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At some point, his mother called him Smilin’ Eyed Jack. And they say I’m the writer. Never has a better description been given about a person than the one Sam hung on our middle son.

Jack goes to college this week. Man we’re going to miss him. 

His eyes really do smile. The rest of him does, too, as you probably know if you’ve ever taken a paper from him. 

This summer, he earned the title of Chief Head Honcho of Distribution, which started out as a joke but became a reality. It means every morning he loads several thousand newspapers in a car and heads to the track. Then he takes several thousand newspapers out of a car and puts them in a golf cart. Then he takes them out of a golf cart and puts them all over the backside and frontside. If you take a paper from a black rack or a green box every day, chances are Jack put it there. 

He overslept a few times (Saturday, for one), but he got out there. Mostly, he gave a darn about the project. That’s all we could ask. He sold an ad to Maestro’s restaurant this summer, on charm, conversation and conviction. He has 20 percent coming to him. He also continued an annual tradition of making friends and meeting people. 

We like to say most anybody who takes the time to read The Special likes it. It’s similar with Jack. When people meet Jack, they like him. He was 5 when The Special started, a little towheaded boy with big cheeks and blue eyes that sparkled or glinted or something. Now he’s 18 and almost taller than I am. Jack swears he’s taller, but I’m sticking to my opinion, though I’m not going near a measuring stick. The cheeks are still there, if you look hard enough, and the eyes still smile. 

We live in Maryland, near Fair Hill, but more than anyone in our family Jack made Saratoga his home in the summer. And not just the city. He embraced you, the people. Jack made friends with children, parents, grandparents, jockeys, trainers, owners, security guards, restaurant owners, innkeepers, grooms, racing officials, valets, pretty much anyone. He’ll bounce in from a morning on the backside and talk about a conversation he had with Carl Domino, Shaun Bridgmohan, Andrew Byrnes or Sergio the box usher. Joe Vernon and Jack were tight. Letty McLaughlin thinks Jack is the greatest. Jack and Rajiv Maragh text.

And it’s been that way, only less technological, since the beginning. That first summer, Jack was about to be a kindergartener. He went to Congress Park to feed the ducks. This year, he went on dates. Somewhere along the way, he almost got arrested for being too young to drive a golf cart. Keys were confiscated, tears were shed. We laugh about it now. 

He tried to get other jobs, found a few (Fasig-Tipton usher, bad valet parker, etc.) but always worked for The Special. He brought papers to the box seats, followed me around, woke up early with Uncle Sean, took photos, made pizza/grocery/dry-cleaning runs, provided feats of humor and good cheer. He also slept, a lot. Well, cumulatively he slept very little but when he slept, he slept. Sam and I have dozens of photos on our phones. If there’s a couch Jack’s asleep on it. Yesterday, he walked in the house at 11:30 in the morning and declared, “I’m drained, I am drained – mentally, physically, everything.” Then he napped.

He’s about to be a freshman at Salisbury University. He says he wants to be an FBI agent and will major in conflict management and dispute resolution or some such thing. I think he could go to law school someday. Mostly, I want him to be himself. 

Smile, laugh, meet people, have conversations, try to get some sleep (not on couches), go to class, learn, live and don’t forget about all the people who care about you – in Saratoga and beyond.