When I was just 20 years old my mother was suffering from cancer. She died in my arms. It was the hardest thing I ever had to deal with in my life and has forever changed me. It was then, that I told myself ‘I will live every day to the fullest’, and I have. Although, I must say, some days I may have pushed the envelope a bit.
After my Mom passed I got married some years later to only get divorced within 9 months. I wasn’t the perfect husband nor the easiest to get along with at that point in my life. We both moved on. I then met and got remarried (to Dina) and we have built a life together. When we bought our first house, we closed on a Thursday and me and the entire house was gutted by Friday. Dina wasn’t very happy with me when she walked into an empty house, but that’s the way I roll. Ya, well that was then anyway. Now, she’s on to me.
A short time later, Dina bought home our new child …our fur child. She brought home Bella. The Wonder Pug. Dina had gotten Bella for me, but that as you may realize is not how things turned out. Bella was no Daddy’s girl.
At that time, I traveled quite a bit for work, so Dina and Bella were like Mom and daughter. Dina had trained her from day one. She was not only trained to always be on her best behavior, but she was also trained as a ‘Pet Therapy Dog’. Dina would take her to Nursing Homes to visit with the patients. She also was a ham. As soon as a camera came out Bella would stop what she was doing and pose for the picture. She traveled across the US to every race track we raced at, and she had her own fans. There were many times that fans requested to see Bella after walking right past the race cars! She has brought so much happiness to so many people. She sucks you in with those googly eyes. She was fun and goofy too. Like a kid. At our old house, we had a Koi pond. We had one fish whose name was Dude. He was bigger than Bella. These two would play fight! Bella would sit by the edge of the pond and wait for Dude to come up on a rock. Bella would tap him on the head with her paw and Dude would flip water on her with his tail. It was so amazing to watch. That is just one of so many stories about her.
Bella was put to rest on Monday November 7th. I can’t tell you the empty feeling we have. She was with us for 15 amazing years and has been through so much with us. She drove me nuts at times, but now I miss it. As I said I traveled a lot with my old job, and wasn’t home often, so Dina and Bella did everything together. There are people who say ‘they are just dogs’, but we disagree. She was our kid, our family. It has been a rough road for all of us, since we left NY. Especially for Bella, the last couple of years have been tough. She slowed down, and her health declined, yet she was always a good girl.
I owe Bella a lot, you see I was a Corporate guy who got caught up in the world of all work and no play. Climbing the Corporate ladder and not seeing my family. Well, when they ‘downsized’ and I was home a bit more often. I got to spend a lot of time with my family and realized that Bella had the best life. She was keeping Dina sane while I wasn’t home, (which is not an easy job) kept an eye out on my family and was always there. I know we all have to work to get ahead in life but at what price? I heard this once and will never forget it; ‘Where is the richest place on earth? The Cemetery it is here that you will find all the hopes and dreams that were never fulfilled.’ Think about it.
Make the best of life while you are here. I don’t want to be all doom and gloom, but it’s true. So, let me say this. We have been very fortunate in our life to be able to do a lot of cool things we have set out to do. We had the best fur kid ever. She is now in a better place, probably hanging with some cool people.
Something I have struggled with growing up and even recently is believing in myself. Growing up my father wasn’t very supportive of me. As he put it, I was the garbage that was put out to the curb. So, you can imagine our relationship, like oil and water. So, I did things to drive him nuts on purpose. Oh, hell ya! My older brother gave me a chemistry set at the age of 13 but made me promise not to tell my parents he gave it to me. My father just had the stucco house painted (yes, it’s an Italian thing) and my bedroom was on the second floor. One day, I made invisible ink with that chemistry set. As I did, I had heard my father screaming my name for something I must have done. So, I poured the ink out the window. OK, I kinda poured it on the house. Well, my father left for work and saw a blue line (out my bedroom window) then it would disappear. This went on for a week. I came home day to see the painters were back. I said this can’t be good. Let’s just say, I got busted, and boy was I in trouble! Anyway, growing up was difficult, and losing my only support system (my Mom) made it that much harder. When you hear your entire life that you are useless, you begin to believe it. Going through tough times is when you really seem to buy into it. Lack of confidence is such a terrible thing to live with, especially when it is brought on by a parent and not necessarily my own doing or my own ‘fault’. But it is my fault. I let my own father put this fear in me and I believed it. Dina gets very mad at me when I doubt myself. If you don’t have someone that supports you in life, your dreams, your accomplishments, move on from that person. Going to the race track and seeing families racing together and watching the kids out with their parents makes me so proud to be part of this sport. I was reminded today, you have to believe in yourself, you are smart, own it.
Well, 2017 is just about here. Man, are we looking forward to a new start! Stella is undergoing a full makeover from the ground up. We have changed almost everything in the car and each day another part gets ordered. 2017 just has a great ring to it. A redemption year for DPR. Between Stella’s makeover, Dina and I are going thru a full body and mind transformation as well. Not that I need a transformation, because Dina is older than me anyway. We are waiting for a few things to fall into place. It looks as if we will be running NMCA in 2017, but we will have an official announcement after the new year. Of course, that will be followed by updates to the website as well.
I think we are going see some great racing this year. NMCA, PDRA, ADRL and NHRA will have a lot of fast and exciting teams competing for a championship. Donald Longs race in February is going to be another crazy race. I don’t see a lack of anywhere to race this year in fact, there may be too many choices. I’m sure you will see many teams stepping up their programs, including us.
2016 is almost over and It was a bumpy ride for sure. We don’t know what the future holds but we do know what the past has taught us. Life is short, go out and enjoy it while you can. Do something crazy once and while! Jump in the snow naked, drive a race car, go on a roller coaster ride after drinking tequila. The holidays are a tough time for many people who don’t have family, so if you know someone who is going thru tough times, grab them and tell them you are there for them, even if it is not physically. Open your home, invite them to dinner. This time of the year is very hard for so many, trust me I know firsthand. Being around positive, loving, caring, supportive people is so important. Remember, pay it forward.
Uh, oh! I am starting to hear voices from the Boss lady. Might have to make some fake snow and bury her in it! Anyway, have a great Holiday season! Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah and a Happy, Healthy, Prosperous New Year!
Keep on believing in yourself and live life to the fullest. Next up 2017 and beyond. Time to plug high gear and let’s go!
See you all soon.
Andrew ‘Bam Bam’ Parise