The Alan Stories

(The Alan Stories is a "gift" for Dean, because he liked The Norman Stories.)

I'm Southern. Perhaps talking is a Southern thing. Not the everyday rat-a-tat-a-tat of information conveyance, but the slow laughing meandering repetitive talking that happens on porches during the summer and around the fireplace in the winter. Not about anything in particular, just remembering random bits of a person's life. Over the years, if you're paying attention, you find yourself with memory-quilts that tell people's stories. Something warm to pull close when you need a bit of comfort, an assurance that you are not alone. A certainty that humanity has gone before, and will come after. A reminder of victories and survivals and goodness, even of "sorrow and the overcoming of it".

Sometimes there is a memory-quilt so stunningly different that you feel compelled to share it, to not let it fade away into the years. A story that so grips your mind and heart that you can't let it go, a story that makes you laugh and cry, a story that leaves you proud and satisfied to be human.

I hesitate to tell all the Alan stories, only for fear that I won't be believed. Frankly, truth is stranger than fiction. But the stories I'm about to tell you are true and deserve to be remembered. So, I give you ... The Alan Stories ...

Once upon a time, there was a boy named Alan. (Imagine Dennis-the-Menace with black hair. Alan never could get his hair to lay down flat.) Neighbors always shook their head and smiled when talking about Alan. They talked about him a lot, he was THAT kind of boy. Always into something or other. I swear he didn't need to sleep.

For example, Alan was about five years old when he went to spend the night with his aunt (his mother's much younger sister) who had just gotten married. His aunt and new uncle lived on a farm with his new uncle's parents, on opposite ends of the farm. Well, it seems that Alan woke up about 5:00am. He couldn't get anyone up to fix him breakfast and he was eager to get the day started. So he slipped out and went across the field, through the woods, across another field, around the cherry trees and down to his new uncle's parent's house. He got THEM up and announced "I can't get no breakfast up there and I'm starving". Now, the mother-in-law was a charming woman who got right up and fixed him a huge breakfast. The father-in-law got up just to talk with Alan, who was truly a gifted conversationalist even at five years old (they talked about the importance of swirly marbles versus solids, and Alan left with a vintage marble collection). Both parents were so taken with Alan that they forgot to call up to the house to tell his aunt that Alan had arrived safe and sound. Sure enough, Alan's aunt woke up and about died when she realized he had slipped off. All she could think was that he might drown in the ponds so she had everyone running around looking for Alan, who was busy having pancakes. Chaos like this seemed to follow Alan his whole life.

Perhaps he brought it on himself. He wore his heart on his sleeve, holding nothing back. Going at life full-tilt. He cried bitterly when little animals died, but could whip any boy that gave him grief for it. Alan managed to teach an entire community's children that "tender" and "weak" were not the same thing, mostly by blacking their eyes. His father told me once that Alan just felt things deeper than most, both soft like a girl and hard like a rock. There was just something different about Alan. But, he was Mr. Popular in spite of it (or perhaps because of it). He was the kind of big brother that everyone wanted to have, according to Norman (which is fortunate, because Alan is Norman's big brother.)

Alan's life wasn't always sunshine and light. Sometimes it seemed that darkness and trouble found him like a magnet, always coming a breath away yet no closer. Now, this next part will stretch your imagination. It does mine. Even as I type it I shake my head in disbelief. But, I know the men that witnessed it, hard-working realistic men not given to flights of fancy (some of whom found religion, so to speak, afterwards). I find myself searching for simple words, trying to keep it normal in the telling because the understanding of it will stand your hair on end if you give it much thought at all.

Alan was thirteen years old. He went four-wheeling with a neighborhood boy (Leroy). There was an accident. Alan was thrown from the four-wheeler and hit his head on a rock. Leroy (who grew up to be a thug) was afraid of getting in trouble so he ran over Alan to make sure he was done for (so Alan couldn't tell that Leroy had been driving recklessly). When Leroy got home, his older brother thought he was acting weird, and he knew Alan had been with Leroy. He alerted his Dad, who took him seriously enough that he grabbed a nearby neighbor and about six of the local men tore off through the farms looking for Alan. (As I'm typing this, for the first time it occurs to me that they must have already known that Leroy had "issues") They found Alan. Blood everywhere. Dead. And these are men that knew what "dead" looked like. Somebody went to the house to get Alan's father. I guess that may have been the worst moment of his life (which is saying a lot since he was on the beach at Normandy). When Alan's father got to the body (a minimum of six minutes after the farmers found Alan), he let out a sound that no human should ever have to hear. Alan answered him. Suddenly blinked, looked over at him, and said "I'll be all right, Daddy". And he was. His mother quit worrying about him so much after that.

Still, there were plenty of moments that tested a mother's heart. Alan went to Vietnam. He served and came home. But he was different, and this time in a bad way. I guess he was just depressed, buried under the tensions of war. Alan spent the next year living in his parent's basement. Sleeping all day, reading comics and listening to music all night. After the year, his mother decided that something needed to be done. She was a women prone to action. His parents signed him up for truck-driver classes. That way, he could sleep all day and work all night. It seemed a good solution. They co-signed for his rig. Off he went to be an unlikely entrepreneur.

I remember the early years. I remember him driving coast-to-coast, making the hard runs that drivers didn't like to do. I remember being a little girl during the trucking strike and wondering if Alan would make it home from the WestCoast safely. Then there was the time he stopped to use the bathroom at the office after he picked up a load at the back warehouse, and walked into a hostage situation with a guy and his machine gun. Alan just turned around and went right back out the door, the guy never even saw him. Alan was on his way to call the police when they arrived, summoned by a silent alarm. Then, there was the time there was a riot in LA. Alan had taken the run for a friend. The riot erupted. He was the last truck that made it out. He could see the guy in the truck behind him pulled free and killed instantly by the mob. There was nothing he could do at all. Then, there was the time his brakes froze going off Jellico Mountain full loaded, dropping down into LakeCity. It seems that no matter what, nothing touched Alan. He just kept rolling along. The years passed.

Mostly, it was a good life for him. He built a business being dependable. First, he paid off his rig, then he bought another. Then another. After awhile, he had a small business. Then, a not-so-very-small business. Alan being Alan, people were still talking about him.

One day, he got a phone call from a minority trucker based on the West coast. He begged Alan to hire him. Alan refused, hiring only a few local truckers because he could manage a few that he personally supervised on a regular basis. The man called again and again. Finally, Alan demanded to know why this man didn't just work as an independent. The man told him that sometimes he got shorted on his pay as an independent because some clients thought they could take advantage of a minority trucker who didn't have the resources of a fleet to back him up in court. Alan eventually thought of a solution. He told the man that he could work for Alan as a contractor. His jobs are processed through Alan's company, with just enough of a fee charged to cover the paperwork. This way, Alan doesn't have to supervise a bi-coastal company. Then, the minority trucker brought along a friend. The next thing Alan knows, he's fronting an entire community of hard-working minority truckers. (Does this sound surreal yet?) Recently, Alan covered a run to the West coast for a driver that had the flu. He had some business paperwork to handle in person with the MT (minority trucker), so he took along his sister Christine (who is Alan's business manager). Alan and Christine met MT one day at the a diner near his apartment. He noticed people looking at him, but he thought it might be because he's a Southern white guy in a seriously ethnic neighborhood. Then, a crowd started gathering. Literally. The diner was full, and there were people gathering outside, pressing against the windows. Men. Women. Children. Alan started to get a little nervous. It turns out that all they wanted was to see the "Great White Leader". (I'm SO not kidding). Everyone in the neighborhood had family that worked through Alan. For the first time, they were making a good wage as ambitious independents. They were well aware of the opportunity presented them, that it grew out of respect for their hard work. That it meant the difference between poverty and prosperity. I don't think Alan "got it" until grown men, babbling in a language he didn't understand, wanted to kiss his hand while tears rolled down their faces. (Christine laughed until she cried. She had to go to the bathroom and call home on her cell-phone. The image of Alan, in his trucker clothes "holding court" was too much for her :)

Alan was especially touched because he treats everyone like family, and it was rare for him to see that some people value him like family too. Most times, he never expects anything in return, not even recognition or gratitude. He'd be shocked that I remember so much of his life, and even more shocked that I thought him worth admiring. He thinks he's normal, that everyone is good. He doesn't understand that he's different. And he truly is, aside from the weird situations he finds himself in, he's different in the way that he acts too.

For example, three years ago, he had an employee worked his way through highschool by cleaning the trucks. One night, the community heard on the scanner that there had been a farming accident involving the cleaner's father. A tractor had rolled over on a hillside, trapping the farmer beneath it hours earlier. He had just been found by a teenager driving past the remote location, practicing his driving on deserted country roads. LifeLift had been called to take him to the trauma center after the tractor was lifted off. Everyone in the community knew what that meant, that something was REALLY wrong. (Apparently, the tractor was resting on the farmer's chest.) The farmer lived, with a seriously mangled leg that would keep him from working as a construction worker for several months. Alan went to see him, and took his check book. Alan has always been a man prone to action, like his mother. He just paid the farmer's mortgage outright for the next few months and wrote him a check for cash for daily expenses. Just because he could. And the sweetly naive thing is that Alan thought that's what anyone would do in his situation :)

As important as his business is to Alan, there's more than that to his life. He has a wife, and children, and his health. Which is no small thing. Last year Alan was diagnosed with Hepatitis A&B&C. Thats right. All THREE kinds of Hepatitis. He suspects he got it in the Army when they were testing a new vacine-injection system. Unfortunately, the chambers didn't clear right so he got a dose of vaccine plus a shot of blood from the person in front of him in line (who had a questionable past). The day after he was diagnosed, his doctor got a call from a friend who was starting a drug-trial for Hepatitis, asking if Alan's doctor knew anyone who was interested. Alan is now completely cured. Just another one of those weird episodes that make up Alan's life.

There's hope for the human race. Alan has a son just like him.

Make Waves

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