For 11 years now, I’ve ranted, cajoled and begged for the world of horse racing to See it This Way, that women must participate fully in the sport in order for it to grow and thrive–both in the United States and elsewhere around the world. (I must note here that this argument applies only to Thoroughbred horse racing, for it appears that in the world of Arabian horse racing–misogyny and gender exclusion is noticeably absent.)
I awoke this morning at 4AM because words were going through my head, as happens too often. The words pummeled my brain and invaded my sleep until finally two hours later, yawning and all watery-eyed, I surrendered, got up and turned on the computer.
I have a story to tell you, and this story must be told in order for the title of this article to make sense. It’s a very personal story–one that very few people know. It almost frightens me, the thought of sharing this story with anyone–never mind, with the entire Universe, via Internet. But apparently it’s important, or the words wouldn’t have assaulted me with the intent of being written down with a specific purpose.
Aware of the fact that you, my readers, are viewing this on the Internet–and therefore, are part of the generations of humans who glean information virtually–I’ll keep this as brief as possible. I need to think that you get through the story, in order to understand truly the moral of the tale.
Unfortunately, that means that there’s a trade involved: In order to shorten the story to a length that won’t drive you away–I’ll have to use some words that are unsavory. Not “dirty” or socially unacceptable–but rather words that challenge the Great American Denial of Mortality.
Please read this article to the end. If you skim it, you won’t get the full meaning, and you need to understand the message here. Horse racing in general needs to Get It, and we can’t Get Something–Anything–if we don’t fully understand.
So read on–take your time, work with me here, folks. This story and the moral at the end are worth your time and energy…
It hurts me to write this–I’m crying as I recall this story. But, as sad as is the foundation of this experience–the punchline completely overrides the sadness. So I must write to get to that punchline, so that I can stop crying and get on with Life…
My Mother died on June 7, 1995. By that time, colon cancer had ravaged her body for almost two years, stripping her of self esteem, joy and half her body weight. (The day she died, she weighed 84 mere pounds.)
She’d not been able to stand or walk for the last six months: five times a day, I picked up her bony frame and all her equipment (foley bag, tubes, etc.), and placed her into her big, formerly-comfortable chair. We repeated the ritual in reverse for meals, treatments and bedtime. Yes, it was a lot of physical labor for me, but it had to be done–both to avoid bed sores and so that Mommy could at least feel a little more human and to watch her TV from a pseudo-comfortable position.
Easter that year and her birthday were four days apart: April 16th and 20th, respectively. Mommy and I had long-abandoned the time-waster of denial by April: we’d acknowledged that this was her last April, her last Easter, her last birthday in this physical world. (Her next celebrations all would be held in the glory of Heaven, from which perch she could oversee my earthly life.)
We made a point to celebrate these two important days with friends, so I invited Norma to Easter dinner. Norma still is a treasured friend whom Mommy had met at work years before. Norma brought her cat to visit Kirwan, our own big orange Tabby.
I made a traditional Easter dinner: the ham was in the oven, along with various vegetables. I’d peeled potatoes, which sat in a pan of water on top of the stove, ready to turn on when Norma arrived. The gas stove had been on for about an hour, when I assessed the situation, to see if I’d forgotten anything
All set: I grabbed the gigantic, green trash bag to take downstairs to the back yard. I’d waited until I absolutely had to take the trash out, to make the trek down the precarious staircase. (Mommy and I shared a small, second-floor studio apartment during this two-year journey. The postage-stamp-sized space, in concert with the second-floor location and extraordinarily high ceilings had presented challenges, often. The building was built in the Federal era of American architecture, and sported ceilings in excess of 13′. This means that the stairs up to our apartment were steep, and challenging, even when Mommy still could walk.)
The door. Ah, the door. A disproportionately-small brass doorknob with no lock, and a dead-bolt above it. It was necessary to lock the dead-bolt every time I left the apartment, even for a trash run, because the door wasn’t on the frame right, and would fall open as soon as it was closed, if not locked. (And Kirwan the Cat–free spirit that he was–would have flown out of there like an escapee from Attica.)
You see where this tale is going: as soon as I wrestled the large, green garbage bag out of the apartment and shut the door behind me–I knew that I didn’t have the key in my pocket. I had that sick feeling–we all know that feeling: you don’t even have to check to see if MAYBE you have the key. You know that you don’t: the pit in your stomach is all the confirmation you require.
Panic-stricken, immediately I called in to Mommy and told her what I’d done. She was intellectually sharp as a tack, just slow to speak. Weakly, she confirmed that she was OK, that she wasn’t panicking. That was fine, as I was losing my mind. One of us losing our minds was plenty.
My mind reeled: neither our upstairs neighbor nor the downstairs people were around. Even if I had a ladder, it wouldn’t be tall enough for me to climb up to the second story of that Federal building. I’d have to go to another neighbor’s house–ask to use their phone–and call the fire department, to bring their big truck with the cherry-picker. A fireman would have to crawl through the window and let me in…oh, God, oh, God.
I have no idea how long I stood out there, crying hysterically, praying and thinking wildly about how to resolve this horrible situation. I kept thinking about the gas oven being on. Every worse-case scenario possible crashed into my head simultaneously. I cried, I jiggled the doorknob, I paced.
And then, the door opened.
Mommy stood on the other side. Her foley bag and its long tube were draped over her left arm and she stood straight, holding the doorknob with her right hand.
Astounded, I blurted out, “WHAT? HOW DID YOU DO THAT?” (“That,” being getting up–standing–and walking the 15′ from her chair to the door.)
“You needed me.” was her deceptively-simple response.
For my Mother–who’d not been able to STAND for six months, never mind, to walk–to do that–well, that was an absolute, definite, no-doubt-about-it–miracle from God.
It was also testimony to the strength and power of a Mother’s love.
Mothers’ love gave my darling Mommy super-human strength and resolve that day-–the Easter with two Resurrections.
And that’s what struck me at 4AM this morning. Mothers’ Love is what’s missing in horse racing. Mothers’ Love is a force SO powerful–so mighty–that it can make a dying woman get up and walk. It drives women to lie down in front of freight trains to save the lives of their children. Mothers’ Love is unequaled in its strength, tenacity and fierceness.
Mothers’ Love is a power so deep that its full potential cannot be known fully–we see it come out when a child–or animal–needs saving. We see it when there’s a living being to be defended. Mothers’ Love depends on an Other–that of The Beloved–in order to even rear its head and kick some ass. (When not needed in full force, it resides within the quietude of the heart. But oh, when it comes out–it roars like a tiger, it takes no prisoners.)
This is what horse racing is missing, and needs desperately. I am NOT writing here that men cannot love horses. Not at all. I would not insult an entire gender–or the God Who made them–by positing that males don’t have the capacity to love horses and to care deeply for them.
But I know what I see–I know what I experienced that Easter Sunday in 1995. My Mother expressed her undying, “incomparable, invincible, unbeatable” love for me in the quietest of ways that day: she simply fought physics, biology and the ravages of the war. She walked across a room, and opened a door for her little girl.
That kind of invincible love is in short supply in horse racing’s seats of power. In the past, I’ve written and preached extensively, that women should be on the board of every single horse racing organization–both those that run tracks, and non-profits–because, after all, women are 52% of the television viewership–at least 51% of the population–the clear majority of purchasers of all goods in the world–and therefore the majority of the fan base. And if we’re the majority, not only should we be represented on boards–we should be the majority of the boards, themselves.
That’s what I argued in the past. But early this morning as I tried to sleep, I took dictation and realized that the real, most convincing argument for women’s full–and majority–participation on boards and high-level administration is because we bring Mothers’ Love to the table.
Whether a woman is a Mother to a human being doesn’t matter. I’m not a Mother to a human, I’m a Mother to Pandora, my cat and to every horse I meet. Women of all walks of Life in our sport should be serving in places where our hearts, our votes and our voices can bring about change.
If women were the majority of boards, gaming commissions, and government committees--all this mamby-pamby debating about doping would be over and done. No race horse ever would go to slaughter, and those who beat a horse would be run off the track, permanently.
If it’s bad for a horse, the Mothers’ Love vote would get rid of it. Period.
If we can replace some of the ineffectual men in suits with women in suits–or dresses, or jeans and mucking boots–then we/they can bring Mothers’ Love to the Board table. And no, Mothers’ Love even when she’s quiet, never is “weak” or “soft.” Mother’s Love is the strongest force in the Universe, and we will use that force to change horse racing for the good of all–horses, men and women, alike.
Mothers’ Love resurrected my Mother, it can resurrect our entire industry. Just open that barn door to opportunity–we’ll take the job–embrace the responsibilities–and get ‘er done, in record time.
Many, many thanks to Timber Town Stable for the use of their photo. Please visit their ‘site!