In memory of my mom. She would have loved this Alabama spring.
I see her everywhere, but nowhere as clear as in her beloved flowers and birds near her home on the lake.
In memory of my mom. She would have loved this Alabama spring.
I see her everywhere, but nowhere as clear as in her beloved flowers and birds near her home on the lake.
“When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.” – Khalil Gibran
For many years one of the joys of spending time here at the lake was a neighboring dog named Carson. We’ve watched him grow up from a soft fluffy bundle of joyous energy …
…to a soft fluffy sophisticated man about town of eleven.
Carson liked to visit everyone in the neighborhood, and he seemed to know when we were in town, showing up by the door to check in with us, sometimes meeting us at the car when we unloaded luggage. Each time he asked for an ear rub or a tummy tickle.
He wouldn’t decline a treat if you happened to have one on you…
…but mostly, for Carson, it was about a little loving, a little play. And the lake.
His favorite thing to do was to walk along the shoreline, knee or chest deep in the water, hunting for those pesky minnows. When he found some he’d pounce on them and then grin.
All summer you could find him in the water. And year-round you could find him on a neighbor’s porch, getting some loving.
Katie wasn’t too sure about him visiting us. It wasn’t that she was afraid of him. But he was so big…and when he barked it was with one deep baritone WOOF! She always jumped.
She just didn’t know what to make of him, but the rest of us? We loved Carson. It didn’t matter that he didn’t belong to us, we all just loved him.
Carson was most famous for being the softest dog any of us had ever touched. And he smelled good. Yes he was a dog, and yes he loved to wade in the lake, the muddier the better, but he always started each day smelling good.
I imaged he took a shower with his person each morning because he always used to smell like Irish Spring soap. This last week he smelled like some other shampoo, but he still smelled too pretty to be a boy.
Everybody loved Carson, the dog that smelled so good.
Sadly Carson crossed the rainbow bridge this week, suddenly and without warning. I’m so glad he stopped by a couple times since I’ve been here this trip so that I got some Carson loving.
But man. We are all so going to miss him. I look for him every time I leave the house, he was so often sitting on my porch. I look for him along the lake shore. I listen for his bark.
I am more than sad. But I’m trying to remember that I was lucky to know him.
Somehow it’s not enough.
I started feeling melancholy last night, laying in bed staring at the ceiling in a house she and dad built a long time ago, surrounded by some of her special things.
All day today, as I ran errands in town, I felt a certain heaviness as I drove past stores we shopped in together, past the university where she worked.
Heading back to the house late in the afternoon I noticed the redbud in bloom, the delicate purple-pink flowers shining against the still bare branches of the rest of the forest. She’d have liked that.
I thought I’d take Katie to a park, sort of a reward for patiently waiting for me all day. But she wasn’t in the mood, and to be honest, neither was I. I thought I’d settle for a nap. But I was restless and sleep wouldn’t come.
So Katie and I headed out to the dock to sit and wait for the sunset. I wasn’t expecting very much, there were only a few clouds in the sky and the last few nights haven’t been very interesting.
Still. It was nice to be sitting on the end of the dock with my feet hanging down over the water and my Katie-girl laying tight up next to me. I was still feeling sad, but it was a peaceful sort of sad.
The water was still, reflecting the sky and clouds. I smiled, and watched the water move as small minnows just touched the surface, creating gentle circles that quickly moved outward.
I couldn’t see the actual fish, just the circles appearing like magic and spreading across the water. Soon there were circles intersecting other circles.
I focused on capturing those gentle patterns. Katie fell asleep beside me.
I was so intent on trying to get those circles, trying to get the light right, the focus crisp. I almost forget to check the sky. But the sun waits for no photographer; the sky was beginning to show a bit of color. And I was starting to feel a bit better.
But those little fish were still making circles and I wasn’t sure I had captured the exact perfect one. So I turned the camera back to the water.
And then I realized the circles were now pink. The water was pink. Which meant the sky must be…..pink.
I looked up. And had to hold my breath.
Katie stirred and agreed to pose with the sky. She didn’t even ask for a treat. The sky was enough.
It’s impossible to overstate how the sky this evening picked me up. I was laughing and running up and down the beach trying to capture it all.
Katie stood on the dock and watched me with a patient look on her face. She knows her mama and she was happy that I was happy.
Thanks mom, for sending me the sunset tonight. I know you were there watching me watch it. It looked like something you might have painted.
For all I know you did.
Aunt Vi’s funeral was Tuesday. She looked beautiful, and though I know she was no longer there, I have to think she’d have been pleased by how pretty she was.
She was so ready to move on to her next chapter that I could only feel relief for her. Still, it was hard walking past her for the last time at the end of the service. “I’ll see you soon,” I thought, words I’d often used as I left after visiting.
It was hard, too, to leave her at the cemetery, amid the piles of snow scraped from the ground to make room for her pink casket.
She hated to be cold, and at the last nursing home she took advantage of having her own thermostat to keep her room toasty warm. Tropical, I used to tell her. “Are you too warm dear?” she’d ask me. “No, I’m just fine,” I’d tell her as sweat ran down my back.
It felt wrong to leave her in the cold now.
I knew she wasn’t really there, that she was already celebrating with family and friends, someplace filled with light and music and love and completeness. I knew this, but still.
And then, during the luncheon, all of us sitting in the rec room of the apartment building she had lived in for over twenty-five years, someone across the table from me exclaimed “Look! A cardinal!”
Sitting in a tree just outside the large windows sat a lone cardinal, staring intently at the goings on inside.
“You know Vi really loved cardinals,” I remarked. “She called them red birds.” The red bird outside moved to a different tree, still watching the people inside.
The next day Katie-girl and I headed to Alabama in an effort to get away from the snow and cold. Midway on the trip we stopped in a tiny little town in Kentucky at a riverside park to stretch our legs. I took a short video of us walking along the river and posted it on Facebook. A nephew noted that he heard a cardinal in all the bird chatter I captured. Hmmmm…
And today on our final day of driving, at the last rest stop of the trip, Katie and I were walking along the top of a ravine. The sun was shining and we were enjoying it’s warmth when a cardinal swooped down low to a branch very near us and began to sing.
“OK!” I said, under my breath. “OK! I believe you!” And then the bird flew off into the trees. Mission accomplished.
She said she’d try to send me a sign that she was alright. I’d say she got her message across.
Loud and clear.
Ambush: Make a surprise attack from a concealed position.
I’m trying to declutter the house in preparation for the painter. We’ve lived here a long time, and, I guess I haven’t put things away as promptly as I might have.
I thought I’d start with the guest bedroom – how hard could it be to sort through the stuff piled on the dressers in there? I was sure most of it could be tossed.
But under the piles of old sheet music, bad clarinet reeds, the patterns for sweaters I might have wanted to knit once upon a time, the maps of campgrounds and parks I’ve visited, under all that detritus, was a stack of Christmas cards.
I know I keep Christmas cards way too long. They sit in a basket on the kitchen counter until the next holiday season comes along. And then I have to just toss them all at once, I can’t look through them or I won’t be able to heave them into the trash. So why would a stack of Christmas cards be sitting on a dresser in a guest room?
I shouldn’t have looked.
They are from 1997; cards and holiday letters from many people who are long gone. Cards from people who are gone from my life because relationships faded, divorces happened, or they moved and we just lost touch. And an awful lot of them have died, including one of my best friends, my adopted up north grandma, my father-in-law (that’s him in the center), my sister-in-law, and my own parents.
So I’ve sorted through the stack, and have saved the very special hellos and happy holidays, the handwritten notes and newsy letters of those that have gone ahead, and tossed the rest into the trash. But, man, being ambushed by so many memories sure took the wind out of my cleaning sails.
And if you’re wondering how the paint decision is going, I went back to Lowe’s and got four more samples this morning.
Back in those days commercial drivers recorded the hours they drove in paper logs; safety advocates sometimes called these logs comic books because of the amount of made up information that got recorded. Truck drivers are paid by the mile, not by the hour, so it benefited them financially to drive further and faster, maybe even further and faster than was legal.
So after dad was killed, and I began to learn more about what happened, I began to work toward mandated electronic logging devices, ELDs. Last Monday, December 18, 2017, thirteen years after dad died, my wish came true. Trucks are now required to have electronic logging devices, and though some truckers are still opposed to what they consider is a infringement on their right to privacy, or their right to make a living, and though I’m sure there will be some unintended consequences, I’m happy.
As far as I’m concerned this was a very big, very important, Christmas present to the families of people killed and injured by tired truckers across the country. And, if they’re honest, perhaps it’s a gift to the drivers too, because it will be harder for an employer to push a driver past legal limits now that everything is monitored by ELDs.
ELDs might have happened without the Truck Safety Coalition and our volunteers pushing legislators for years. The American Trucking Association (ATA) which represents big truck companies wanted them too, so for once we were on the same side of an argument. But I have to think it was stories of regular people like us that helped tip the balance and get this technology mandated. So to all of you out there that have supported our work, for this gift of safety that begins this holiday season, I say thank you.
I think I’ll consider the ELD mandate as a personal Christmas present sent straight from dad.
In between the gratitude of Thanksgiving and the joyous giving of Christmas there is something called Giving Tuesday. It’s not as old a tradition as either of the two bigger holidays, but it’s intent is just as important to thousands of nonprofit groups around the world.
This year it’s tomorrow.
And, as some of you know, I’ve been volunteering with an organization called the Truck Safety Organization for almost 13 years, ever since dad was killed by a tired trucker in December of 2004.
This year I’m fundraising for them. 2018 looks pretty challenging for us financially as well as legislatively. We’re spread very thin as we try to make the roads safer for everyone, including those driving trucks.
The Truck Safety Coalition is made up of two groups; Parents Against Tired Truckers (PATT) and Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways (CRASH). If one group resonates more for you than the other, you can donate just to that one. Or you can donate to the Truck Safety Coalition and the money will be split between them.
So if you have a little bit to spare after your Black Friday and Cyber Monday stop by our website. There’s a Paypal button you can use. Or of course you can write a check. The address is 3100 Clarendon Blvd Suite #200, Arlington, VA 22201
And if you don’t get it done tomorrow on the official day…well…I’m OK with donations the rest of the week, and the rest of the year too.
This year we had 65 people attend our Sorrow to Strength conference, many of them new families. I can personally testify that grieving people need to spend time and talk and receive advice from other people who have been in their position. We’re the only group that provides that service and we want to be able to help more families next year. Because sadly there will be more families next year. It’s inevitable and we need to be there for them.
Every little bit helps, don’t think that your donation won’t make a difference. And either in the note section of Paypal or the memo line when writing a check, please note “Bill Badger” so they know your donation is in honor of my dad. That way I’ll know to say thank you for your help.
We all drive on our roads along side big trucks. Most of us have just been lucky not to be touched by tragedy. Help us help those families who haven’t been so lucky.
And thank you for listening to me when I get on my soapbox about trucks and legislation and technology and above all hope.
I miss you dad. Every single day.
It was unexpected and unplanned, but our trip to Washington DC was important. I meant to write on Tuesday evening, after we watched the morning confirmation hearing on the nominated Administrator to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). But after the hearing we spent the afternoon in meetings with ours and other Senators offices and by the time we limped back to the hotel I was too tired to write.
And I meant to write about our experiences on Wednesday evening, and on Thursday night after our appointments on the Hill but each evening turned into a night of note writing from the day’s work and preparation for the day ahead. No time to write about the experience for you.
And now here it is Sunday night and the passion I felt during the week is ebbing and though I’m not as tired as I was, I somehow feel reluctant to try to capture it all, to put it down, because I don’t think I can make you understand just what it all means.
But I’ll try.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is a part of the Department of Transportation (DOT). It issues and enforces regulations that rule the way trucks move across the country. They set the hours that can be driven, monitor safety issues like sleep and the mechanics of the vehicles, and handle many other things. They are very important to our work at the Truck Safety Coalition.
After almost a year of this Administration an Administrator for the FMCSA has finally been nominated. We at the TSC wanted to hear what he had to say, so we attended the confirmation hearing. Mr. Martinez said a lot of the right things. He comes from New Jersey, heading their Department of Motor Vehicles. He doesn’t know anything about trucks, but he seems to be committed to safety. So I’m willing to give him a chance to show us with actions.
After the hearing my husband and I, along with a staff member of TSC, met with the transportation staff at each of my Senators’ offices. We talked about things that have been left hanging at the DOT since the beginning of the year, other things in the works that have been repealed by the current Administration.
The rest of the week was spent in a similar fashion, going from meeting to meeting in either Senate or House offices, looking for support of our safety causes. We talked about the successful side underride crash tests. We are looking for support of legislation to make underride guards mandated. And we found people that are interested in the developments. It’s progress.
At each meeting I pull out the picture of my dad, Bill, and the picture of what his car looked like after his crash. I look into dad’s eyes and silently promise him that we won’t give up. We won’t give up even though I’ve been making these trips to Washington D.C. for thirteen years. Sometimes multiple times a year. In one of our last meetings of this week I told the staffer that my dad comes with me on every trip to D.C. The staffer looked confused but dad and I smiled at each other.
My husband and I ate dinner one evening in the lower level of Union Station, near the Capital. Tired, and standing just outside the diner sliding out of my dress shoes and into my running shoes, feet aching, I noticed some signs just above the counter where people were enjoying their dinner.
“Excellent food.” ” Bill eats here.”
Yes, why yes he did. Because he’s always with me when I’m in D.C. And everywhere else too. We made some progress during this past week. We talked to lots of people, even some that are usually on the other side of our arguments. There’s interest in saving lives on both sides of the aisle.
Stay tuned. I’ll keep you apprised of developments. There may come a time when I’ll need you to call your Representative and/or Senator and ask for their support on proposed legislation. Meanwhile we’ll keep fighting the fight, talking about safety and trucks and our roads to everyone that will listen.
Dad was always all about safety. He still is. I guess I am too.
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.
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.