The last time I saw my mom was around Valentine’s Day last year. She came down to stay a few days with my very pregnant wife. My daughter, then 2 years old, was sick with a bad cold, and my mom held her for hours.
I remember my mom leaving to drive the 176 miles back to her home in northeast Alabama. We talked regularly – as we always did – over the next few weeks. Then on March 13, I got a call from my aunt telling me that my mom had been in a serious collision with an 18-wheeler. She was being airlifted to a Huntsville, Ala., hospital. She died before my wife and I could make it there. I was in shock for weeks. It just didn’t seem real.
The irony that I work for a magazine that covers the trucking industry wasn’t lost on me. I thought about it a great deal when I returned to work a couple of days after her funeral. Could I really continue being a trucking journalist?
I don’t remember much about what happened in the next few weeks. I worked hard to keep from getting behind, but I had a deep void in my life. My mom and I had been very close.
Then, just 33 days after my mom’s funeral, my son was born. My wife and I named him Patrick Caden Grider. We chose Patrick because my mom’s first name was Patricia. She would have been proud just because he was her grandson (and because I didn’t name him Augustus like I often teased her I would).
A few weeks later I was at my mom’s house going through some of her things when I stumbled across my late father’s old chauffeur’s license and medical card. My mother had kept them along with his last log book and the wallet he was carrying when he died in 1987. She also had several other mementos from his truck driving career.
My mother was a typical trucker’s wife. For years, she stayed home and raised two kids while my dad earned money the hard way. Later, when my sister and I were grown, she often went with my dad on his cross-country trips. She took pictures and enjoyed seeing places she had never been.
My mom was always proud of my dad and what he did for a living. She often bragged about him to people she met. She thought he worked too hard for the money he earned, but she enjoyed being his wife and partner.
Near the spot that I found some of my dad’s stuff, I found a stack of Truckers News. She had bookmarked some of the stories I had written or stories that I had told her were in that issue. Tears came to my eyes as I flipped through them.
The fact that she kept my magazine and my dad’s things near each other said a lot to me. When I was considering leaving the newspaper business to take the Truckers News job, I asked my mom what she thought. She told me to do what was best for my family and me. That was the only advice she gave me. She always taught me to make my own decisions. After I started working here, my mom asked me if I liked the job. I told her I did.
What impressed me more about the collection of magazines was the fact that she had almost every issue since I started working here in 2000. Several times when I visited her, I would forget to bring the current issue. I can only surmise that she must have driven the 45 minutes to the nearest truckstop to make up for my shortcomings.
I knew then that I had made the right decision to continue as a trucking journalist. I love my job and the profession I cover. If I had used my mom’s tragedy as an excuse to be bitter, I would have been wrong. My mom was never ashamed about being a trucker’s wife, and she was apparently very proud I am helping to carry on my father’s legacy – the only difference is that I use words instead of a gear shift.
I’ll always miss my mother, but I’m thankful I had someone who set an example for me to follow.