HeartStories 5

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart) …
e. e. cummings

Thanks to Sarah Thebarge, author of The Invisible Girls, for encouraging me to ask this question: “What stories do I carry with me in my heart today?”

Here’s one I told my friend Luke Olney last week. He urged me to share it with you, too. My childhood wasn’t perfect. No one’s is. But I am blessed to have many beautiful, loving mental snapshots like this one. Thanks, Mom and Dad, for being the kind of parents I still want to tell other people about.

Childhood/Mining Country

Tornado siren wails.
We run to cool basement  
take cover
wait to
hear his footsteps on the landing
smell his Lifebuoy scent
know we are safe.

I am a coal miner's daughter. And proud to say that! Because my Dad worked nights for most of my childhood, my Mom did a lot of parenting on her own. All of us watched and waited for him to come home. Sometimes he walked in and surprised us. Sometimes we knew he'd be coming. But all the time, we knew our family was incomplete until he was with us again.

I am a coal miner's daughter. And proud to say that! Because my Dad worked nights for most of my childhood, my Mom did a lot of parenting on her own. All of us watched and waited for him to come home. Sometimes he walked in and surprised us. Sometimes we knew he'd be coming. But all the time, we knew our family was incomplete until he was with us again.

Before dark
his car on gravel driveway  
"Wildcat tonight!"
flannel-shirt hugs
picnic on the kitchen table from his dinner bucket
iced coffee better than finest champagne.

Daddy drank from this thermos every night when he worked at Old Ben No. 9. When my sister Barb and I got to drink from it, he made it a special treat. Even though that meant he wasn't getting paid because the miners went out on strike.

Daddy drank from this thermos every night when he worked at Old Ben No. 9. When my sister Barb and I got to drink from it, he made it a special treat. Even though that meant he wasn't getting paid because the miners went out on strike.

Best paying job: switchboard operator
reading volumes of classics and best sellers
while train cars moved in and out of the yard
watching other miners go below
expecting them to return to the washhouse each night
saying good-bye to those who never did.

Old Ben No. 9 coal mine, West Frankfort, Illinois

Old Ben No. 9 coal mine, West Frankfort, Illinois

Sacrifices made: night shift
missing little girls nestled on his lap to hear a story
stealing kisses after midnight
digesting best sellers with his snack of milk and crackers
sleeping when the world was awake
paychecks allocated before received
coal dust layered on clothing, cars, hands, lungs.

No matter how many hours he was away from us, our Daddy always filled our times together with so much love.

No matter how many hours he was away from us, our Daddy always filled our times together with so much love.

Bits of self and chunks of dreams
abandoned at the mine
20 years given to Old King Coal
at Old Ben No. 9.

A memorial to coal miners on Main Street in West Frankfort, Illinois, my hometown

A memorial to coal miners on Main Street in West Frankfort, Illinois, my hometown

Laura Warfel is a widow, writer, and follower of Jesus Christ. Her greatest joy is to bring others along with her on her faith journey. In 2015, because of the encouragement of the Launch Out Conference and Jon Acuff, she launched More Than A Widow on Facebook and Twitter. Today she blogs, tweets, and posts to help widows (and those who know them) find encouragement, hope, and resources for the journey. Her goal is to help all widows live beyond the label and live as more than a widow.
Copyright © 2017 by Laura Warfel