This is in response to Al Goodhall’s Over the Road column in the December issue of Truck News.
I wanted to share the other side of the coin, so that other women and the men they love understand it is difficult for both partners in this relationship.
In 2001 I met the man who will become my husband in 2016. He is the most important man in my life, but my life with him over the last 14 years hasn’t always been easy.
When Tom and I met, I never had any idea what being his girlfriend would mean.
While my friends had their spouses home every night, I was never sure when Tom would be home. Some weeks he was home every night and other times he was gone for a week or two at a time.
There were – and still are – times when our cell phones spend more time with us than we do with each other. I’m glad for the technology, it has helped, especially in those times when I missed him so much but hearing his voice helped a little.
When we first got together I would sometimes go on the road with him. It served two purposes.
One, I got to spend time with him and two; I learned to appreciate his job and the challenges it presents.
I didn’t simply sit in the truck when he arrived at his destination, I got out and helped. I have never been one to sit back and let others do manual labour on their own, especially if I knew I could help and it brought us together as a couple. Needless to say, I impressed more than one trucker when I got out of the truck, put on a pair of work gloves and started undoing straps and chains.
When we went on long hauls together, I stayed up as long as I could. We didn’t always talk but I like to think that simply having the company helped to alleviate his feeling alone on the highway.
The miles and days were long. At least I got sleep whenever I wanted but I did my best to keep up with Tom. It wasn’t always easy.
In addition to being involved with a trucker, I was also a step-parent to his two children. I have no children of my own so this was an additional challenge for me. I was lucky because his kids appreciated me from the start. We had our differences and thankfully, Tom was only a phone call away to help us get through the rough spots. With their dad on the road, we had to learn to get along and are stronger as a family now because of it.
Being involved with a trucker also requires me to be a jack of all trades. Living alone part-time means taking charge if something goes wrong in the house. There were many times when I really wish he had been home but again, technology was a saving grace. A phone call to calm me down and then I did what I needed to fix whatever problem life threw at me. I have my own tool set for a reason and I wasn’t afraid to use it.
Our relationship has emotional highs and lows. There were times when I didn’t like Tom’s job. I didn’t like the fact that his job took him away from me so much and I didn’t like that it took him away from his children. They love their dad but I knew his being away was hard on them as well. I used the guilt card on occasion. It wasn’t fair but I did it.
Usually the guilt was dealt out over the phone and I should have appreciated him when he was home but there were times when I wasn’t as nice as I should have been. It was my way of saying, ‘This is what you get for being away.’ I hurt and without thinking about it, I wanted to hurt him. It took a few years before I learned I was hurting us both.
I can’t get that time back but now I appreciate my time when he is home that much more, even though I joke about wanting him to go back to work five minutes after he gets home. We truly have a special relationship. I still get frustrated sometimes but at least now I am honest and open about it. I keep myself busy and no longer give up my plans on the off chance he will be home. When you live with a trucker, you are both single and in a relationship – it all depends on the day as to which relationship I am in.
I used to worry back in the day when I heard of an accident involving a trucker and never knowing if he was the one involved. I learned early on that I couldn’t worry every time there was an accident. I had to trust in a power greater than both of us that he was okay. It was probably two years into the relationship that I stopped calling when I learned of an accident. I couldn’t live my life that way but I hoped he appreciated my concern. I called because I cared and always will.
It takes being with a trucker to appreciate what they do and going on the road made me appreciate Tom and all the other truckers more. I really wish everyone understood the effort that all truckers put forth to keep themselves and those around them safe.
I wouldn’t give my trucker up for the world, I love him and I know without him and all the other hard working truckers I wouldn’t have any of the beautiful things I do.
Natalie Merritt lives in Melancthon, Ont. and writes about all the fascinating themes life has thrown her way.