Take care of the babies. —Thomas D. Murray
This story is my dad's meat. But he's not around anymore, so I feel obligated to say: There is something wrong with the parents of Peter Lenz, the 13-year-old boy who died at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway yesterday, and with all the parents of the 12-16 year-old boys who are part of bigtime motorcycle racing's "development system."
A friend of mine had a front-row seat to yesterday's crash:
It was awful, there was a huge pack coming out of a series of "s" turns, this leading to a straightened section. He dumped his bike, and after sliding along positioned himself upright and appeared to be okay waving arms to signal he was there, basically sitting up right in the middle of the track and bikes were scrambling to move out of the way, one bike could not move out of the way and hit him what would normally be a section of the track where a rider would be accellerating. It was a horrible sight to see, and the aftermath that followed got worse. CPR, huge pool of blood on the track. Did not hear his fate until we go home last night, but had already assumed the worst based on what we had seen.
The boy's father wrote on Peter's Facebook page,
Peter passed away early this morning when he was apparently struck by another rider. He passed doing what he loved and had his go fast face on as he pulled onto the track. The world lost one of its brightest lights today. God Bless Peter and the other rider involved. #45 is on another road we can only hope to reach. Miss you kiddo. – Dad
I won't berate a father who has lost a son. But to fathers and mothers everywhere, I dare you to challenge this claim: A parent's responsibility is to introduce a child to as much of the world as possible while keeping the child alive long enough to sort out its many splendors. Such splendors include: novel-reading and sonnet-writing, sailing, cooking, snorkeling, kissing, going to church, staying up all night, piano-playing and yes, going fast.
If your 13-year-old son dies while going fast and you say he died "doing what he loved," you are accountable to the questioner who asks, "Did you first introduce him to everything else that he might also have loved?"
One of the best things my dad ever wrote was a Wall Street Journal op/ed about Jessica Dubroff, a seven-year-old girl who died in 1996 trying, with her parents' imbecilic encouragement, to be the youngest person to fly across the U.S.
I don't have my hands on the piece, but I remember its conclusion, which recounted a family dinner table conversation in 1940, when my dad was 17. It was before the U.S. entered WWII, and many young Americans were going to Canada to learn to fly for the R.A.F. They were all getting killed over the English channel, of course, but that didn't enter my dad's then young, romantic mind.
The family sat patiently while he made a long, well-rehearsed, impassioned proposal. At the end, when he finished, there was silence. Until his dad picked up his fork, dug it into his potatoes and without looking up, quietly said:
"Eat your dinner, Bud."