Today is Derby Day. The first Saturday in May. It’s also the fifth of May known by Americans, looking for an excuse to drink, as “Cinco De Mayo”. Tywana and I are hosting our Derby Party for the ninth time in ten years only missing the year Kayla graduated high school.
We’ve got this Derby Party routine down. Basically, Tywana handles all the food except the burgoo and the pulled meat. I decide to switch it up and do pork this year instead of beef. I rise at my normal time and instead of going for my walk, I get the burgoo on and the pork in the InstantPot. A couple of hours is what it takes to get everything chopped, sautéed, simmered and into the respective pots for the long slow cook that will go on until 5:30 when the guests start to arrive. I’ve got enough time to get the grass cut, showered and to make a quick trip to Jungle Jim’s to pick up a case of the IPA I found there last night. I only bought a six pack, but I tasted it and liked it.
Tywana tells me that one of our guests can’t make it. They’ve been here every year since we started the parties. He’s got a lingering medical issue and got the order this morning to go on bed rest. Another couple texts their regrets. He’s dealing with what has become a chronic issue and can’t make it this year. Man, getting old sucks.
It’s two o’clock and I haven’t seen Kayla yet today. We all went to bed around midnight. Tywana, her sister and her sister’s friend are out at the grocery store. My PTSD kicks in. What if Kayla’s dead? Shayna slept in, or so we thought, and when we finally went to check her, she was gone. What if the same thing has happened to Kayla? I think of how my life would be. A feeling of panic sweeps over me. I want to go to her room and wake her up. But, that’s silly. She’s either alive or she’s not, checking won’t make any difference. I resist the temptation, watch a television program, and clean the fish tank. Tywana gets home and I hear someone say “Kayla’s up.” Crisis avoided. The party can proceed.
It’s almost time for the guests to arrive. Tywana’s in her hat and dress, the women typically dress up for the party. The men, not so much. I’ve worn Hawaiian shirts before. I like to be colorful. Not one to follow tradition, I decide this year to wear my dashiki, black shorts and my purple Chuck Taylors. In honor of Shayna I also wear my amethyst bracelet. Maybe a dashiki will be my new tradition. The guests start arriving, I pour myself a shot of Jim Beam’s Bonded and the party is underway.
I’m on the deck when I hear the sound of bugle coming from inside the house. Mark’s here. Mark lives a street over from us. We’ve known their family for I guess around 20 years now. His daughter is like my daughter, same age as Kayla. But, Mark is a bit “different”. Great guy. I love him to death. But, Mark is… a Trump supporter. Yep. I have friends who are Trump supporters. Mark walks out onto the deck where I’m engaged in conversation with some people and I see he is wearing a giant black sombrero. He’s celebrating Cinco De Mayo. The “irony” (I’m being nice here) is not lost on me. Here is a Trump supporter celebrating a (fake) Mexican holiday. I tell Mark he can stay but the sombrero has to go. Sadly, he thinks I’m joking and the sombrero stays too.
Kayla finds me and tells me someone has left a plate of pulled pork on the ottoman. Everyone has gone outside to take pictures and Stevie seizes the opportunity, as Stevie will do. Stevie has learned to ask me for what she wants. She will look in the direction of what she wants, look back at me and vocalize. It’s not barking, it’s not whining. If you know Stevie, you know what I’m talking about. Stevie literally thinks she is talking. She has decided she wants pie. She’s over at the counter where the pies are and asking me for some. “Uh, no Stevie and you weren’t supposed to have the pulled pork either.”
The race goes off, the party continues. One of the guests who normally stays until the end gets light headed and she and her husband have to leave. Another says her back is hurting and she and her husband leave. Two other guests, who are normally late night people up with us, aren’t drinking and they leave early because they’ve signed up for the Flying Pig half marathon tomorrow and have to be up at the crack of dawn. By 9:30 all the old and sick people that we have become are gone. Everyone has gone home. Tywana’s sister has thrown her hip out walking up the stairs. And, she’s bemoaning the fact she left her antacid back in West Virginia and her stomach is killing her. She’s off to bed at 10:30. Tywana and I have everything cleaned up by 11 and I think we are actually in bed before midnight. What just happened? Kayla jokes next year we’ll have to start serving food at 4:00. Maybe not next year, but soon. These people just can’t hang anymore.
Stevie’s on the couch, asleep. Normally, when I say time for bed, she pops right up. But, she’s lethargic. She stretches, looks zonked, but makes it outside for the last bathroom trip of the night and makes it upstairs. It’s been a long day for Stevie. She and Zoe love parties, but they disrupt their sleep patterns. She’ll sleep well tonight.
When I rise on Sunday, I go into the bathroom and Zoe greets me as always. I look in on Stevie in her kennel. She’s curled up in the back, eyes still closed. The PTSD kicks in again. “Did she eat too much pulled pork? It has onions in it. What if she’s dead? She hasn’t vomited. There’s no blood. There’s no diarrhea. She’s probably OK. I should wake her up. What good will it do to wake her up? Maybe I should have taken her to the vet last night.” All of this goes through my head in less time than it takes to type it out. But, I set it aside. I can’t do anything about it now. Might as well go for my walk. I take my walk, wondering what time Tywana will get up and wondering if I’ll get a call or a text telling me Stevie didn’t make it. But, when I get home, Stevie greets me at the door. Another crisis avoided.
Sunday morning, a Facebook memory pops up of the 2013 Derby. It’s the women in their hats. I blow up the picture to see who is in it. “She doesn’t come anymore.” “Wow, she’s aged.”. I think of how Shayna was still around then, probably over at Lexi’s house or maybe here. I don’t remember. The thing about annual traditions is they can lull you into a false sense that nothing has changed. Derby Party is Derby Party. But, every Derby Party is different from the last Derby Party. We’re all getting older. Some of won’t be here for next year’s for one reason or another. Everything changes. We all grow old. Carpe diem.