Here at the Special, we've weathered the storms - literally and figuratively. A hurricane that cancelled the races, power outages from New York City to Saratoga, kids getting sick, kids going back to school, golf cart accidents, clashes with security guards, typos, factual errors, employees who run off the tracks, advertisers who stick us, trainers who brush us off, computer crashes, heat waves, car crashes in the office parking lot, and ah, who could forget the time the ceiling collapsed on Joe's clothes.
It can be a long six weeks.
As an absent husband and father for six weeks, you want to call home and you don't want to call home. You want to answer the calls from home and you don't want to answer the calls from home. It's like when you own horses, you see your trainer's name on your phone, you take a deep breath and expect the worse. When Annie calls, it's not as bad, but you always wonder for a moment between seeing her name and hearing her voice, you wonder if something's wrong. Wives carry the true burden of this far-flung endeavor. I haven't seen Annie or Miles, 4, since July 16. Three weeks. It feels like three years.
We don't do long goodbyes. After packing my car, I walked in the house and hugged Annie. She's strong, she said goodbye. Then I leaned down and hugged Miles.
"Hey luv, I'm going to Saratoga today."
"Great Dad, I love Saratoga, I'm coming tomorrow."
Tomorrow still hasn't come.
At 12:29 Wednesday, my phone rang. I looked and saw Annie's name, their picture. I took that deep breath.
"Miles hit his head, we are on our way to the hospital. I just wanted you to know."
The call lasted 28 seconds.
At 1:47, the phone rang again, again that deep breath.
"He seems to be fine. We are still here, but I think he's OK. Miles, here talk to your dad."
"Hi, Miles, how are you?"
"It's just me looking the way I am, Dad."
"Well, I just look the way I am."
"I rode in my first ambulance ride."
"It was great."
"It was great, Dad."
"I hope it's the last time you ride in an ambulance."
"I don't know about that."
"Um, well, Dad, I was wobbling the stool, the stool you usually sit on. Not the one with the dog, the other one. The one next to the dinosaurs."
"Well, Dad, I was wobbling the stool and I flipped it."
"You flipped it?"
"Well, Dad, yes, I flipped it."
"Then what happened?"
"I bumped by head on the floor. You know the hard floor you don't like. I bumped my head on it."
"Did you cry?"
"No, Dad, I didn't cry."
"Did you get hurt?"
"I just had a little goose egg."
"On my head, Dad."
"How do you feel?"
"I got really sleepy. Mom says the doctor's here. I have to go, Dad."
At 3:13, my phone vibrates, Annie's name and the picture of her and Miles pop up. I take a deep breath.
"We're getting ready to leave here, he seems to be acting normal," she said. "They said to watch and keep him quiet. It's hard to know if he's got a concussion or not. You Clancys, head first into anything. Here, talk to Miles."
"Hi, Miles. How do you feel?"
"How was the doctor?"
"Great. Guess what?"
"The fireman brought me here. They put me in this little thing, with a towel and duck tape on my head so I don't move around. Because it was a bumpy ride."
"Were you brave?"
"I was brave, Dad."
"I knew you would be."
"You should have been here, Dad."
"I'm sorry, Miles. I wish I was there."
"Why are you talking in such a sad voice?"
"Um, I'm not talking in a sad voice."
"It sounds like it, Dad."