By Steve Trubilla
This is a little different story. Not political, just one of life’s other stories.
The grown-ups were whispering around the kitchen table as six children gathered at the banister trying very hard to hear what they were talking about. It was unusual for the adults to be there that late in the evening.
It was 1950 something and times were hard. Few had televisions or even cars. When something big was going on, families gathered for the news around the radio on Rowe Street. It was an old Firestone Air Chief.
There was an explosion in number 8 mine; men were buried below on Sharp Mountain. Aunt Peg, just a young girl herself was pregnant. She said Uncle Bob was one of the men trapped in the mine.
The radio had seen its better days. Everyone strained to listen to what the man was saying.
Mark, the baby, started to cry, all eyes turned to where the children gathered. Their mother, aunt Peg’s sister, now seeing them at the top of the steps scolded, “You all get back to bed.”
The oldest, Mary Ellen, herself only 10 or 11, said to little Jon, “now give me your hand,” as she marched the rest of them back up two flights of stairs to their small but warm bedroom.
It was January; mountain cold, in north eastern Pennsylvania coal country, when the next morning, Father Eddie, the priest, arrived to tell the family Uncle Bob was not coming home any more. He asked everyone to join hands and pray.
Months later aunt Peg gave birth to her only child, little Bobby. In what seemed like almost overnight it was time for him to start kindergarten.
There they stood at the classroom door, his little tear-filled eyes, gripping mommy’s hand saying “please don’t leave me.”
Miss Edwards, the teacher, unfolded his little fingers and said to Aunt Peg, “Now you go home, he will be fine.”
As the days turned to years little Bobby was fine. Like his father he would one day have calloused hands from hard work in old number 8 mine.
Life would not be planned; it would just happen.
Bobby grew to be a strong man. He married another miner’s daughter and together they raised a large family.
Over time, he, his wife, and children would be seen holding hands and walking along the mountain roads where his father’s spirit lived on.
Many years later Bobby’s eyes were again filled with tears, as his once-small hand, would be holding his mother’s hand at her bedside as she slipped away to join her husband. Aunt Peg never remarried.
One day Bobby’s little girl would have little girls with tiny little hands. He would tell them of their grandfather. A simple man that worked hard, a father he never knew, but loved with all his heart.
As Bobby looked at his granddaughters, thinking of his own father, tears welled up in his eyes. He finally realized it was not what people call the big things that matter. It is the little things; the little hands.
There is a season for all things and Bobby, a number of years ago, passed to be with his father and mother.
Old number 8 has been shut down. It played out, now most people in the area just find work were they can.
To most of the world uncle Bob’s story will be just another story. The other person’s loss is always so distant from our lives. Yet it is the never ending story of all of our lives.
For me, the story is a memory revisited.
The last few weeks have been an especially hard time for my family. We lost a brother-in-law that had suffered for many years from lung disease he contracted while working in a zinc industrial plant.
He passed away on 26 October 2013. The 26th of October is also my granddaughter Abigail’s birthday. She now has her own very special guardian angel.
Like Uncle Bob, most reading this would not have known him. He was a good man, a son, brother, husband, father, and grandfather. He was veteran that served time in Vietnam.
His name was Delbert Miller; he was my wife’s big brother hero, and my friend.
As I close my eyes now I can see little Abigail on his knee while he sat in his wheelchair holding her little hand.
Every time we would meet he would ask how I was doing. Even though he suffered so, he always thought of others first. I will miss him.
With all that there is in life to consume our time, I find most things, when you come right down to it, really do not matter.
The world will turn with or without us. Sometimes it takes true loss for us to remember this.
Little hands. God bless them all, and the smiles and joy they bring to the world.