourteen dollars for adults, ticket prices were a steal compared to the prices for other professional sports. And parking was free! You wouldn’t find that in Seattle.

Zoe was fascinated by the sea of RVs and campers parked on the expansive grounds.

“As much as I enjoy coming to the races, I’m always a little amazed by the number of fans that show up for whole weekends, week after week throughout the season,” said Ali. “How many campers do you think there are here?”

“I asked Steve about that a while back. He said the property is a hundred and thirty-four acres and on any given weekend there are usually four or five hundred campers and RVs. You might expect that it would be a big moneymaker for him, but he barely charges enough to cover his cost for removing the trash at the end of the weekend—and he’s made some big improvements in the race track since he bought it in 2001. The speedway is a business, but Beitler’s a race fan first and foremost. He’s really committed to making this a place where families can come and enjoy themselves without going into hock. I think the main reason he’s been so successful is that he just loves the sport. Any time you pour that much passion into something, you’re bound to see amazing results.”

 ***

“Two adults and one child, please,” Isaac told the girl in the ticket booth.

“Kids under six get in free, you know,” she responded.

Zoe jumped up and down excitedly, holding up fingers on both hands to show the ticket taker, “Today’s my birthday! I’m six years old!”

“Oh! Excuse me for my mistake,” the girl said apologetically to Zoe, with a wink to Isaac and Ali. “No more free passes for you, Missy!”

Isaac lifted Zoe up so she could survey the grounds from the security of his arms.

“Isaac, you might as well have the words ‘Proud Papa’ tattooed on your forehead!” Ali said.

“That’s okay with me. I am a proud papa. I’ve been looking forward to bringing Zoe here for a long time and I want to show her off to all our friends. I think we should make the souvenir stand our first stop so we can get her some earplugs and sunglasses.”

“Let’s get her a hoodie, too. I was going to bring one from home, but I thought she’d like to pick one out with a Skagit Speedway design on it,” said Ali.

“What do you think, Zoe, do you want to get a new sweatshirt?” Isaac asked.

Zoe’s “Yes!” was punctuated with hand clapping.

Once they had her outfitted, Isaac turned his attention to Brady’s Espresso stand. As they approached the booth, Dennis Brady greeted Isaac warmly.

“Ali, have you ever met Dennis? When he’s not serving up the best espresso in Skagit County, he does all the electrical work here at the speedway.”

“No, surprisingly, we’ve never met. Hi, Dennis, I’m Ali, and this is our daughter, Zoe.”

“Today’s my birthday! I’m six years old!”

“You are? No wonder you look so grown up!” Dennis said. Turning to Ali, he added, “Nice to finally meet you, Ali. I was beginning to think Isaac had made you up, but I guess he really does have a gorgeous wife and daughter.”

“Flatterer.” Ali blushed, and gave a sideways glance at Isaac, sending up a prayer of gratitude for her good fortune in sharing her life with this wonderful man whom she adored.

“What can I make for you?” Dennis offered.

“How about a caramel latte for me and a cherry Italian soda for Zoe?”

“Coming right up.”

 ***

As they entered the grandstand Zoe spotted the speedway mascot, Roscoe the Racin’ Dog, coming toward them. At first, she hid her face in Isaac’s chest, but Roscoe noticed and slowed his approach. With a few ‘woofs’ and waves of his paws, he quickly won her over.

The hungry trio happily followed Roscoe into the Speedway Café. Ali and Isaac watched with amusement as Zoe craned her neck to see the people leaving the counters with all kinds of delicious-looking food like burgers, chili dogs, nachos, and more. They knew she’d have a hard time deciding what to choose for her birthday dinner. In the end, the basic chicken strip basket won out.

 ***

“Daddy, Daddy, when can I drive a racecar?

When she heard Zoe’s excited question, Ali involuntarily gasped. She wanted her daughter to have fun and enjoy the races—but only as a spectator—not as a future driver.

As if reading her thoughts, Isaac turned to Ali and said, “Relax, Honey. She’s only six years old. Chances are she’ll outgrow any compulsion to race.”

Ali looked her husband squarely in the eye and, with equal amounts of doubt, fear, and sarcasm in her voice, replied, “Uh-huh. Just like her father did.”

 

To order the e-book version of Since I Last Saw You, go to: www.SinceILastSawYou.com

Print version coming soon!

Posted by Alice Kuder, December 15, 2013

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