Change Is Hard

…but change is certain.


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This didn’t have to happen

It’s happening regularly across our country. Over and over, it seems daily, I read the stories. This one happened yesterday, and not so far from me.

Look at the photos; the SUV is wedged entirely under the trailer of the semi truck. It was a dark and rainy morning, the SUV was traveling on the divided highway when the semi pulled out in order to make a turn.

The SUV driver is dead but he might have had a chance if the truck had side guards installed on the trailer. Most industrialized countries around the world have these safety devices on their trucks.

Our country doesn’t, because the trucking industry protests the weight that would be added to the truck. They say the guards will cost them money – by making those loads that are already at maximum weight be reduced. They say the guards will mean more trucks are on the road.

The truth is most trucks aren’t at the maximum weight and won’t have to decrease their load. The truth is we could probably get the weight limit increased for the 800 pounds side guards might add. The truth is we might be able to get tax credits or other benefits for truck companies willing to help make our roads safer.

Some truck companies and trailer manufacturers are beginning to consider adding guards, not because it’s legislated, but because it’s the right thing to do. They’re willing to absorb the weight and the cost because it could save lives.

There are a lot of potential solutions, but none of them came in time for the driver of this SUV. He was 75, the same age my dad was when he was hit from behind by a semi and pushed into the semi in front of him. This man’s name is William. So was my dad’s.

It just hits so hard. Another man, probably a husband, a father, maybe a grandfather, someone’s brother, neighbor, church friend, local man about town, another man is dead.

And it didn’t have to happen.

We’re working on it but we’re slow and we’re fighting uphill. We don’t have the money that the truck industry has, and it’s harder for us to influence decision makers.

But we’re not giving up and we’re not going away.

Please, if you can, support our efforts. We’re working both with industry directly and within government to get side guards installed on trailers. You can donate to the Truck Safety Coalition via PayPal at their website. Funds donated will go toward our work to make the highways safer for all of us.

And there’s another way to help. A bill is being worked on that will require side guards, and I’ll ask you to call your Senator to ask for support. I’ll let you know when to call.

In the meantime – stay safe.

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Cee’s Black & White Challenge: All Things Farm Related

My mom grew up on a farm and I’ve been back to visit only a couple of times in many years.

Some of the barns on the farm where my mother grew up.

The farm remains in the family, and the current owner, my cousin, takes remarkable care of all the buildings.

Corn crib with tractors.

I remember spending time on the farm when I was a young kid. Exploring the barns, hanging out in the corn crib. Riding the tractors with my uncle.

Antique tractor.

Tools still hang in my grandfather’s shop. I never spent any time there, we were forbidden from exploring it, and it seemed kind of scary.

Tools hanging where grandpa or uncle left them decades ago.

The farm is a special place and I’m glad it’s still in the family, though it’s a huge responsibility and a lot of work to take care of it.

Time keeps rolling along.

I miss so many people that used to work or live on the farm. Sometimes I think I can see them just around that next barn corner.

Which way did they go?


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Happy anniversary

Happy 65th wedding anniversary to mom and dad in heaven.

This is one of those ‘big’ anniversaries that we should be celebrating, but I couldn’t figure out how to book a hall up there for a big party.

We’ll have to be content with just thinking about and missing you like we have every single day for the past thirteen years.

I hope they have cake up there, and ice cream. And flowers, lots of lots of flowers. Music would be good too. I suppose that’s all there, I mean how could it be heaven without ice cream, but we wish you were here with us instead.

That’s not the way it worked out and we all know that life isn’t always fair.

So Happy Anniversary in heaven; eat some cake for us. We’ll see you both again someday.


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102 today

I can’t imagine what it’s like to turn 102. But I’ve been watching and I can tell you it isn’t easy. It’s not romantic and it’s not fun.

Most of all it’s lonely.

My husband’s aunt turns 102 today, though we had a little birthday party yesterday in her room. She ate a couple of bites of cake and peered at the birthday cards through faded eyes.

She was glad for the company, and we were glad to spend some time with her.

Aunt Vi and her cake.

Most of the time when you sing Happy Birthday you wish the recipient many more years, but that’s not what I wish for Aunt Vi now. For her I wish a smooth transition to her next chapter, one without fear or pain. I wish that she be allowed to drift away feeling unfettered, free of regrets, joyful in a life well lived.

And for today I wish peace to the 102 year old birthday girl.

Celebrating.


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When a crash is not just a crash

Middle picture is without the guard, and below that, with a guard.


The purpose for our current road trip happened last Tuesday. We and other members of the Truck Safety Coalition family attended a conference to discuss car and truck crashes, specifically the situation when a car slides under the trailer of a semi truck from the side.

This is what happens when a car goes under a trailer. Imagine being in the car with your family.

That’s called a side underride and it’s usually deadly.

When you slide under a trailer your car’s safety features aren’t activated because your front bumper doesn’t hit anything. The first part of your car to come in contact with the trailer is your windshield. And then your head.

This car was driven into a trailer at 35 mpr. The trailer had a side guard.

It’s been a problem for years. Jennifer’s dad was killed when his car slid all the way under a trailer on a dark country road more than thirty years ago and she’s been fighting this and other truck safety issues ever since.

Jennifer talking about her dad’s crash and how grateful she is that side underride is being talked about today.

But in this past year a solution has been developed. And it happened because people began to talk about the issue. Last year was the first conference on underride, and there the inventor of a side guard and a manufacturer happened to meet. They’ve been collaborating ever since, and at this year’s conference we got to witness their side guard in action.

Conference members wait above the test crash area to see if the side guard works.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) hosted our meeting, and did a test crash so that we could see what would happen. (Click the ‘meeting’ link above to see the crash test yourself.) The car was driven at 40 mpr into the side of a trailer with a side guard, named Angel Wing, installed behind the wind flow shield.

Waiting in anticipation.

The car did not slide under the trailer. Though the trailer itself was moved several inches, the passenger compartment of the car was not penetrated.

Tears and applause.

The driver of this vehicle probably would have had a wrist injury, probably a headache, and bruises from the seat belt, but would have walked away.

This driver would have walked away.

Members of our truck safety family, there to witness this test, cried softly after. Unspoken was the knowledge that if something like this had been installed on trucks years ago they wouldn’t have been in Virginia this week, standing up on a platform, watching hope unfold.

Hope.

We have hope that someday, maybe sooner than we imagine, you’ll see Angel Wings, or some iteration of it, moving down the highway near you. We have hope that someday, hopefully sooner rather than later, a family will only have to deal with bumps and bruises, and not a funeral.

Side guards will save lives.

Someday soon the results of lots of peoples dreams will come to fruition. And it will happen because people from all walks of life sat down and talked. Trailer manufacturers, truck companies, safety experts, devastated families, government officials.

Two grief stricken mothers, working together to save other lives.

Everyone has a different viewpoint, but together an answer can be found. Truck crashes happen to all sorts of people and it takes all sorts of people to find a way to fix the problem.

All families matter.

Someday another mother will be holding her child, alive and safe. She might not know who to thank. But I, and now you, do.

Stay tuned. And stay safe.

Be vigilant. And please support our efforts.


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For those of you wondering about the previous post…

This is a 1950s Chevy that was used during a test crash at the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety. It’s on display in their building.

Remember the big front engine hoods and grills?

It wasn’t the car we test crashed while we were here, that was a 2010 Chevy Malibu. But I thought this old tank of a car was interesting.

Here’s the inside of it. Notice the steering wheel would have been pushed right into the driver’s face and chest.

Remember these big old steering wheels?

I’ll write more about our experience at the IIHS soon. It’s pretty emotional, in a good and also a sad way.

Meanwhile, stay safe!


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Happy Birthday

I wasn’t going to post about your birthday this year. After all it’s a private thing between you and our family; the whole world doesn’t need to know, or even care, that you’d be 89 today.

Eighty-nine. That seems like a very large number, and I’m having trouble imagining you there. Sometimes when I’m out I see little old ladies with their permed hair, stooped over, walking with a cane and I wonder if you would look like that.

But I don’t think so. You never did like your hair permed.

I think maybe you’d rest more, sit in your chair and read more, maybe cook less, maybe let us do more when we visited. Maybe. I think you’d probably not be traveling as much as you once did, but you’d still enjoy reading about new places, you’d still enjoy a good concert, a good piece of art. You’d still enjoy people’s visits, conversations, hugs.

I wish I could bake you a cake, plant candles on the top, watch you blow them out and laugh. Or watch you eat fresh corn on the cob with butter running down your chin as you grinned with the sheer joy of our summer tradition.

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You’d think with all the technical advances I’d be able to text you today, send birthday wishes, cyber hugs. Little smiley faces all in a row.

But I can’t, so this will have to do. Happy Birthday Mom. Tonight, if the skies are clear, I’ll be watching for meteorites and thinking about you just like every year. Send a few my way, OK?

Love, from all your kids, who miss you every single day.


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The stories she tells

I remember when grocery stores got carts, she says. Shopping was a lot more fun after that.

So what did you do before there were carts? I asked.

She looks puzzled, pauses, thinking back, then says she doesn’t know. Maybe, I suggested, the stores were smaller? Maybe there was a meat market and a vegetable market, maybe a bakery?

The suggestion of a bakery triggers more memories; there was a bakery just across the street and the man there saved day old bread for her mother.

“She made the best bread pudding,” she remembers. “Mom was a good cook.”

Cooking for a big family, day after day with very little money, must have been hard, we agreed. She says she used to hate having to cook daily herself, and she only had one husband and one son.

I never met my husband’s sister, she says, and she was coming to dinner. I didn’t know what to make so I bought a roast, a veal roast. Then I asked myself why I had done that. I didn’t know how to cook a veal roast. My husband told me just to cook it like any other roast, he liked my roast. So I did and it was the best thing I ever made. Roast veal and carrots and potatoes. It was so good. She never knew I didn’t know what I was doing.

We laughed.

She says it’s a lot easier now. She remembers when her dad and others cut ice out of the river, storing it in a shed covered with sawdust. It lasted until the middle of summer, in northern Minnesota, and was the only refrigeration they had.

She remembers riding the train from Minnesota to Detroit with her siblings and her mom, to join her dad in a town he had found work. She remembers being scared, and imagines her mom was too.

She remembers growing up in a large family who had very little money but had the only important thing that mattered; love. How they helped each other as they each grew and started families of their own, working in each others’ businesses, taking care of each others’ kids. Laughing together at the 4th of July picnics, gathering at Christmas, weddings, funerals.

The years flew by and now she’s ‘one hundred and one and a half’ as she likes to say. She’ll be one hundred and two in September. She doesn’t know where the time has gone. She doesn’t know how so many people she loves are gone.

But the memories and the stories remain — a century of memories stored in her mind.

Time has slowed for her now as she sits and waits for her next chapter. The days are long and fast, all at the same time. People visiting her are the highlight of her days.

She becomes animated as she talks about times long ago, she laughs and giggles and rolls her eyes. For a bit she forgets where she is, she forgets she’s over one hundred years old.

I ask her how old she feels.

She stops and thinks. Maybe in my eighties she replies. Yes…I was good in my eighties, and my head thinks I still am. It’s these darn legs that are over one hundred.

And then she laughs again and tells me another tale.