My Scrooged Birthday
Two months ago today I was notified that I had received my Agent Orange Compensation. I got two years back pay and would receive a check for the rest of my days. The last two months have been a roller coaster ride. Over the course of my life I had heard that old saying you get lucky before you die. Well having technically been dead almost ten years ago that phrase has really struck a cord with me. The 22nd of January next year will be the 10th anniversary of my heart attack. Today is my 67th birthday, but technically I will not be 67 till 11:58 PM as that is when I was born. In fact it was the last time I was early for about anything in my life. They already had my birth certificate made out for the 8th. They crossed it out and changed it to the 7th. This has always made me curious. My father liked to say he was born on the day the war ended and I was born on the day it started. That never bothered me till I got older and started studying the Bible. Then I started seeing it in many things. Even in the order of the books of the Bible. After the Gospels the books were written by Paul, but they are the first books of the New Testament. They are followed by the smaller and more personal books of the disciples who were the first to walk with Christ.
This would not have been so ironic to me if just in the last two years I also had found out I am not at all who I thought I was, or am. I went to the family cemetery. While at the cemetery I discovered several things. One is that I am not of Irish decent, but of German decent. Up until around 1900 all the family headstones spelled the family name Ryon. Only the ones after 1900 spell it the way I have always been taught that it was spelled, which is Ryan. While my family did come to Indiana in 1845 they were members of the Church of the Brethren, which came from Germany to the new world. The fact still stands that my Great, Great, Great Grandfather was born in the United States and probably fought in the Revolutionary War. His wife was born in Pennsylvania. I believe he received a land grant in Ohio for his service in the Revolutionary War from President Thomas Jefferson in 1803. All this is trivia and means very little, but it means the history I thought I knew of my family was somewhat different that I was raised to believe.
The road to discovery was opened when I filed for my Social Security benefits and got my birth certificate from my home county. It seems they believe my middle name is spelled Frederick, but my father whom I was named after spelled his middle name Frederic, which is the French spelling. My grandparents on my mother's side were of French descent with the last name Ferree. When I bought matter to the clerks attention he said they were right and I was wrong. Even though all the records I have throughout my life have been spelled with the Frederic, without the k. To change it would be at my expense according to the clerk. Regardless of what it says on the birth certificate with my little tootsie prints on it and all my family albums that refer to me as Frederic.
Today has been a very strange birthday. I received more birthday congratulations than I ever have in my life. I spent several hours with my Twin Great Grand Daughters and their mother. She made me some home cooked oatmeal and raisin cookies, my favorites. The day started off with an ice and snow storm. Tonight on the way home I had one of those de-javu moments. At the grocery story I ran into the mechanic who worked on my truck at the last company I worked for. He also did work on my trucks after I became an owner/operator. I had not seen him since my heart attack ten years ago.
Shortly after we parted company I was driving home and because of the bad weather and roads I went via a four lane I would not normally take. The last time I did that was on my birthday fifteen years ago and I was supposed to be in Laredo on Monday and to do so I left in an ice storm. My whole family asked me not to, but I did, because if I didn't I could not be in Laredo on Monday. Long story short I laid my truck in a ditch and didn't get to Laredo.
I was eastbound on US 50 and making the turn onto US 41 south. I was told if I got to Decker, which was just ten miles south I would be out of the ice. That didn't happen as because of the ice my trailer decided it wanted to pass me. I managed to come to a stop with my trailer tandems on the shoulder. I thought I was okay but suddenly the embankment gave way and my tail end slid down into the ditch. Just as I had the thought I was going to eat a lot of crow my truck shook. Then it shook again. The load was shifting in the trailer. The shaking got worse and the back end started to go over. I was not moving and I was having a wreck in slow motion. The next thing that happened was my tractor was bulldogged over upside down on the embankment by my trailer. The flying tool boxes and three bags of tire chains I had on the passenger side floor board came flying at me. I was wedged under all that stuff and I could smell diesel. I suddenly realized I was upside down and the noise was my drive line running under not load. I reached up and turned off the lights and engine. After I got oriented I climbed out the passenger door which was now the top and climbed across the tank and down the belly of the truck using the frame rails and drive shaft for steps. When I got to the ground I tried to move to the high side of the curve. I finally managed to do so after crawling on my hands and knees. It was almost an hour before a vehicle showed up. When the sheriff did show up I was almost frozen. Emergency crews showed up and could do virtually nothing as they could not move. One of the firefighters tried to get down to my cab and ended up sliding into the ditch that I had crawled up out of. After several attempts he listened to me and crawled on his hands and knees to the high side just as I had. The state crew finally showed up with a salt truck and had to move around the curve backwards salting his path as he went. That was about fifteen years ago this very evening.
Some people asked me if I regretted making the decision I did as I could have been killed. I have pondered it many times over the years and I still feel I did what I had to do to do my job. Sometimes we make decisions and things go wrong As long as we are doing what we feel we were called to do then we should not have any regrets. As I said this has been a de-javu evening and I have had a lot of things happen in the last couple months and some people have questioned my judgment. All I can say to them is that I have always done what I thought was right at the time during the course of my life and I have no regrets. Some of those decisions were not the best in hindsight, but I will accept what comes from them. They were my decisions right or wrong.
Earlier this week I was at the Association of Christian Truckers Centre in Brownstown, IL at exit 68 off of I-70 and several of us were having a discussion of what we wanted for Christmas if we could get anything we wanted. There were several neat answers, but mine got me some looks. I told them I would like to see my youngest daughter Glenda. She passed away in August 2010 just a few days before her 33rd birthday. I know to see her would come with a price, but I am and would be willing to pay it to see her.
I was looking for a sign that she was with us on Thanksgiving this year. The first year after she passed away I bought her small forsythia tree to our house and as the weather cooled we put it in the kitchen. All the leaves fell off and new ones started growing. On Thanksgiving Day it bloomed with one flower. Each year has had its little token, This year for some reason the squirrels in our yard attacked the tree and ate off all the bark. I was deeply upset about it, but was sure some other sign would come.
Well everybody was late for dinner. My daughter who used to be late all the time, but had overcome the habit, had a relapse. My oldest daughter showed up earlier than her sister. As my oldest she was always the last to arrive on most occasions I considered that my sign. I thought it was funny but some people didn't. Later that evening my oldest daughter went home and for some reason had to go to the store and get something. She is definitely not the type to do a Black Friday sale. When she got in the check out line she found herself behind Glenda's twin sons. We had not seen them in the three years since their mother went home to be with the Lord. Their father would not let us see them. My daughter called me and told me she had the real sign and I agree with her.
Well I am now officially sixty-seven and so I can bring this to a close. There is no reason to believe I will pass away soon, but I wanted to share this story while I could. It may inspire someone else. Just as the butterflies that landed on my wife and I shortly after Glenda passed gave us peace. The blessing I have just received may be the lucky thing or it just may be the blessing it seems to be. It may give me the opportunity to go back out on the road and share in fellowship with Christian Truckers, just as I did for the years I was working.
The point of this whole story is that there are many things we do based on what we believe. The truth however may be a totally different from what we believe. We have to live our lives based on the facts and the truths we do know. As long as we can stand before God and be comfortable that we have walked our lives in accordance with His Word, we owe no one an apology. The only one who can judge whether we have made the right decisions, knows all the facts. He is a just God and I have come up short many times in my life, but I trust in His Mercy and His Grace. Nothing I have done, or ever will. will get me to where I want to go. I will get there only by the sacrifice on his behalf for me. That is the truth that will take us home.