I woke up this morning thinking about Terry Chandler. I don’t know why, exactly, but I was happy to welcome the memories.
I began calling her Aunt Terry before she chose me to be part of her life. I was fortunate to work with Johnny Gray then, and it was the easiest way for me to differentiate in conversation between wife Terry and sister Terry. I also worked with Johnny’s son Shane, so calling her ‘Aunt Terry’ seemed natural in our pit area. It was more than a nickname, though. She really was family – and not just to me. She became family to many people out there.
Terry Chandler wasn’t perfect. She could be demanding, but she went about it in a uniquely soft way. She had visions and expectations of how her visions should be executed, but she only acknowledged in short bursts that she was the one in charge. Her requests would often come as questions. “Do you think that’s okay?” she would ask after politely insisting on more stars, bigger stars, still more and even bigger stars across one of the well-known racecars she funded.
Aunt Terry was giving and thoughtful and kind. She didn’t like when people had their feelings hurt – although, yes, sometimes she could hurt feelings, and yes, she got her feelings hurt easily. She loved fiercely, forgave things she probably shouldn’t have, and was unrelenting in her generosity.
She loved to see people smile. She was strong. She was funny and warm and complex and I loved her. I still do. To this day, I wish I could call Aunt Terry and get sucked into an hour-long conversation as she chats on about every single thing while also listening to her airport scanner, talking to her assistant, sorting various papers, or making plans with Doug.
She made me feel important. She brought me into meetings in which I definitely did not belong – gatherings WAY above my pay grade – and in the middle of these meetings she would look to me and ask what I thought. IN FRONT OF EVERYONE, INCLUDING DON SCHUMACHER. While I cannot even begin to describe the level of discomfort this would bring little ol’ me, looking back, I know that it was a valuable part of my journey in terms of confidence in my career. Aunt Terry was my cheerleader, as much as she was the cheerleader for her brother, nephews, and teams on the drag strip.
When I told her I needed to make a change and was leaving, she supported me in such an unexpected way. I know it hurt her feelings. But it didn’t change how she felt about our relationship. I didn’t lose her then, and even when she passed away a few years later, I didn’t feel as though I’d truly lost her. She’s still with me on days like today.
I miss her long texts peppered with emojis. I really miss her hugs. But gosh am I ever grateful that Terry Chandler came into my life with so much love. I’m grateful she knew I loved her right back.