Roll on, daddy

About the Author
My name is Jennifer Alexander, and I am 27 years old. I began going on trucking trips with my father when I was a little girl. The first time I ever saw the ocean was on a trip with my daddy. It was always special when he took me with him. I remember singing on his CB and another driver giving me my own handle: Shirley Temple. I loved the time that it allowed me to see the world with my dad. In the photo you will see me and my father, and my precious daughter Sidney, the miracle baby who Daddy made it home in time to see come into this world. Thank you all for this opportunity to share my story; I hope it touches many hearts. God Bless.

This story represents an ordinary day in my life as a child, the daughter of a trucker. I want to lovingly dedicate this story to my father, Gary Wilson Wheat, who has given more than he has taken, and regardless of the many hardships endured, he has kept on truckin’. I love you, Daddy.

Standing in the window, we watched as that big rig’s engine fired up to tell us that once more, our daddy was leaving us. As many times as we had stood there, in that same exact spot, it always hurt just as much as before, if not worse. I always hoped that if I cried a little longer or squeezed him a little harder, he would stay.

Daddy would go to the bathroom to pack up his black bag, and Momma would tell us to dry up our tears. She said it made it harder for Daddy to leave if he had to watch us cry. I wondered sometimes how much I would have to cry to make my daddy stay. God above knew I would do anything to keep him home.

When it came time for Daddy to go, Momma would take his fresh sheets and go to the truck to make the bed in his sleeper. That is when the sick feeling would start. I knew goodbye was coming. Daddy would hug Momma, give her a kiss and tell her when he would call. I think he saved my sister and me for last, because he dreaded it so much. She was younger, so she didn’t know how long he would be gone. She would cry, but I could distract her with a doll, and she would turn her attention elsewhere. Me, on the other hand, I knew. I always knew and counted the days.

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Daddy would come to me, hug me and tell me he loved me. I would breathe in deep to capture his smell. I wanted to remember it when he left. My eyes would sting so bad, and my lips would quiver, but I looked at the long face of my daddy, and I tried to force a smile. When he shut the door, I ran to the window. When he crawled in, the tears fell out. I watched and waited, hoping maybe he had forgotten something and would come back in. That big engine wailed, and the lights seemed to twinkle, as if to tell me once again, my heart was breaking. The truck started to move, and with every inch he moved, another tear fell. I would watch those tail lights until they faded into the darkness. There go the lights, there goes my daddy, and there goes my world.

If I were to count how many times in my life that I experienced heartbreak, it would go beyond my years. My life became a puzzle, in which the final piece was continually missing. I found joy in things in my life, but no joy that was ever complete. As hard as I tried, I could never find comfort in the reasons my mother gave me for my father’s absence.

“Your daddy is gone working so that you will have a better life,” or “Your daddy is doing a very important job.”

Those statements, as true as they have been, never quite filled the void in my heart when I needed him with me. At any given time, I would have traded all of my toys and youthful valuables for his everyday presence in my life.

As I grew older, I began to no longer resent my father for his job, but to respect him. People received items they needed because my daddy delivered them. That meant something to people all over the world. I knew his job was important; however, I knew his job as a father was important as well. Sometimes I felt that he was a full-time trucker and a part-time dad. Regardless, he was my daddy, and I treasured every moment he was home.

My mother tried to be the rock for us to lean on. She was Mommy, Daddy and everything in between. Strong as she was, even the toughest walls crumble at times. We were going shopping one weekend when Daddy couldn’t make it home. Being the songbirds that we were, we would sing every song on the radio, whether we knew the words or not. When the next song began to play, the car grew quiet. Alabama began playing to our hearts as we heard, “Roll on highway, roll along, roll on Daddy ’til ya get back home.” We listened quietly as not a word was spoken. When the verse began about the daddy being missing, my heart broke and my eyes filled with tears. I closed my teary eyes, bowed my head and prayed to God to let my daddy make it back home safe. I told God I was sorry for being angry at my daddy for leaving, and I begged him to find Daddy a job near home, so he never had to leave us again.

A while later, God answered that prayer that I had sent up about a new job for Daddy. He came home, and he started a new job here in our hometown. We were thrilled. Our daddy was here! We could see him, touch him and hear him. We had our daddy!

But before long, applications from trucking companies began to appear in our mailbox, one by one. I knew what was coming, but I didn’t want to accept it. A few weeks later, Momma broke the news. Daddy was going on the road again.

As bad as I hated it, I knew it was what he wanted. Trucking was in my daddy’s blood. It was who he was.

As children do, we grew older and created lives of our own. Momma, strong as always, remained our foundation. She loved Daddy like no other I’ve known. Through good times and bad, they prevailed. In my childhood, my daddy missed a lot of things. He missed church plays, school events, Easter egg hunts and a birthday or two. One event in my life that I could not have him miss was the birth of my daughter. As I lay in that hospital bed surrounded by loved ones, a part of my heart was missing. Momma had called and he was on his way, but we just hoped he made it on time.

My mind drifted off as I heard chattering in the background. In my mind, I began to sing, “Roll on highway, roll along, roll on Daddy ’til ya get back home.” As my mind wandered in excitement and fear, I prayed for my sweet baby girl to wait just a little while longer before she came into this world. Daddy’s baby did not want to meet her baby without him there. Suddenly, the doors opened, and in came the world. He was wearing overalls, a trucking cap and an exhausted smile, but he had made it. My daddy was here, and I was OK now.

I am now 27 years old, with a precious 4-year-old daughter of my own. I love my father and appreciate him for the sacrifices he made to give us a better life. Even as a grown woman, when I am driving on the highway and let a big rig in front of me in my lane, I get tears in my eyes when the trucker blinks his lights to say “thank you.” It may not be my daddy in the driver’s seat of that 18 wheeler, but chances are, it is somebody’s. I wipe the tears and smile, thinking, “Roll on.”

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