Sunday, October 17, 2010

deep earth


I was laying in bed wide awake in the middle of the night last night.  Listening to the sounds of the wind blowing softly.  Ok, it wasn't the wind, it was Steve's C-Pap blowing in my ear...it makes a soft whooshing sound and I like to pretend I am in the woods and the wind is blowing through the trees.  Once in a while he gets a kink in the hose and it starts squealing...that is when it sounds like a pig dying in the woods...but last night it was behaving and whooshing in my ear...
I was laying there letting my thoughts drift like they tend to do in the night...nothing to distract or interrupt...and thinking about life as it is now...and then somehow I remembered how it was when Steve and I met (I was barely 17) and how our lives had changed and the path we'd traveled over the years as husband and wife.

I wondered if Steve has any regrets...he isn't the type to talk about things like that, he lives firmly in the here and now, except when he gets worried about something and drives us all nuts...

He's never said much about what he would do differently.  I was thinking about his thoughts last night, it wasn't "me" oriented thinking, but I was trying to put myself in his body, thought-wise.  And I started thinking about how hard he has worked all his life  (he works still, finding more to do every day than he can possibly get finished), and how well he has taken care of all of us.

While we were all busy, the kids going to school, growing up, me running my own business, and then going to college to become a nurse, Steve was just...being himself... going to work everyday to support us and give us all a sense of safety and providing us with a home we could always feel protected in...

It wasn't an easy job.  Steve worked as a coal miner for over 30 years.  For those of you not familiar with what coal mining is like, imagine being dropped in a crowded cage straight down into deep earth, and working in that deep earth with nothing to protect you but steel toed boots, a hard hat with a light on the end so you could see what you were doing, and a self rescuer on your tool belt to remind you every day you worked of the possibility of being trapped, with that little piece of equipment to buy you time and air, while someone hopefully was able to dig or blast their way to you...

Watching the Chilean miners wasn't easy for Steve...miners are a brotherhood, and there are no borders or cultural differences or politics when fellow miners are trapped somewhere in the world.  Men who make their living digging things from the earth are close knit.  I have watched Steve suffer when men were killed in mines in China and other places in the world.  Steve chafed at not being able to help the Chilean miners, and rejoiced when they were rescued.

This is the other thing you may not understand unless you have lived with a miner.  Every day he went to work might be his last.  Over the years he lost friends to cave-ins, to equipment that failed or was operated by carelessness, to disease caused by breathing coal dust.  And I realized every day he went to work he might not come back.  That was always in the back of my mind while I took care of our kids and ran my daily routine.  And death wasn't the only risk.  I can still close my eyes and see Steve's daddy coming through my front door trying to prepare me and keep me calm at the same time while Steve followed behind him with both hands wrapped in gauze like a mummy.  He'd gotten into some live electricity at work (by now he was working as an electrician in the coal mine) and had severe burns on both hands.  That was the day I learned the reality of being a miner's wife as I bathed my husband and helped him dress.  It was a lesson I never forgot.  Steve has also lost many friends over the years to disabilities caused by mining accidents.

All this ran through my mind as I laid there last night listening to the whooshing of the wind in my ear.  And as I laid there I felt suddenly overwhelmed.  With gratitude, for all that Steve had done for us.  For always feeling safe because of him.  For all that he probably gave up, all the dreams and wishes he might have had and quietly put aside for us.  All for us. 

And I realize that I have nothing to complain about.  And that a big part of who I am today is because of him.  And his steadfastness.

Thank you Steve.  For living in the deep earth for us for 30 years.  For being you.
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