The Passion - Part Three - Phoenix Risen
With my Father's passing, I had a certain amount of intense confusion and pain that can only come from losing someone who, at an incredibly deep level, was a core stabilizing force throughout my life. My Dad and I have had some serious ups and downs, but he was always THERE. We could be in an intense argument a second before, but if something suddenly came up where I needed him, that would be instantly dropped, and there was no one better to have in my corner. What bothered me beyond the obvious, was that I felt my Father left before being able to enjoy his retirement; specifically that rainy day my Grandmother (his Mother) and he always spoke of. Forget the Lexus GS400, or my Infiniti G37S; my Dad's dream car was that 63' Jaguar E-Type. Heck, I wanted the opportunity to get him that 63’ Jaguar E-Type. With some irony, my Father did get some cool cars throughout his life - by either complete fluke or luck. The first was a 1962 Parisienne convertible, which he got from my Grandmothers friend for nearly nothing. It was a literal barn find, so the exterior of the car was pretty beaten up, but the interior was near mint as it had barely 15,000 original miles on it. He painted the car and restored the engine as well as many of the other knick knacks, but instead of enjoying it - ultimately put it up on Autotrader as his original personality and frugal belief system stopped him from being able to keep it. To enjoy it. It just wasn’t practical to him. How he felt, well, that was always secondary. Then, not too long afterwards, as if the Universe was giving it one more college try, my Mother actually - won - a car in a raffle to support Roy Thomson Hall. What was funny about that was my Father was actually pretty upset, at least initially, that my Mom had gone out and spent $150 for a raffle ticket. When she won however, he then tried to act very casually about that fact. I remember calling my Dad at work after I had heard the news and he said it was "no big deal", "just a car" and then, abruptly, "he had to go". 'Click'. I however could admit, the “no big deal” became a really big deal to me when it turned out the car my Mom had won was a 1990 BMW 325i convertible in silver with black leather interior (a first for my Dad). It was a loaded model to boot. It was also manual, which meant sadly my Mother could not drive it. So, and with a hefty dose of irony, as the only manual driver between them, this car became my Father's baby, and even though I know he would never admit it – in the end – he was in fact, so very happy my Mom "invested" the $150 on that ticket.
Alas, that conservative, practical mindset got in my Father's way yet again and it sat in our garage most of the time. He put on about 5,000 KM's. A year. I spoke with him about maybe trading the car in for something else that he would actually drive more often, or to use the money from the BMW to buy his dream car. Sure, that would of course require him to add more of his own money for that dream car, but the BMW would save him a fair amount of the cost. All my suggestions were an emphatic; 'no'. In fact, I kept thinking (worrying) he would put the BMW in Autotrader, with nothing to replace it, as that would be the frugal thing to do. He did talk about doing just that. Often. It would be more money put away for that "rainy" day after all; For his and my Mom's retirement. For when they needed the money when something went wrong. For when they got old.
IN my Father's case, he never got there. Now, being fair, and let me be clear, saving money is a GOOD thing. Planning for yours and your partners future, doubly so. My Mother is well taken care of because of his planning, so I will not question his wisdom here. What I felt was missing however, in hindsight, was a balance to that conservative saving and planning. And after my Father's passing, I was committed to finding that balance in myself, a centre, with perhaps a bias erring on enjoying my life.
Letting go of some of that fear, I would start with something we both shared and had in common; cars.
For the record, I did not touch my Dad's BMW. It would always be my Father's car, so, also with some irony, it sat in the garage. In some ways in represented him "being home". No, I would start with my own cars, but I wanted him to be a part of them. To enjoy them at the same time I was – like he was still here. What came to mind to help with this, was a personal plate. The problem was, I had never had one before, and had no idea what I wanted it to say. I thought about all types of names and combinations of acronyms. I just couldn't find the right one at first. One day after having a particularly down morning, I asked myself what I really wanted, and that of course was for me to have my Father back. For him to be alive again. I pictured that for a moment and saw his face and the plate just came to me; The Phoenix. A bird that rose from the ashes. A rebirth. I liked it! I couldn't get my Father to enjoy many of the things he had while he was here, at least not fully, so maybe now I could get him to enjoy some of the things he never had before. It was a new life for him so to speak. Perfect, I thought. The first stage of the Phoenix in that rebirth cycle is fire. Burning away the old and starting the spark and flame for something new, so Phoenix Fire it was. This plate went on my G37S. So, as I had originally wanted, my Father was able to at least share the car he had told me he wanted for himself. It was a good start.
My own test for this new lifestyle and way of thinking came about when I had a chance to buy a dream car of my own. I was doing relatively well in my new start-up, and had little financial obligation at that moment. So the timing was there, but to spend more money, by far, than I ever had on a car was still quite daunting. The three cars in contention, all used of course, were a C6 Corvette ZR1 (which was very new at the time so I had very little depreciation to work with), A Porsche 997.1 Turbo (which despite being out for some time was still holding its value - as Porsches do) and the "new" car on the block, at least for North America; the Nissan R35 GTR. The more I read about the Nissan and the more positive reviews it received, helped make it become the eventual front runner. Add the fact it was the least expensive and was stronger in performance in some areas than the competitors I had compared it to, and it became my final, somewhat logical choice. That said, despite being the least expensive option, it was still nearly twice as much money as the most expensive car I had ever bought (or even considered buying). I remember vividly my hand shaking when signing the papers at the Dealership; both the fear of how it could negatively impact me, (the old thoughts) and then another set of emotions; elation - all of the fun my Dad and I were going to have with this car. The thoughts competed with each other and (happily) elation won out. I needed a new plate for this car, so proceeding with the "Phoenix" motif, I felt that my Father had come quite a long way buying this car with me, so he graduated to the next stage of the Phoenix saga; rising in some splendor from the ashes. Thus my new plate for the GTR was now Phoenix Risen.
In the near future, I will write a separate piece about my GTR, as it has stayed with me for a very long time - longer than any other car I have ever owned - and it is obviously very important in my car journey in many ways. I was one of the first to modify an R35 Nissan GTR in Canada (multiple times), with this car also being the first in the 11's, 10's, 9's and second in the 8's for the 1/4 mile in Canada. It is still (as of this writing anyway) the quickest and fastest GTR in Canada. I have been sponsored twice and been fortunate enough to have won multiple competitions in Canada and the U.S. I have survived going 215+ MPH in the standing mile as well as literally racing it every single weekend at the track for many years. This final blog on the subject of my Passion for cars doesn't centre around victories (or defeats) however; it centres around what cars and racing represent to me. How I had to change my outlook to get to where I am today and what caused some of those critical changes. That my life didn't have to randomly ebb and flow with my cars echoing how I was feeling or what was happening in my life. There were options. That I could take some control over my life; specifically with my choices in cars - that made a difference - because that was something important - to me. And it was worth it. Every penny. For me and my Father.
They say both good and bad things can come in three's. I guess I thought that wasn't an intense enough number, so I made it four; When all of this started, my Father had passed away, I had just ended a serious relationship, I left my career to a begin a new, unknown start-up and I had to find a place to live. Years later, I remember driving home from one of my many racing weekends at the track, thinking about just that; Where and how far I had come over the past years. A smile crept up on my face. It was a beautiful, sunny day with clear blue skies. I loved my drives to and from the track. They were so peaceful. I thought about how lucky I was to be here - right now - and just being able to do what I love. Today - was a source of profound gratitude. I looked over at the passenger seat and imagined my Father sitting next to me. I was startled at how well I was actually able to do that, as it was so vivid. I could not only see him in the seat, but I could also see the expression on his face; it was happiness, it was pride. But there was also a knowing look, if that were possible.
Moments of understanding and clarity are always difficult to explain as to how and why they come about. But in that particular moment, I realized there was something more to my Father's happiness. You see, even in death, he was still busy teaching me. Guiding me.
It was only then, since this all began in that terrible year of 2009, that I understood that knowing, warm smile; the look I imagined on my Father's face that day in my car on my way back from the track. What he was trying to say, in a way only a Parent can communicate to his child was this; "These cars; Phoenix Fire, Phoenix Risen, the entire "Phoenix" cycle of rebirth wasn't just for me, Jeremy."
"It was for you."