On the road without family

Meet Hal. He is stout, sporting a goatee and is balding on top. He generally wears jeans, a T-shirt and well-worn boots. He doesn’t shave daily.

Hal can point to a few guys as friends. However, by his own admission, he sees them rarely and talks to some by phone occasionally. Some might call Hal a loner. It’s not due necessarily to a conscious desire to be alone, for Hal drives truck for a living. He’s proud of the 20-plus years he’s driven over the road. A man in his early 40s, Hal can boast both about the miles he’s driven and the many places he’s been. His tractor trailer has been paid for and except for the usual maintenance costs, Hal has made good money.

Oh, the places he’s been and the stories he can tell. Well, who does he share those stories with? A gentle smile when thinking about some rich tales that would receive a guffaw from those who know him morphs soon to his usual tight-lipped look. Hal thinks about stopping today at that truck stop up ahead. He imagines a nice hot shower, a change of clothes and a warm meal at his favorite restaurant with that flirty waitress. He always leaves her a generous tip. For a moment, he wonders if her friendliness is meant for him or merely to earn a well-deserved tip. He likes how she explains the specials of the day. Though fatty with sauces, the food is filling and delicious. Dessert usually follows.

Once satisfied by the meal, Hal makes time at the stop to hit the casino. Like the old times, Hal carries his mega-size money clip and important papers in his back pocket. He pulls it out to pay for the hearty meal, to leave a tip and to do the math in his head.

Hal figures how much time he has before hitting the road. He grabs a wad of cash before entering the casino, which is loud, well-lighted and filled with gamblers. Hal likes this place. People are smiling, happy and having fun. This brief experience seems to offset the boredom of each passing mile. Returning his “office,” as Hal calls it, back in his cleaner jeans back pocket. He winces at the slight pull his body offers. He remembers that the doctor at his last physical told him he had a case of sciatica. He needed to exercise and to lose some weight. “Yeah doc … OK, thanks.” Hal likes to forget that experience in the doctor’s office. He passed the physician and has a written list of recommendations from the doc. He’s borderline diabetic. “Just watch what you eat and try to exercise” said the doctor.

Oh well … Today I’m going to stick to the one-armed bandits. The crap tables are inviting and Hal has only a little time. The drive has provided ample time for Hal to work out the science of beating the odds on those bandits. he believes deep in his soul that he’ll walk away rich today. He figures the money will help pay for that doggone child support payment hanging over his head. Hal doesn’t like to think about it too much. He wants to join others in the casino that are enjoying themselves. They’re happy, he believes. he can be happy too. If only they didn’t move away. Yeah, Hal thinks, they lost the house. He didn’t think he’d lose his family too. The court awarded his wife custody of their daughter along with the divorce. Hal feels something about that day he’d like to forget. The mandated monthly support payment prevents him from forgetting.

Hal is a good worker. He’s devoted, motivated and successful. There’s something missing in his life, however. His family and his home are both lost.

Let their be peace on earth and let it begin with me.

Part two will follow.

Marshall Greenstein, a Cassadaga resident, holds a master’s degree in marriage and family counseling and is a licensed marriage and family counselor and a licensed mental health counselor in New York state. He has regular office hours at Hutton and Greenstein Counseling Services, 501 E. Third St., Suite 2B, Jamestown, 484-7756. For more information or to suggest topics, email editorial@observertoday.com.