2009: The Year in Review

2009: The Year in Review

By Sandy Long

Christmas is now over and the end of year approaches quickly giving us a little time between events to look back over the last year. In doing so, I find that I have learned a lot, lost a lot and also gained some things.

Up to the first of May, the year went along much as usual though with the economy failing, I had to tighten my belt due to less income coming in. Wasn’t too hard to do though because unlike thousands of other people, I was smarter than some in the choice of my house that I am buying and in my not living on credit. Tightening my belt just meant that I had to become frugal about some things such as what groceries I bought and how many books I bought and rented along with changing the brand of cigarettes I smoked to a cheaper brand. I started having to live by the motto, “a penny saved, is a penny earned”.

On a dating site in I think April, I found a man down in S Missouri that I thought was the one. Once again in my life, I rushed in where angels feared to tread after a year of having decided I would be alone the rest of my life. He too jumped too fast and we talked of him moving up to where I live. I thought he was perfect for me as we shared many interests and opinions. I was enthusiastic about life and the future promised.

The first week in May though, the bottom started falling out of my life with my nephew’s suicide. Because of the family dynamics, we had not been very close in recent years, and I felt terrible that his life had gotten to that point without him contacting me for help. I loved him and I think that he loved me, but just being his auntie I guess he didn’t trust me to help him when he needed it. I carry that burden in my heart now, that I allowed us to drift apart.

Just a month later in the first week in June, my deceased nephew’s dad and my oldest brother who was my best friend, hero and father figure was diagnosed with cancer. While he didn’t tell me, I knew that his time was short and perhaps he didn’t realize just how little time he had left with us.

Tom was a Viet Nam vet and retired Seabee and was a trucker up until a few months past; to say he had courage is an understatement. I wish I had his courage during June and July. But actually, in a way I did, though I had to lean on my friends…hard. You see, with all the other things I do, I am also letting my mother live on my property so during this time, I had to be strong for her too. I was spread too thin emotionally while still trying to stay afloat financially…cracks started to appear in me.

July brought more chaos as Tom kept going downhill and I tried to envision a life without him in it. July 10th, I went into the walk in clinic for an A1-C test and asked the doctor for a little something to take the edge off while I was home so I could sleep. I suffer from major depression, agoraphobia and have anxiety attacks when under extreme stress which shows up as insomnia. Back when I was off the road, I took an antihistimine that is also used for anxiety. I knew its effects on me and that it would allow me to sleep.

While the doctor was checking me out he all of a sudden freaked! He said my heart sounded bad and sent me for an EKG. When I came back from getting it an hour later, he told me I had to be rushed to a hospital as the hospital where the clinic was did not have a cardiologist. I had Atrial Fibrilation or irregular heartbeat. He was freaked out and over-reacted come to find out, but not before I got hysterical…I thought I was going to die just when my family needed me most.

By this time, my brother was in the hospital in Liberty so I made sure I went there too though I knew that I wouldn’t tell him I was there…I just wanted to be close to him. It was a good thing too as he started having strokes or stroke like symptoms. No one knew I was there outside of my youngest brother and mom, so when one of my other nephews called me that Tom might die any minute, I took off downstairs to his room. Got my nurse mad at me, but I didn’t care, my brother needed me and I was going come hell or high water.

Sitting next to him while he gasped for breath and stroking his arm was the hardest thing I had ever done up to that point in my life. I held his hand and stoked his arm and told him to be at peace. I stayed until the rest of his family could get there then went back up to my room.

A couple of hours later, the nurse on Tom’s floor called my nurse and I went back down, he was worse again. I had to tell him it was ok for him to go and that I would love him no matter what. It would get harder before it was all over though.

I was released the next day and went home. You see, he lingered on suffering not being able to speak or breathe easily. When I got home, that night, I went outside and called on all of our ancestors to come and take him home so he would not suffer anymore. I called on all the power of my belief in the Lady to bring him peace so he could come back soon. I let him go……..

Tom made it another five days and died; with him went a very big part of my lifetime support base and the only shoulder I could count on leaning on…they say it gets easier with time, but so far I miss him as much now as I did the day he died. On Christmas Eve after the stressful drive home thru the snow and ice, I came into my house and looked to the answering machine thinking “I wonder why Tom hasn’t called?” Then it hit me all over again…he was gone.

Of course other things happened during those few months. The guy down in S Missouri changed his mind about being with me or even continuing to talk to me as a friend, though he said he wanted to do so. I found out who exactly my friends were and who were just going through the motions…while this might sound like a negative, it was actually a positive in some aspects.   While I lost some so-called friends, I also lost their negativity and drain on my strength.

I found unknown depths of strength in myself when I got up during Tom’s interment service at the National Cemetery in Leavenworth KS and spoke my heart’s thoughts and all of this while I continued to drive for the really great company I drive for. For years many have commented on how strong a woman I am while I didn’t see it in myself. I do now.

Some good things have come out of the chaos of this year; my mother’s sisters, my aunties have stepped up to the plate and have started calling me more often. My two other brothers too have become a little more close to me which I need. While in the hospital, I found a good doctor who has replaced my old one as my family doctor who retired several years ago; she is helping me get healthy again or as good as it will get anyways.

With the slower freight these days, I have more time to be more involved in working within the trucking industry to effect change the best way I know how; by working with the Women In Trucking Association closer and in writing more in-depth commentary about issues utilizing my skill as a wordsmith, though now, I don’t get paid for it since leaving Layover.com. Something else will come along when the economy gets better I hope, it will have to because I think my days as a trucker are numbered.

Looking back over this year of chaos and change, I see that I have changed too mostly for the better. I am stronger in some ways and more confident in myself while now being able to understand other’s losses better. I have a tiny solid core of close friends who I can depend on completely and know that they will stick with me no matter what. I work for a company that respects me for being the quality driver I am, and who I respect for their treatment of me. All in all, I can say that I have survived and isn’t that what we all have to do; survive what life throws at us and keep trying to find personal growth in that survival?

Hopefully, 2010 will bring some peace and ease to my heart. I have once again gotten to the point that I believe I will be alone the rest of my life and that is ok. I can continue to fill the empty places with perhaps new friends and continue to assist others where I can, passing on the help I have received thru my life. As long as there is breath in my body, I will continue to work towards using life’s challenges to bettering the person I am and sharing that with others to help them grow too. Finally, I will continue to have faith in God and the Lady to keep me in the palms of their hands and help me survive.

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