Sky blue hardhat under his arm and gnarled hand holding a tin lunchbox he’d walk out the back door and into pre-dawn West Virginia.
Still being small I really didn’t understand what he did between the time the old green Pontiac rolled up the driveway in the morning and when he walked through the same back door, just as my grandmother was setting places on the checkered plastic tablecloth, every afternoon.
As I got older I learned that while I was above the town in a second floor classroom, or was underwater in the Oglebay Park swimming pool, he was a thousand feet underground scraping cave walls for coal and not realizing that the fuel’s by-product was not pollution but cancer.
I remember most of his words, not only because there weren’t many spoken, but those that did cross his lips were necessary and left you wanting more. And as I sit and recall his infrequent wisdom I look up to the shelf that holds a gift from my grandmother – a dusty old hardhat whose color in my fading mind matches the eyes of my grandfather.
copyright 2012 Steven Harz