Trucker to Trucker
Friends and family: A trucker's most important resource

Sometimes when you are sitting in a restaurant, you overhear every word the trucker in the next booth is sharing with his wife. Laughing over something, sharing a private joke sometimes the guy has the guts to actually end the conversation with an audible "I love you."

Most truckers are family men and women. But by choosing trucking as a career, we are obliged to adopt a different lifestyle that takes us away from our loved ones and that's a fact. No nine-to-five for us. Our Saturdays and Sundays are not necessarily weekends and holidays when we are home. It's like being part American cowboy, part vagabond and maybe a little of "Easy Rider." But when we get home, we want to be back in the fold of our family and friends. That's not easy to do when you live two lives. It's way too easy to withdraw from your other life when you're out on the road, and it's something that can sneak up on you. You can make it a lot easier on yourself if you resist the side of you that says, "Grandma's 90th birthday? So what, I'll call her when I get home."

When you're on the road seven, 10 or 30 days at a time, the days of the week become meaningless. The dates only matter for logbooks and bills of lading. Think about the birthdays you've forgotten and the anniversaries you've missed. You were trucking! You were out there trying to earn a living for your family. Don't they understand when little things like birthdays are forgotten?

I've been married twice. When my first marriage ended, after a rocky seven years, I went to court and the judge asked me a few questions. What was your date of marriage? What is your wife's birth date? I told the judge, "If I knew those dates, I probably wouldn't be here." I thought this was very funny for a long time. Then I realized it was sad, but true. Instead of blaming the trucking lifestyle, I should have been blaming myself for not making the extra effort to remember. A phone call, a gift, a bouquet of flowers, a card, what would this have meant to the other person? When I married again, seven years later, I said I wanted to get married on my birthday, Jan. 1. But, it was a holiday, so we had to change it to Jan. 11 (this was the next best date to remember). It also turned out that her birthday happened to be on the date I got out of the service (another easy date to remember). I knew I had all the bases covered.

My excuse, I guess, was that I was busy fighting to survive in a tough business, fighting to earn a living and fighting with dispatchers. Well, now I am fighting a big disease - cancer. I now think about those cards I didn't send, calls I never made, and flowers I should have sent. I guess I didn't realize how important those little things were until I got sick. I look back on the times I should have sent a card or made a phone call, or said I'll do it when I get home or I'll see them when they feel better. Those times have come and gone.

The next time you think about blowing off the Mother's Day or Father's Day phone call, skipping the birthday flowers for the Mrs., or procrastinating on the "Get Well" card for your buddy - take control of your evil twin. You know what the right thing is, just do it.

The point is, a human being has no more important resource than friends and family. Keeping in touch with the folks in your life is especially important during holidays, when you have a tendency to feel really alone out on the road. Nothing can drive that lonesome feeling away more than letting those people know you care about them. It is an investment in your own well-being and a reinforcing of the fact you may feel isolated, out of touch and miles from home - but you are not alone.