It’s funny, all my life I’ve loved to tell people about my mom and what a rebel she was. A long-haul truck driver who rode motorcycles and spent her short life chasing her passions and dreams. She was this almost mythical figure to me and I just loved sharing her unconventional path.
It’s also taken me awhile to come to grips with how that free-spirited and often reckless approach to life affected me. Let’s just say living in 10 places before the age of 8 and being left if in others “care” more than I’d like wasn’t the safest of upbringings. It had its challenges (but then whose childhood doesn’t).
So, since this journey was definitely inspired by my mom, I wanted to share a little bit about her with you.
Grew up in Springfield, VA with 3 brothers, Mike, Jack and Dave. Growing up with so many brothers must’ve influenced her and if I had to guess, it’s why she had such a sense of herself. Grounded in who she was with a real need to explore all that life had to offer.
Even at a young age, her talents came through whether it was through her acting and singing as the lead in the high school musicals, or in her poetry, she had something inside her that she expressed freely.
In 1965 that need to be a part of something greater cast her into a new role, as part of the hippie movement. At 16 and only a junior in high school, mom ran away and was hanging out in Dupont Circle participating in demonstrations and standing up for the transformation of our country. I even have a newspaper clipping from when she was part of a “hippie marriage” (my grandma later told me that she was wearing one of the costumes from a recent play she’d been in).
After going to Woodstock in 1969, she headed west and just a short 9 months later became a mom at the age of 21 and that’s when the adventures really began. Whether it was living in a hippie commune in a dome house in Washington state or through her countless jobs throughout Southern CA, we moved around a lot as she struggled to find her path forward.
Eventually she found something that stuck – long-haul truck driving.
The Open Road
Whether it was witnessing the beauty of this country as she passed through town after town, or it was the quiet, soul-inspiring moments of the open road, she’d found her joy. Eventually she found love, became engaged and found us a proper place to settle down. That’s when tragedy struck and our lives were changed forever.
During her final trip on the road, her rig slid on an icy overpass in Stanfield, Oregon. While her truck didn’t flip over, her door opened and without a seatbelt on, she was no match for the fall to the median below.
As you may imagine, that image has always haunted me. I’ve always wondered what she was thinking in those moments. How she must’ve worried about me and all the loved ones she was leaving behind. The anguish and the regrets and the hopes and dreams she undoubtedly felt as a mom leaving her child behind.
So 40 years after her death, I visited that bridge and I finally let her go. I forgave her for the choices she made and the things that went wrong for me as a child. I released her from my judgements and the anger I had for leaving me behind. I finally set her spirit free.
I’ve had the blessing of this road trip to help me to reconnect with her in a way I didn’t anticipate. The long drives with just me and a few truckers on the road, the breathtaking beauty of this incredible country side, and the little memories that flood in as I listen to music from my childhood. But this week was about much more than a trip to a bridge. It’s about letting go. It’s about love and respect and forgiveness.
It’s my belief that how we hold the memory of our loved ones (especially our mothers) influences the life we lead, or at least the choices we make. Often those long-held resentments and hurts influence how driven we are to impress or prove something to others, while all along, all we’re really doing is chasing our mother’s love. I’ve finally stopped chasing hers because I realize I’ve had it all along.
Whether yours is still here in physical form or if her spirit has moved on, I invite you to join me in this journey of healing. If there’s anything you’ve been holding onto, wishing were different, or hoping would change, it’s time to let that shit go and move on down the road. 😉