So this story was supposed to be “slightly” following the 2016 race season. We all know how that went for Dale. With that said, it’ll still partially follow that – just adjusted slightly.
Dale walks into the hauler and lets out a sigh. So much for turning things around that weekend in Bristol.
He had been able to run up front throughout the entire event, but contact on a restart from behind saw him go around, and leave Denny Hamlin nowhere to go, resulting in heavy contact – followed by one more bout.
He had easily climbed from the car and felt fine, now released back to the motorcoach lot to get ready to head home and relax.
“Daddy okay?” Alyssa asks as Dale walks in and Dale shakes his head yes.
“You guys were fast,” Marie comments as she pulls him into a hug, lightly kissing his cheek. “You’ll get them next week at Darlington. You’re just getting the bad luck out of the way.”
“I hope you’re right as this sucks,” Dale says as he slips the top of his firesuit off. There was nothing fun about going through three wrecks in the span of five weeks – including a really hard hit after blowing a tire while testing.
“I know it does, but you and this team are amazing. You’re going to make the Chase your baby and put a great cap on the season.” She then kisses his lips slightly again as he gives her a slight smile. The assurance and love from her certainly helped his confidence and worries.
“Has anybody told you how much I love you lately?” She then smiles as she lets him go, knowing he’d want to get changed and then they could head out. “I’ll be out in 10.” She shakes her head as she watches him head off into the room.
He grabs a quick pair of jeans and a t-shirt, before going in the bathroom – a good shower would certainly help get rid of the stink he could easily smell from the sweat clinging to him. He takes a deep breath as he slips the rest of his firesuit off, followed by the underwear underneath.
He then reaches into the shower, turning the water on to let it warm up ahead of the shower. As he waits for a bit, he feels an instant wave come over to him, bringing him to his knees as the contents of his stomach find their way into the toilet.
“Mommy, is daddy okay?” Alyssa questions as she hears the puking sounds from where she is on the couch. “Daddy sick?”
“I don’t know, sweetie,” she replies as she stands up and makes her way to the bathroom. “Dale?” She goes to knock on the door, but it easily opens. She then notices him kneeling by the toilet. “Are you okay”
“I don’t know,” he answers as she slips into the bathroom. She then makes her way over, shutting the shower off as she sits down by him, rubbing his back.
“Talk to me, please….”He then lets out a sigh as he sits back, feeling as though it was all over.
“I was getting ready for the shower and I felt sick and it just came up. It’s probably just a cold, or whatever. I had the sniffles all last week remember, and with that, this and the small headache – it’s my sinuses and cold acting up. I’ll get changed, curl up, and probably feel better by the morning.” Marie wanted to easily believe him – but couldn’t. After going through the situation four years ago with his concussion after Talladega, she had read up the symptoms and things to do. Tracing the recent timeline, combined with the puking, headache and recent moods – she had her own concerns.
“That hit you took while testing was no little hit, right?” He then looks at her, growing slightly confused. “I remember that you were sore after that a little. Now we’re sitting here in the bathroom after what happened tonight. Are you sure there’s not something else going on?” Dale knew where she was going, but he didn’t want to entertain the thought. Besides the soreness experienced, the testing hit hadn’t brought much of symptoms, and the hit at Bristol tonight didn’t seem that hard.
“I think you’re just worrie-”
“It wouldn’t hurt for you to get checked out to be sure, though.” Dale lets out a sigh. He knew the testing would take all night and all he could think about was curling up in his nice comfy bed at home.
“Can’t we wait till tomorr-”
“Mickey said the quicker you know, the better so you can take the right approach needed. I damn well care about you so I’m not letting you put it off.” She then stands up, walking out of the bathroom. “I’m calling Chase and seeing if he’ll watch the kids for the night. We’re then getting everything checked out, got it?”
“I told you that it was proba-”
“Can you do a favor and at least agree to this? I don’t want to have to drag your ass into the doctor with you kicking and screaming.” Knowing that he wasn’t going to win the argument – and not having the energy to go further, he reluctantly agreed to go along with her thoughts.
Marie’s predictions proved to be right as all the symptoms, combined with the right tests, came to the same conclusion. It was why the following Tuesday he was on a plane to see Mickey in Pittsburgh rather than headed to Pitronia as originally planned.
The discussion with Mickey didn’t lead to the answers that they wanted, or at least that was Dale clear thought. Mickey told him it’d be best to take the time off and fully heal, giving up the rest of the year based on the symptoms and severity. After prescribing a series of exercises and rules, he made Dale agree to come see him a couple weeks later.
Returning back to North Carolina afterwards, Dale was left to his own thoughts the entire flight home. He hated to admit it that both Marie and Mickey were right. He had to take care of himself first and foremost, and this was no joking matter. You only got one brain per life, and it controlled a lot about you so you best care about it. Letting out a sigh and feeling defeated, he knew there was no choice but to listen to the doctor.
“I’m sorry for bickering at you Saturda-” he starts once he comes to his senses on everything.
“It’s fine, Dale,” she assures him. “I know you needed that kick in the pants, because I know what you’re like. It’s also part of that mood that you get in. At least we know the truth now before it gets worse, and am going through the right steps.” He shakes his head yes, agreeing, as he wraps an arm around her. He watches as she takes out her phone, opening up her text messages to Stacey. He watches what she starts to type, snatching the phone from her. “Hey!”
“You’re still flying to Pitronia as planned this week.” She then looks at him surprised.
“I need to take care of yo-”
“I can take care of myself. Besides, I’m just supposed to be following these basic exercises and resting for now till Mickey wants to step it up a notch. Take the kids and go to Pitronia, have some fun, and do the business required. It’ll give me the peace and the quiet that I need.” The plan made sense as she knew the kids wouldn’t leave Dale alone to let him rest. However, she still didn’t feel comfortable.
“What if you nee-”
“Kelley, Chase, Rick – I’ve got options. The country won’t stop just because I rattled my brain. Go.” In truth, he hated to say those words. He would’ve preferred to have her with him 24/7 through this. She was his rock and comfort to everything. He didn’t know if he could honestly do it without her. However, he knew it’d be unfair to everyone else to keep her to himself.
“What about the wedding? Maybe we should postpone it so we can focus on your recovery, and then get back to planning.” Dale shook his head no.
“Most of the planning is done and what is left you can do without much of my influence. I don’t want to change the date as I want to marry you as soon as possible. So therefore, that’s not changing either. Life is going to carry forward as normal – we’re just going to have to work through some things for awhile.” She then sets her phone down, laying her head against him.
“I love you so much, truthfully and honesty. We can do this. We’ve done worse.”