I am strong, I am invincible, I am woman!!!
by Melanie Athwal
Before Harb went into trucking, he owned two boutiques. I was working in a hospital accounting department and going to school.
Soon thereafter I got a job for a Department store doing bookkeeping. I had two kids from a previous marriage and a huge (for the time) mortgage payment.
Needless to say, money was tight BUT he always looked and smelled good! One day a friend of his was trucking through town. He met him at a truck stop for coffee. He came home excited! He wanted to go into trucking! He told me, "I could earn $2000 a month!" This was 1988.
After working as hard as he did to get his two shops up and running, I didn't really believe he would do it so nodded and smiled and said "That's nice honey." I didn't give it another thought.
One day, seemingly out of the blue, he came home and told me he signed on with Mayflower Transit and would be closing his stores and going to Indiana to Mayflower school.?????
I thought he was kidding! Imagine my surprise when he started selling off everything, had a going out of business sale, brought home what was left of his store and stuck it in the garage. I was still in disbelief!
I even drove him to the SEATAC airport with whatever money he could scrape together for his airline ticket and expenses for the next six weeks,kissed him goodbye and sent him on his way! I figured he would come to his senses and come home and we would go back to our "real" lives.
The next time I saw him, he drove up in a 1986 Kenworth (Ken what? Who?) he had stopped along the way to shower and shave but still smelled like he had been in a cloud of diesel! The reality finally sank in! ( duuhh!) That was May 1988. Soon thereafter, I landed a job with the State of WA making enough money so we could breathe a little easier.
I figured trucking was a phase he was going through and was hopeful he would find a "real" job and come home.
Twenty five years later, he's still out there. I've since learned, it's in the blood! Whenever he's home too long, he starts getting restless and starts rummaging around the house and garage looking for things to do.
When we were in our 30s, we talked about retiring at 55. Well 55 has come and gone, (he's 57 now) and he finally announced one day that he'll probably quit when they make him quit! Hmm......
It hasn't always been easy especially early in my husband's twenty five years + of bed bugging.
Parenting was especially trying. When our son was born (almost three weeks early) he was in Los Angeles and fully loaded. He figured he would make it home on time for the due date but Mother Nature wasn't working according to his plans!
I went into labor on a Saturday night. all of my back up birth partners were either out of town or out for the night! My oldest son was on the road with my husband on a summertime adventure, my dad came in from Honolulu to try trucking out and was also on the road with my husband co driving.
Because we had no cell phones in those days, there was no way for me to get ahold of him to let him know that it was time. I called my mother in Hawaii to let her know, in case my Dad called her so she could let him know so he could tell my husband! This was my first big lesson in independence!
At 3:00am I had a decision to make: I could call a cab and wait for half an hour for it to show up at my house, or I could get into my car and take myself to the hospital! fortunately there was no traffic at that time of day and the hospital was only a few miles away. So I got into my car, backed out of my driveway, had a contraction, (they were five minutes apart by this time) and proceeded down the road to the hospital. That child was going to be born with or without his daddy present!
Needless to say, balancing parenting and managing my own career has had its particular challenges under the circumstances! Thankfully, my job is only 6 miles from home. I've been able to take care of the emergencies and errands that go with managing a home and child.
It seemed the only time our child got sick, the kitchen sink plugged up or the car broke down was right after he drove out of town. Those situations were full of compromise!
He always said, "I could have fixed "It" myself" ... if only he were home. Most times he was not, so a call to a repairman or shop had to do. Over the years he has resigned himself to plunking down the money to pay the repair people no matter how ridiculous he thinks their fees are....
And I have my list of favorite contractors and plumbers stored on my cell phone!
I am extremely fortunate my job is very family oriented and has a generous benefit package that allowed me to be at the beck and call of our child every time he got sick or had a school function.
Sadly, my older children weren't around very much longer after our baby was born so often times it was just me and him at home. It was more important than ever that I was there for him.
Being raised almost as an only child, it was important to us that we kept him busy! there were school functions, play dates, scouting, karate lessons and snowboarding. All of which required chauffeuring to and from these events. Guess who?..
Before our son was old enough to drive, I spent many hours sitting in uncomfortable ski lodges reading while our son was out on the slopes.
Though there were many times that were filled with feelings of loneliness and frustration, there were also many opportunities for personal growth.
In my husband's many absences, I learned to make decisions quickly and became very independent. As our child grew and needed me less and less (imagine that!) Ive used the time to pursue other interests that keep me busy while hes away.
I got and maintained a massage license for about ten years, doing massage part time on the side. I really enjoyed body work and the classes that went with it. Now my only "clients" are my husband and son.
To shelter us from the wrath (and greed) of Uncle Sam, we went into the rental business. It sounded good in theory, only I didn't know the "manager" was going to be me! I traded massage for painting and cleaning and calling in contractors and repair men!
Slowly, mostly because I'm getting older and no longer have the strength and desire to do all this "in my spare time" , the properties are being turned over to property managers. THANK GOD! (We still get the tax breaks but I don't have as many headaches anymore!)
Our relationship has flourished. Every time he comes home, it's like a honeymoon all over again! It keeps life interesting.
Now that our son is grown (and also driving truck) we are in a better place financially and emotionally.
He doesn't have to work as hard as he used to, I have tons of vacation hours at work - Although all he wants to do sometimes is come home and relax and eat home cooking - we go on vacation on a regular basis and dine out at least once a week.
There were times when I was envious and wished I could see what he sees.
The best I can get are vague descriptions when I ask what it's like there, "Oh, it's pretty" or " damn it's hot!" The good thing is, whenever we've gone to some of these places on vacation, like Florida or DC, I never have to worry about getting lost...
From the time our son was eight, he would go on on the road with my husband every summer. I was left home holding down the fort. I usually took those opportunities to do major projects to redecorate a room in our house or overhaul the yard.
Reminds me of that song by Johnny Cash where he sings about "I've been everywhere man." Our son was the only one of his peers who could say that. There were times when I wished I could go too and suffered from the left at home blues!
It was great dad and son bonding time for the two of them. It kind of made up for the rest of the year. When our son was old enough to help load and unload, my husband paid him. At the tender age of sixteen, we started him on the way to financial independence by helping him open his first ROTH.
When we talk about doing projects it's always "when I get home." His latest project started two summers ago. He was going to build a raised garden. He was all motivated, went out and bought all his supplies, got dispatched sooner than he thought he would, ... the supplies? theyre still sitting there. . . When he walks through the door, he takes a few days to catch his breath before starting work on the "honey do" list.
For those of you who are new to this life, keep in mind it's not a "phase" he's going through. It's a real calling! You must become self reliant and take pleasure is your accomplishments, pat yourself on the back for "keeping it together", seek the support of friends and family and above all stay busy, busy, busy.
Take the time for self improvement. Remember to be honest and open about your feelings, be willing to work through difficult times together, be available to share triumphs as well as frustrations and disappointments.
Treat every difficulty you overcome as a triumph! Take pride in being a trucker's wife and the important work they do. Remember: you got it truck brought it AND trucks bring good things!
When he walks through the door, smile and welcome him with open arms! :)