I don’t know why it is, but I can’t can’t seem to stay in one place very long. Perhaps I was created to be a wanderer. One way or another, that is certainly what I am. It’s not my desire. I really would like some stability. I would like to set down roots and just stay put for a while, but for one reason or another, that just doesn’t seem to be possible in my situation. As a result, I know people all over the country because I have been all over the country. Home, for me, is hard to identify. When I’m asked this question, I’m really not sure what to say. I can tell you where I was born. I can give you a mailing address, but home? I’m not really sure where that is?
This is especially true since I returned to truck driving as an occupation. I had several days off this last week because of Thanksgiving. Most of that was spent in my daughter’s apartment, but I was able to return to Mena too for a couple days. But Mena isn’t home anymore. As I headed down the Highway Monday afternoon it occurred to me how the road has been more of a home to me than perhaps any other place. I have so many memories along with various emotions as I travel down the highways of this country.
I began the week on I-40 heading west from Little Rock towards Memphis. I have traveled this stretch of highway so much that it full of memories and emotions. I was a youth minister in Wynne, AR for 3 years, and I took those kids all over the place, but especially down that I-40. I reminisce about the small towns churches we’d go to for youth rally’s. I can remember the road trips to camp. Those were fun times.
I pass Forrest City, AR. That is where my son, Caleb, was born. This wasn’t long after we moved to Wynne. We were still getting familiar with the people, but I remember one special lady, Pat Griffith. She was at the hospital most of the time offering comfort and sharing our joy. Pat is no longer with us, but I do enjoy getting to see her granddaughter who lives in Searcy.
I remember taking Tabitha, my daughter, down to the little duck pond in front of the hospital. She was so small then, not that much bigger than the ducks we were feeding. Somebody bought her a t-shirt that said, “I’m the big sister.” I remember well, when Tabitha first held Caleb. When he started to cry, Tabitha quickly put her hand over his mouth and told him to hush. She had a few years of ordering him around, but eventually little brother outgrew his big sister.
Then it was onward to Chicago. I used to drive rail containers into Chicago for J.B. Hunt, so I’ve spent a lot of time there. I also drove there regularly when I worked for R & L. My biggest memory of Chicago is being stuck in traffic. It was no different this time. It took me over an hour to go 20 miles.
Then there was I-80. I have so many memories of this road that my emotions got the best of me. I became familiar with I-80 when I was child. I-80 was the road between my two parents. Mom lived in the Quad Cities; Dad lived around Cleveland, OH. During my turbulent childhood, I was tossed back and forth between my parents. When I got older, I started hitch-hiking between the two places 500 miles apart.
It wasn’t easy to get rides. I spent a lot of time walking. Sometimes I slept under the bridges or in truck stops along the way. It was cold at night, and sometimes I thought I was going to freeze to death. But it met people. They gave me rides, paid for food, they would even smoke pot with me. Some really tried to help.
Most of what I remember about I-80 was from when I drove a truck as an adult out of the Quad Cities. Sometimes, I would let my children ride with me. I wasn’t supposed to, but I missed them so bad, I had to find some way to be with them. But it would just make the loneliness worse when they were gone.
My family and I lived in Rock Island, IL from 2005 till we moved to Mena in 2013. That is the longest I have ever lived anywhere. Rock Island was where my mother lived as well as most of her siblings. I was born in Rock Island, and even spent a good portion of my childhood in the area. Of all places, it is the closest thing I have ever had to a home.
The closer I got to the Mississippi River, the more my mind would flood with memories and my mood sank. There’s a sadness that I experience at times that is so intense that it is hard to breathe. For many years, see the bridge over the river meant that I was almost there, my work day was about over, it was almost time to go home. Time to relax.
But that is no longer the case. This is not my home anymore. My brother lives in the house where I once lived. My mother has moved, and now lives in a little apartment in Bettendorf. Her house will soon be sold. This may have been home at one time, but it no longer is. My children have grown and moved.
Sometimes the road is so painful, I can hardly bare it. I miss my family. I miss being able to visit my mother. I miss the walks, I miss the talks. Life is forever changing. We must find ways of rolling with the changes, but sometimes it is so hard you just want to cry out, “Lord, please come quickly.”