My Grief Has Taken The Form Of Go-KartingCommentary • Opinion • death • mental health • automobiles • ISSUE 42•38 • Sep 20, 2006 By Jeremy Stanzel After my wife died, my whole world was torn apart. I had never faced such a devastating loss, and I didn't know how to cope. I found myself walking around the house like a zombie, trying to comfort my children while taking call after call from concerned relatives. Still, I felt vacant. But the morning after she passed, a light bulb went on over my head. And that light bulb illuminated a tiny car speeding down a blacktop track. That's when I knew where I would learn to feel whole again, where I could start to pick up the pieces, where I might at last find peace: the go-kart track.I hadn't been on a go-kart in years. Yet suddenly and unexpectedly, it came to me as the best way to fill the void that the love of a devoted wife once filled. And I'm glad it did. To be honest, I had only planned to go out for an hour, maybe two. I didn't know why I was there; it was all kind of a blur. When the smell of gas filled my nostrils and I felt the whir of those little tires just inches under me, I lost all track of time. Soon it was late afternoon, and I remembered that I had to prepare for Becky's wake and funeral. It was sad, but I knew that the go-kart track would be there the next day, both before and after the wake, to ease my pain.I know now that Becky would have wanted it this way—especially if she knew how great the wind feels blowing through my hair as I fly past yet another cocky teenager on the final turn.But after 17 straight days of go-karting, I realized that I was simply in denial. I was using go-karting as a way to hide from the reality that Becky was not going to return. I soon found myself bargaining with the go-kart-track operator to get a discounted fare but, to my surprise, the track does not offer a bereavement rate. I had to settle for a season pass. It was not long after that it hit me that my Becky was gone for good. For an instant, my foot slipped from the pedal, and I could barely hear the roar of the engines around me, the hooting of the kids as they passed me, the honking of the horns of karts that were gaining on me. I found myself unable to control it any longer, and I burst into tears, crying and shaking as I pushed down harder on the gas to make up some lost ground. I wailed and called out to the heavens, "Why? Why did you take my Becky from me?" as I zoomed past the karts that were once half-a-length ahead of me, on the inside lane, without tapping the brake even once. My memory of the rest of the night is fuzzy.I was much too depressed to return to the go-kart track the next day. I decided it was time to move on and give the park's Pirate's Plunge a try. Our children had decided to visit their mother's grave that day, but I couldn't bear the thought of it. So I just floated down the raging rapids, thinking about everything and nothing at the same time. Even the kids landing in the water, mere feet from my head, seemed like a distant dream.I've been surprised by the way my family has dealt with Becky's death. I expected that kind of thing from her side of the family, but our own children have done nothing but stare listlessly at old photos, or lie in bed with the shades down, while there's a whole world of go-karting out there they could be sharing with their dear old dad. After I had driven my darkest feelings away, I tried to get them to come along, but all they do is cry. It's very upsetting. Everyone, I suppose, must grieve in their own way. Like Becky's father, who went back to the office to bury himself in work only a week after her passing, without so much as a single race on the go-kart track with the man who married his daughter.Many assume that I'm trying to forget my wife. But that's not true. It's clear to me that, in some ways, go-karting allows me to relive the thrill of being with her, for the first time. And whenever it's my turn to take up the pole position, I play that Cake song she liked about "Going The Distance" on my iPod, and just ride. And no matter what, I know that Becky's up there in heaven, looking down and steering me to victory.