Take notes they said. Record or write down all the stories he tells you. When people told me that as I was growing older, I never fully understood the weight behind it.
“He’s 75, he’s forgotten more than most people in this game will ever learn,” we’d say.
None of us thought that the joke of what he’d forgotten would turn to reality of what he can’t remember.
Tonight is a bad night. They’re growing more frequent. He doesn’t remember the home he made for his family that means so much to us, he doesn’t remember who we are most nights and the concept of a fork is learned each night. As I sit here, spoon-feeding him ice cream that, just a few weeks ago was what he looked forward to each night, I am reminded of the inevitable; it will only get worse.
When we (Mom and I, and even Gabby) ventured into this year, the goal of the Saratoga meet was to expand. Gain clientele and fresh horses and if we were lucky, hit the board with a few we’d take with us from Maryland. I don't think I understood the full weight behind it.
“We have to make it work. It’s now or never and I think the time is right,” I told my mom in the months approaching the start of the meet.
Mom doesn’t need or want this. She does this for us. She pushes the papers and the bills and does the tough part but the reality behind this extraordinary sport we play and to me at least, the grunt work is the easy part.
The days that start at 3:30 a.m. and go until 8 at night, the sick horses, the help not showing up … that’s the easy part. It’s the part that Dad never handled either that is the hard part. The hoping … that a check from an owner is in the mail and the looking for a “house horse” to get it done for the home team to pay the bills.
We see it growing up in the game, the men who are so successful and women behind them that are the glue. The ones who tick off the help because they expect more and the ones who make the tough phone calls. The ones who make sure the shipping box is packed and the licenses are in order, and that the papers, and coggins are in the van drivers hands.
We’re doing what’s right for him, keeping him at home when it’s hard for us, because this is where he belongs. He has given us a name that rings proud from coast to coast and I never get tired of people asking, when they truly care, “How’s Eddie?” I always say, “Thanks for asking,” because it’s comforting to know that no one has forgotten him. But how could they?
So as I tuck him into bed tonight, as he did for me so many nights, I can’t help but think…what will our “summer at Saratoga” mean for us?
We ran five horses – three who were last – but we claimed one promising winner. Mom gained a social life I believe she never had and she’s doing what she really loves, supporting the dreams of both her daughters at the same time.
We’re continuing a thriving stable in Maryland with two promising 2-year-olds, a few more nice claims for the fall and one horse returning who I will always believe made my career.
There are the few who understand what we’re going through with Dad, the ones who have been there and know the daily routine. The ones who come by the barn when he comes in with us early because he can’t be home alone anymore, but why would he want to be? He’s more at ease at the barn, where he belongs.
Gabby misses him, and he honestly remembers her more than me most days. She’s doing great things; everyone is so proud of her. She is the nicer sister after all. I know her summers and winters away from home are tough on her, too, but she always had a point of return. After Saratoga, she won’t. She’ll visit because after all, we’re closer than most families we’ve seen growing up, but from here on out, she’ll make her own home.
Team Gaudet will be whole again in Maryland after Labor Day but they always say hindsight is 20-20. We won’t fully know the weight of this summer until months from now. We won’t know for a while what all we learned from the six-hour drives up and down I-95. How much we enjoyed our five stalls in Barn 71 on the Oklahoma Training Track, or on the other side, how hard the nights at home were and how lucky we are to have each other and such a special bond as a family.
As the meet neared and end we realized it could get better or worse, but in the end, we’ll be able to say we did it.
What “it” will do for us, we’ll find out down the road.
Lacey Gaudet sent a small string to Saratoga for the first time this summer, assisted by her mother Linda, while her sister Gabby spent her second summer at the Spa working for NYRA on daily television broadcasts of the races. Lacey Gaudet is based in Maryland and coming off a career-best season by races won and purses earned in 2016.