Sweet! You’re back! Yep, it’s time to spend a few more moments off the 1000-foot asphalt lanes with the one-and-only “Fast Jack” Beckman, and as promised, in Part Two of our interview, he delivers on the fun he has hanging out in the attic, playing a killer game of Hide and Seek, and ice hockeying (Is that even a word? Oh well…it is now!) it up with a family member! Yep, that’s the point of GOT…to go places that you might not ordinarily see or hear about from the mini-moments we experience by watching them on the tube. Sure, you can get their autograph while at the track, or watch ’em at work in their cockpits, (Even though you gotta look really fast at 300-plus miles per hour) but when these folks slow down for a bit, you quickly learn that they’re a lot more like us than we realize. Sure, they wear firesuits on the job, experience G-forces that cause an astronaut to say, “Dude…seriously?”, and they basically put their lives on the razor’s edge during every run, but other than that…yeah, we’re pretty much the same inside!
Anyway, let’s get back to Jack. Gracious with his time and thoughtful with his responses, we’ve gotten to know a guy who puts his heart and soul into everything he does, including his love for his family, friends, and the epic ’68 El Camino he’s currently bringing back to life. So, no more goofing around…let’s get Trackin’!
GOT–Talk about a person, not a family member or someone involved in racing, that brings about a huge amount of joy and laughter into your life. It’s that person who, even when you’re having a great day, causes you to feel, “Man, my day’s going to get even better!”
JB-“Joy and laughter. That’s a very specific thing you’re asking. You know, I behave differently around different people, and that’s not to say that I’m a chameleon and change colors around people, but I think everybody would have to admit that, that your demeanor, temperament, heart rate…subtle things, all change slightly depending on who you’re around. I have a good childhood friend who’s name is Danny, and Danny’s not necessarily a jokester-type of guy, but, I’m funnier when I’m around him. I’m more clever, I’m quicker-witted. In other words, I guess there’s subtle puzzle pieces, and you get slightly different around different individuals there. I am so blessed that…I’m not a religious guy at all, so when I say blessed, that doesn’t have to carry a religious connotation. Blessed can mean fortuitous. But I still maintain contact with a lot of my childhood friends that I met when I was five or six years old. We don’t see each other on a regular basis because of geography and life, but like my friends I was in the Air Force with, we can pick up a conversation right where we left off, even though we haven’t spoken in five years, and there’s no awkwardness to that. So, I think…you know, this is where I truly advocate relationships. There are a lot of people that really don’t have any friends. Now, if you want to say friends, there’s a tight, tight inner circle. Then there’s one or two in the next circle. Then there’s five or six in the next circle. Then, there’s two dozen, say acquaintances. I have those as well, but I find that…I think this is the way I want to phrase this: I think that people that have enormous egos don’t solicit advice from anybody, because they think they’re the best at everything. I think I was smart enough at a young enough age to realize that I may not be the best at anything. Some things, I’m damn good at, and then there are some things I’m completely inadequate at, but I have got friends and family to fill in all those weak areas, and it’s easy for me to reach out for advice, counseling, direction, guidance, whatever, in any area that I need help in, because I have such a potpourri of friendships. There’s always somebody out there that’s an expert ‘Phone A Friend’ for me. I know that’s a really big segue from the question you asked, but I think every one of us is an amalgam of every relationship and every interaction we’ve ever had, and if you don’t give credit to that, then I think you spend so much time focused on yourself that you really miss one of the biggest aspects of life.”
GOT–You’ve got two children, and though I don’t want to ask specifics about them in regards to their privacy, I have a general question about them. Obviously, your children can completely change your life. What can your kids get you to do that no one else can?
JB-“Drop everything. Just to be with them. My son Jason is 11 years old, and loves ice hockey. Loves it. So, his big deal at home when he’s not practicing shooting in the garage is that he likes to play knee hockey upstairs on the carpet with a small net, small sticks, and a ball. Now, some days I might be outside working on my project, which is my very first car, a ’68 SS 396 El Camino that I took my driving test on the day of my 16th birthday. It’s been in the family since 1979. I bought it from my dad when I was 15. I’m putting it back on the street. It’s a cool project. I enjoy it. I don’t get to work on it much, so sometimes I set aside a couple of hours because that’s important to me. But, if my son asks me if I can play hockey with him. I will drop everything to do that, because the song, “The Cat’s In The Cradle” is something I don’t ever want my kids to think. My daughter, Layla, is seven years old, and sometimes she wants to play Hide and Seek, or she wants to go up in the attic of the garage and sit at her little desk up there and draw. She’s got a little tin mailbox up there, and she’ll write me little notes and put them in there, and then she wants me to put little gifts in it for her. Well, I’ll drop everything I’m doing, walk up the stairs in the garage, pick up her mailbox, and we do that, because…I am scared at how old I am right now, and how fast the years have gone by. I have been out of the military for 31 years, and I swear that was six years ago. It is dizzying how the clock starts picking up speed as you pile on the years, and at some point I won’t be able to do those things anymore, and I want my kids to have wonderful memories. I want them to be able to look at that car 20 years from now and not say, ‘God, that thing meant so much to Daddy and he didn’t do much stuff with us.’ I want them to say, ‘Man, I know Dad loved that car, but you could tell he loved us 100 times more than that. He always stopped to do things with us.'”
GOT–One more kiddo question. Your life and your story of battling cancer have been a real inspiration and taught other people across the country great lessons. What have your children taught you?
JB–“It’s funny to hear you say that, because if someone introduces me somewhere, I think, ‘God, this guy sounds really interesting’, until I realize they’re talking about me, and I’m not really interesting, because…I’m just me. So, I’m always almost taken aback when somebody makes a comment like that, and I need to be better at embracing that and using it in my arsenal to be helpful to people. I didn’t understand what unconditional love was. No concept of it, until my son was born. I had been through chemotherapy. I was sterile after chemotherapy. It was a surprise when my wife Jenna got pregnant. We were not expecting to have a child, and so this little guy comes out, and in my mind I had already been perfectly fine with the fact that I was never going to have kids. I was totally comfortable with that. I didn’t carry regrets or feel sorry for myself, so now I really had to gear up for the fact that I was now going to be a dad. It’s been life-changing on so many levels, but mostly from the heart and soul. I just didn’t understand unconditional love. Then, here comes our little girl, and I’m like, ‘Oh God, a daughter. I don’t know how I’m going to teach her lessons. I mean, I can picture myself throwing a baseball with my son and doing all those guy things. I don’t know you would raise a daughter’. People used to say, ‘Oh, she’ll have you wrapped around her finger’ and I thought, ‘That’s just people talking.’ Wow. Wow. Same unconditional love, but in a completely different way, if that makes sense. So, I guess the way I would put it is, if my wife were terminally ill, I would give her a kidney. If my son or daughter were terminally ill, I would give them my heart, and I wouldn’t think twice about it.”