Marie, just be there for your sister. The basketball team is good for her. You know it helps keep her out of trouble. I need you to just pick her up this last time. Do this for me. My dad’s words flow through my mind. Do this for him. Good old dependable Marie. Picking up my sisters from various basketball, volleyball, soccer and gymnastics practices. Keeping the house somewhat clean and organized. Making sure a decent dinner is cooked. Being the homemaker.
Really, I don’t mind helping every now and then. Being dependable and helpful is part of my personality. I just don’t like having to help out all the time and not really be able to do anything for me – like sleeping! A 30-minute drive to and from the school where I have to get my sister might not seem like a long one, but for a college student who just finished six hours of work followed by several hours of classes, the hour-long round trip seems like a wide canyon between my comfortable bed and me. Unfortunately, I feel guilty when I don’t help my dad. I guess I’m classified as the typical truck driver’s daughter. Slightly lonely, maybe bitter, worried, suffering from the lack of a relationship between father and daughter.
The feelings of a lacking relationship began when I was in elementary school. Donuts for Dads. A simple gathering for us eight-year-olds and our fathers. Walking into the school with its navy blue carpets and putty gray walls, most students would happily skip along the hallway while holding the large hands of their fathers.
After reaching the classroom, the dads would awkwardly sit in chairs designed for second-grade bodies. Children would scurry around the classroom showing dads sloppily painted artwork masterpieces and sheets of paper filled with even sloppier cursive manuscripts. The bell sounded in the hallways, signaling time for everyone to say the Pledge of Allegiance. Children then volunteered to get their fathers cups of coffee or orange juice from the “clown-nose red” art table serving as a buffet. Our teacher, Mrs. Brookes, walked around the room handing the fathers plates with Krispy Kreme donuts – two for each father and one for each child.
My fellow classmates would spend weeks looking forward to this simple but grand event. Did I look forward to it? No. My dad couldn’t come because he would be in the truck in Atlanta or some other distant city. So what was there for me to do during this mean, unfair event while other kids sat next to their dads? I sat at my desk, slowly sipping a cup of orange juice. I knew my dad had to work. He was cool; he drove a big truck all over the place. Maybe he would take me for a ride in the truck once he got back home. I wonder if it really bothered him that he wasn’t there for Donuts for Dads or for other events in our lives.
I’m a junior in college now. Just turned 21. I will admit, beneath the appearance of bitterness, I feel hurt and left out. In a way, I’m also worried. The roads and highways aren’t the safest places to work. About eight years ago, my family lived in Greenville, S.C.. Coming home from one of his road trips, my dad approached the outskirts of the city – during rush hour. Interstate 85 seemed normal in its chaotic five o’clock traffic. Cars bumper to bumper. Road construction causing red dust to rise from the bulldozers and the pickup trucks belonging to the Board of Public Works. Slowly but steadily, he followed another tractor-trailer in the left lane, avoiding having to deal with brake lights from surrounding cars. Unfortunately, frequent flashing of brake lights wasn’t the only common occurrence during five o’clock traffic. The sun glaring off mirrors, cars and windshields blinding drivers as they journeyed from one location to another accompanied the lights.
Approaching his exit, No. 44, my dad put on his traffic signal to change lanes. He glanced at his passenger-side mirror before beginning to merge into the right lane. Because of the glare on the mirror, he didn’t change lanes right away. Instead, he looked ahead only to see the truck in front of him quickly approaching his windshield. Wait a minute! What the