I’ve mentioned before that when he is not working, Rick is a race car driver – he races vintage Corvettes in the SVRA (Sports Vintage Racing Association). He began racing after his father (also a race car driver) passed away and he inherited the cars. Now, he races with (against?) a bunch of his Dad’s best buddies, and with some of their sons as well.
This past week, we were at Road America for our first night, and we all went out for dinner as a group – about 20 of us. The guy who is kind of the “patriarch” of the group – Ed – was at center stage that night as always. We all were laughing, having a great time together, and looking forward to watching all the guys race against each other.
The next morning, we received a phone call that Ed has had some kind of heart “incident” and that he won’t be at the race that day. A little later my mother-in-law called and said that she needed me to come to the hospital to pick up Ed’s grandkids (who are about Zach & Alexis’ ages and who all had gotten along famously the night before) so they had something to do while the family was at the hospital.
Before I even arrived at the hospital, my mother-in-law told me that they realized now they were dealing with something more serious and that he was going to have to have some surgery to fix the problem. They decided to LifeFlight him to a hospital in Milwaukee. The family was scared, of course, but was still most definitely of the mindset that he was going to be fine. He’d been talking to them and was stable when they ordered the helicopter to come get him.
About the same time I arrived at the hospital, the helicopter landed and just as soon as it touched down, it shut off. We knew something had to be wrong, obviously. I asked someone at the front desk what was going on and they sent out a representative to speak to me and his son-in-law, and we were told “we’re doing compressions on him right now. Perhaps we should set you up in a separate room.” When she said that, I looked at her over my eyeglasses and said, “We need a separate room?” I gave her a knowing look, and she returned it to me – and I knew they were then in that stage where they “do everything they can” so they can SAY they did everything they could.
About 20 minutes later they came out and told us they had lost him. It was absolutely and completely surreal. I could not believe he was gone; this man – who was only 65 years young – was SO vibrant and full of life. After we lost my father-in-law, he became a sort of surrogate father to Rick. He would call him practically every Sunday night and ask him about how business was going, and talk with him about racing. He took a few different weekends to travel to different race tracks so he could coach Rick on some of the sport’s finer points. And he was a darling “surrogate grandfather” to Zach; Zach was beyond devastated when we had to tell him.
It turns out that he suffered something called an aortic dissection; it’s the same condition that ripped John Ritter away from his family with seemingly no notice. And that can rip anyone’s family apart in minutes, regardless of their age or health. Apparently it is a genetic condition; Ed also lost his father to what was then diagnosed as an aneurysm, though it’s likely it could have been a dissection as well.
So needless to say we have been on an emotional roller coaster. More than anything, we’re just devastated to have lost such a sweet, dear man, and a wonderful friend.