Wednesday, December 26, 2007

My Condolences... all of you who had to go back to work today. I did not even have visitors, and I am pooped, trying to hold on to the warm glow of Christmas and feeling like doing nothing. Going back to a nine-to-five job has to be a huge shock to the system. It was shocking enough to discover I better get some bills off today - what a reality check!

I have fond memories of "Christmas Vacation" both when I was in school and later when I worked in the public school system. That lovely week between holidays, before the beginning of the New Year, before having to get back to seriousness and commitments, was always full of sleeping in, reading, knitting in front of the fireplace, listening to holiday music. Mom was a teacher so had that vacation too, but Dad only had Christmas Day and New Year's Day off. He worked underground in a silver mine, a physically punishing and dangerous job. That's him on the right, filling in for a shift boss and giving a tour at the 3000 foot level to one of the mine directors (spring 1958). Paid holidays were few, paid sick leave nonexistent. It's no wonder he slept so much on those few extra days off. There were times I could sense the resentment when he had to head back to work the day after Christmas while the rest of us goofed off.

And so it was with great relish that he teased us about having to go to school the day after Easter. Since Easter always fell on Sunday, the mines always gave the workers Monday as their official day off. "What?" dad would innocently ask, "You DON'T have today off?" I suspect he rather enjoyed rubbing it in and having the house all to himself.

In spite of his stressful life (or maybe because of it), dad had quite a sense of humor. When he survived 25 years working for the Galena mine, he tried to brush off the honor by writing a quip on the newspaper article below.

He was lucky to spend so many years underground with only a few minor injuries. He did have a few close brushes with death, and his survival wasn't all luck. I found this 1961 photo with a typewritten note from "Larry" saying, "I appreciate your efforts in keeping your work place with good floors and the necessary safeguards." That's dad on the right.

The mine is still in operation today, men still taking extraordinary risks to support their families. Here's what it looks like on top, no hint as to the dark and dank recesses the miners decend to.

I'd like to think that things got easier for dad as he got older, and we five kids also got older and responsible for ourselves. My brothers are all quite a bit older than me, so I remember many years of feeling like an only child, spending lots of one-on-one time with dad in his off hours. Here we are on vacation in 1968. I think he's trying to suppress a laugh there.

I'd also like to think that he never forgot the good times interspersed with the harsher ones. This is one of my favorite pictures of mom and dad when they were courting in 1937. He was in the Civilian Conservation Corps at Pactola (South Dakota) and she came out to the camp with her church group which put on dances for the boys.

Thanks for indulging me as I drifted off into a family memory. I meant to tell you how I dreamed of spending this week catching up on my reading. like in the days of my youth. But since that isn't going to happen, this little sidetrack was a very pleasant substitute.

No comments: