Happy Thanksgiving!

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We have all had a tough and challenging year. Personally, I’ve never had any year even approach what we have experienced in 2020. Susan was diagnosed with one of the deadliest cancers out there. Three weeks after Susan’s diagnosis, my mother literally keeled over and died unexpectedly. Just last week, even the Mayo Clinic decided that Susan’s tumor was inoperable and we would need to seek other treatments elsewhere,  because the radical surgery they were proposing was no longer possible.

On a more selfish front, the IndyCar season took a huge hit for fans that attend races. St. Petersburg was postponed at the last minute. One of our favorite races to attend at Barber Motorsports Park, was cancelled and was never even considered for rescheduling. The 104th Running of the Indianapolis 500 was moved to August and then – again at the last minute – was held without any fans present. The possibility of attending the Indianapolis 500, even in August, is what preserved my sanity in a very insane time. It was suddenly taken away.

I have a special-needs daughter (Katie), who has lived in a group home since 2011. She is thirty-two years old and has the intellect of a four year-old. Her entire life revolves around the happiness she experiences at Thanksgiving and Christmas. Each Thanksgiving, it has become an annual tradition for me to leave work on Wednesday at lunchtime to go pick up Katie and bring her back to my office for the afternoon. The staff even puts up the Christmas tree early, just for Katie – so that she can see and enjoy it. Here is a photo I took of Katie sitting in my office that day in 2017.

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That evening we would drive to “Grandmommy’s” to spend Thanksgiving at my mother’s. Even last year when she was ninety-five, my mother prepared most of the meal. It wasn’t because we sat around and made her do it, that’s just the way she was.

For the first time in my life, I will not be spending Thanksgiving at my mother’s house – the house I grew up in  – this year. To make matters worse, I’ve been notified that due to COVID-19, Katie’s group home is in lockdown and she will not be allowed out to spend this Thanksgiving with us.

After the year we’ve had, you would think that we would be down-trodden and not be thankful for anything this November. That would not be true.

First of all, I am thankful that Susan still has many options. Even though she has been diagnosed with a horrible disease – things are going about as well as they possibly could. Her cancer has not spread at all. It is still contained within the pancreas. The involvement with blood vessels makes it inoperative, but it has not spread. Furthermore, she is responding very well to the chemo. Plus she is tolerating it much better than most. She has completed nine of twelve rounds and has never skipped one. If she maintains this schedule, she will complete her chemo regimen on New Year’s Eve.

Due to the nature of this disease, this is a very harsh chemo. It has to be. Consequently, many drop out around the halfway point. They simply can’t take it. Susan’s mental and physical toughness is serving her well, and I’m very thankful for that. I fully believe that she is going to stave off this cancer, for a few years at least – and there will be better days ahead, when we can attend races and go on other types of vacations.

I am also thankful that we went to Road America in July. We had already bought our tickets, long before Susan got sick. As it turned out, we were scheduled to fly to Wisconsin just two days after her diagnosis. I gave her the option for us to not go, but she wanted to. It ended up being tremendous therapy for both of us. We didn’t know it at the time, but that turned out to be our only race to go to in the 2020 IndyCar season. We are very thankful we went.

On another personal note, my job was up for re-bid this fall. I work in a quasi-government field in the contract world. Since 2017, my job has been up for re-bid three times. I have been sitting in the same office with the same computer and phone number since 2014. However, since 2017 – I’ve had three different employers in that time. Each employer change also means losing vacation time and changing healthcare insurance. I was staring at a fourth employer starting Jan 1. Fortunately, I learned on Nov 2, that I was one of the few in my office whose contract would be retained. I am very thankful to not be changing insurance providers in the middle of Susan’s fight with cancer.

Plus, neither of us ever missed a single day at work due to COVID-19. More importantly, we never missed a paycheck. There are a lot of people reading this site that cannot say the same. We are both very thankful for that.

On my final personal note, I’m grateful for the long life my mother led and for the way she passed away. She had just turned ninety-six, but had the mind and energy of someone my age. She was very active and still drove. She drove to the bank just three days before she died unexpectedly. She began having breathing problems on a Saturday. My brother took her to the doctor on Monday to see what the problem was. She literally keeled over and died in his arms at the doctor’s office. While that wasn’t an ideal situation for my brother to experience, I am very thankful she hardly suffered, she got to spend her last night in her own bed with her mind intact and she didn’t die alone. Sign me up for that.

On the racing side, I am very thankful that Roger Penske now owns the NTT IndyCar Series and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. I just don’t think that Hulman and Company had deep enough pockets to sustain the series through the revenue shortfall that the pandemic produced. While I’ve not seen any of the improvements to IMS in person, I know they are substantial. While Penske himself may regret the timing of his purchase, we fans are very thankful that he bought everything when he did. I shudder to think what we might be looking at had things stayed status quo. Fortunately, that’s one thing we don’t need to worry about.

I am also thankful that despite the economic uncertainty that 2020 has produced, the NTT IndyCar Series is still growing. We’ve learned of two new cars added to the paddock for 2021, and we’ve not heard of any not returning (at least that I can think of). I know Carlin is still up in the air, but things could be a lot worse. I am very thankful for that.

I am cautiously optimistic that the 105th Running of the Indianapolis 500 will take place on schedule with fans. I realize that the attendance may still be greatly reduced – but I am hopeful that we will be in attendance next May.

I am also very thankful for the friends we have met through this site. Many have turned into lifelong friends that have long since transcended racing. Paul Dalbey, James Black, Tad & Silvia Pierson, John Oreovicz, Jake Query, Eric Swarzkopf, Kim Pearson, Mike Silver and Patti Nolan are just a few that we see at all the races we attend, that we have become more than just acquaintances with. I know there are many that I didn’t list and I apologize. I just pulled a few names off the top of my head.

At the risk of sounding like a name-dropper, I won’t mention the many of the IndyCar professional media that have gone out of their way to lend us support; but you would all recognize each of their names.

There are also many of you that we’ve never even met, that have sent gifts to Susan in the past few months. Many more that we never met have sent us well-wishes through this site, e-mail and social media. You have no idea how much support that has given Susan, and we are very thankful for each and every one of you.

Susan and I are not the only ones that have had a tough year. Many of you have had it even worse. You may be hard-pressed to find anything to be thankful for. We don’t have that problem. We still have a lot to be thankful for. We are both optimistic that things will be much better in 2021, not only personally – but as race fans.

We both want to wish everyone a safe and Happy Thanksgiving. It will be very different for us, but for many of you as well. Let’s all make the best of it. Better days are ahead.

George and Susan Phillips

Please note:  As I usually do at this time of year, I am taking a couple of days off over the Thanksgiving holiday. There will be no post here on Friday Nov 27, or Monday Nov 30. I will return here on Wednesday Dec 2. Enjoy the holiday! – GP

13 Responses to “Happy Thanksgiving!”

  1. I hope you have a happy Thanksgiving, George. Your has been difficult but there are better days ahead. I admire Susan for hanging in there with chemo. That is a lot of sessions.

  2. George, I hope you and Susan have a wonderful Thanksgiving. Thank you for sharing this journey you are both on. I’m thankful for our friendship and look forward to seeing you both at a race in 2021.

  3. George, if you can keep your head up this year, I can too! It’s been hard, I have also seen death and unsettled times, it’s been rough of course but the light is still there, somewhere. Like I told someone else, it can always be worse, we aren’t living in nuclear fallout yet so until then, we can at least go outside! Grateful we got the race in at all, a full season in fact, and a mostly safe season.

    Hopeful for a better year next year, personally, for everyone else and just generally a better year to be with people and enjoy the freedoms we have come to expect, and I hope we all enjoy that a little more. Waiting in a line, a stadium full of fans, trying to find a parking space. We took that for granted!

  4. billytheskink Says:

    I pray that you and Susan continue to find peace through the holidays and into 2021, George. I wish you all a happy Thanksgiving.

    I, personally, am tremendously thankful for Oilpressure. This site has kept me entertained and engaged even as the Indycar season endured cancellations, postponements, and a lot of offseason inactivity. This year marks the first time in 15 years that I have not attended an Indycar race, with rain wiping away much of the one major race I was able to get to. This racing season was rough in a lot of ways, but reading this site every week made it a lot more fun. Thank you.

  5. billytheskink Says:

    One of the handful of good things about 2020 was George’s starring role as “man eating enormous tenderloin” in Food Insider’s best sandwich in every state clickbait video (at the 3:45 mark):

    • What in the world??? I had never seen that or even made aware of it. Susan took that photo (3:45 mark) at the Edinburgh Diner in May 2019. Should I ask for royalties?

      • billytheskink Says:

        You should ask for royalties, you and Susan both earned them!

        This video was actually pointed out to me by a friend of mine who reads Oilpressure but rarely comments. He saw it on Facebook.

        • Unbeknownst to me, they actually contacted Susan through Instagram and got her permission to use the photo. She says she told me. She probably did, but my feeble mind can’t remember that far back.

  6. Great perspective – in very difficult times you have found so much to be thankful for. You’ve motivated me to do the same. Happy Thanksgiving to you and Susan.

  7. Talón de Brea Says:

    George, you post a remarkable amount of content even in the best of times, sharing a surprising amount of your personal life — which adds a unique element to the blog. This year has been unbelievable, and we readers feel great empathy and appreciation as you continue to post about those things that can add joy to life, even as you and your family face challenges in this difficult time. My best wishes to all, for the holidays and the coming year, and may you be able to put 2020 in your Marmon Wasp rear view mirror.

  8. Thank you, George. We sometimes need reminding of all the good things for which we are grateful. I so appreciate all the work you do on this site and look forward to Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays to see what the topic will be. And Susan, I so admire your courage and strength.

    I am already looking forward to next season and next year. Maybe I will see some of you at a race or two. I hope all of you stay healthy. Happy Thanksgiving one and all.

  9. Matthew Lawrenson Says:

    We don’t have Thanksgiving in the UK, but even during these times I’m grateful for a lot of things. Sure, my life and circumstances aren’t ideal, but every day I read awful COVID-19 related things on the news sites and I’m thankful my life has been relatively unaffected.

    We’re pretty much locked down here until Spring, so I’m crossing off the days until St. Pete on March 7th. I’m pretty sure I’ll be watching it at home rather than the Sports Bar, but I’ll no doubt be grateful for whatever by then.

    Best wishes to you, Susan & George, and I hope you have the best Thanksgiving possible this weekend.

  10. Among the many, many things I feel thankful for are the folks in this community and our shared interests. Happy Thanksgiving to you and Susan. I hope you guys have a great holiday weekend.

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