Mike Recovers With A Lot Of Help32,61,62,63,64,65,66

While he was in the hospital, Pa and Alex visited Mike on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Pottsville was 23 mites distance from a New Boston. Transportation was a problem. On Saturdays they took the train back and forth. On Wednesdays both worked in the mornings. In the afternoon they were met by a member of the local union who transported them to the hospital via of a horse drawn carriage. After their visit. they were able to board the late train back to the patches.

There was no such thing as sick leave or family leave. Pa, never-the-less was able to draw a full weeks wages thanks to his fellow workers. On Wednesdays the workers in his chamber worked harder and longer to retrieve their daily quota.

The men in Mike's section passed the hat and collected sixty dollars. Mike was well liked and this was a significant amount of money. The mine laborers and miners all made an effort to help each other through difficult times.

The mine operators, on the other hand, were only obligated to pay his medical expenses. It would be years before there were laws providing for full workman's compensation for time lost, and permanent injuries. Death benefits were in place and allowed a widow to eke out a meager existence with benefits for each child until age 12. Of course, they could always take in boarders!

Whenever Pa and Alex made the trip to Pottsville, they always carried letters-- lots of letters for Mike from the rest of the family. Ma had the equivalent of a fourth grade education in Poland and could read and written her native tongue. Pa had an equivalent education and was able to read all notes to Mike from Ma, grandmother and grandfather.

Mary, Marty, and I all wrote our own notes in English which Mike was able to read thanks to our tutoring. I also wrote notes for Margaret who was four and didn't want to be left out. These I shall always remember:

Dear mike Don't forget, I get to wash your back. Love Margaret.

Dear Mike, Mr. Peters dog, Fancy, had puppies. 1 named one Pinky. Love, Margaret.

Dear Mike, Ma won't let me have a puppy. Pinky peed on me! Love, Margaret.

Dear Mike, When you come home I want to bring Pinky over to play with you-- but Ma says he may pee on you too! Love, Margaret.

The company ambulance transporting Mike back to our house arrived on Saturday, afternoon approximately 3 1/2 weeks from the date of his accident. Pa was given notice of his intended discharge three days earlier.

We were all excited but Ma, I would have to say was most excited.. She had not seen Mike since the day of his accident. His last words before he left for work were, “Ma you are the best cook. You will never know how much we appreciate you.

Ma remembered those words. A special bond existed between them. He was her eldest son from a father who died before he was born. She had protected him when he was small and she would always worry about him.

Now she scurried about with Grandmother placing the house in order- as best they could with such a large family and Ma was expecting again. (Tommy was born in 1913)

The large brown couch, upon which we all piled in late evenings, was now off limits and would be his bed. This would eliminate his need to climb the stairs which were often cluttered with shoes and the children's play things. Pa said Mike still had periodic headaches and urged “No screaming or loud noises! ''

We knew all about that. Ma frequently had headaches--one or two per week-that sometimes confined her to bed for two or three hours. We were also told, '' Children, we all need to keep the floors clear. Mike still has problems with dizziness and we don't want him to fall and get hurt again. We were most attentive-- sometimes reminding each other of our responsibilities.

Ma laid a white sheet, a down pillow, and a comforter on the couch.

Margaret and I, with Dorothy tagging behind, picked wild violets from- he field and placed them in jelly jars along the shelf representing Grandmother's special altar. The Holy pictures were in place along with Grandmother's prayer book. Ma also picked a few daffodils from her flower garden and a neighbor brought over a wonderful bouquet of lilacs - the sweet scent of which wafted through the house. Ma placed them on our kitchen table.

Margaret and I made a welcoming home sign in English from some school paper.

Aunt Anna, bless her heart, baked a cake and sent word that Margaret and I were to come to her house to fetch it. Thoughtfully, she baked two. The aroma of fresh apple-walnut cake was more than we could stand. Lest we invade that entrusted to our care, she sliced a piece for each of us from her very own cake which we eagerly accepted and devoured within minutes.

“Now walk carefully!'' she said as we departed. ''Tell your Ma I will be over for a short visit tomorrow if the weather is clear.”

After returning home with the the cakes we sat down for lunch. As I was clearing the table, I felt Margaret pulling on my skirt, ''Agnes, can I go over and see Pinky? I want to get him so Mike can play with him”.

''Oh no Margaret'', I hastily responded. ''With all the excitement around here he might get lost or even hurt.” I could tell she was disappointed. ''But I know what you can do. How would you like to be the one to bring him the welcome home sign? Mike would like that.”

That did it. Margaret ran to look for the sign.

As the time grew near we kids all gathered outside the house -each wanting to be the first to spot the ambulance. Marty ran up the road and after a few minuets, came running towards the houses. “It's coming! It's coming!”, he shouted. Marty and I ran into the house and sent Margaret to the back yard and barn where the men were tending to the animals. Within minuets we were all outside to meet the ambulance.

Ma sent Margaret and I, along with Dorothy who was only two, back into the house with the orders to ''Take care of Dorothy. We don't the want her getting in way as we help Mike into the house.”

I looked out the front window as the ambulance driver and Pa helped Mike out of the ambulance. Mike looked pale and thin but happy to be home. He and Ma were the first to hug and then a succession of others. He was still unsteady on his feet and had to lean on Alex and Pa as they made their way into the house and to the couch.

Mary brought out some fresh lemonade and tea cakes. Meanwhile, Margaret, Dorothy and I piled into the living room. We were so anxious to see him. Margaret came in toting our sign. Dorothy also wanted to help but Margaret resisted and there was a bit of crying, but Mike reached out and hugged Dorothy who was irresistible especially when she cried. She was given a special place on the couch. This more than compensated for the original hurt. Mike was always very patient and loving toward the younger children-- a characteristic that will always stand out in my mind. I never heard him say an unkind word. Even though he was a stepbrother he seemed more like Pa than my other brothers.

Before long, we were all gathered at the table awaiting Ma's feast. Pa said grace which was longer than usual. We were truly grateful for Mike's improvement and we would work hard and pray for his full recovery.

One of the best surprises came a bit later when grandfather presented him with a beautiful intricately carved walking-cane which he had carved and polished himself.. Mike was overwhelmed, “I will use it with pride and when fully recovered, and that day will be soon, I shall mount it above my bed as a constant reminder of my wonderful family.”

It was an exciting day and I'm sure Mike was glad when night arrived, prayers were said and we were all settled down for a most peaceful night's sleep.

Hours rolled into days and days into weeks. We eagerly took turns walking with Mike-- first around the house, and then the yard.. Within a month we were on Main Street. Mike's balance had improved to where he could navigate the steps. He reclaimed his bed and we reclaimed the large brown couch in the living room. Mike skill liked to carry grandfather's cane. We kids also liked to pretend to walk with It. True to his word Mike eventually mounted it above his bed.

And yes, Margaret did bring Mr. Pete's puppy Pinky to visit. And yes, he was so excited he did pee all over Mike. Thankfully he did miss Ma's comforter. In time we all became quite attached to Pinky- who would now follow Margaret or anyone who was willing to act as a substitute mother! And yes, Ma eventually gave in, “ Yes Margaret you can keep Pinky, but you must help to feed him and take care of him.” Dorothy had also become smitten and would play for hours with Margaret and Pinky.

Margaret agreed, ''I'll be his mother”. Nurturing came easy in our house.

Mike had a constant flow of visitors, friends, fellow workers, relatives, neighbors and union members.

He reached a point where he began to feel restlessly his strength improved he hauled water and coal and milked the cows.

Ma was still adamant, she did not want Mike to go back to the mines. I usually went with Ma to the huckster wagons. They were very friendly. Several came to visit Mike. One suggested Mike buy huckleberries from the local kids and other gatherers, pack them in boxes that could be obtained from the company store, and then send them via train to a store in Pottsville. The huckster knew the owner who said he would buy all Mike could send. Mike did for several months through the huckleberry season. After expenses were considered, his profit was dismal. Freight charges proved to be too costly.

Mr. Mankowski, another huckster had the best news. He was impressed by the news that Mike has been a mule boys and highly respected by his peers and the miners. “Come with me on my rounds, Mike. If I'll let you drive the team and let's see how you can handle the horses and the customers-- though I'll warn you now, the horses are sometimes easier to please than the customers.”

Mike was elated. It was the best news he had heard.

Mr. Pankowski continued, ''I want to expand and I need another man to cover all the patches around here-- so if you can handle it the job is yours. Of course, you'll need to cover me for several weeks until your familiar with the job. See what your Doctor says and let me know.”

Mike was quick to respond, “I've come a long way Mr. Mankowski and I feel I'm as good as I vas before the accident. I'm going to see Dr. Rudder in two days. I'll discuss it with him.”

Good Mike, I'll be back here again on Monday and if Dr. Rudder says your O.K. you can start driving around the patches with me.”

Dr. Rudder was pleased with Mike's progress and the word was, “Do it Mike! You'll be out of the mines, and one day you may have a business of your own. Do it Mike, your ready, and it's a great opportunity!''

Mike agreed.

I remember the year 1912 for another reason. This was the year we moved to Morea. We were all looking forward to the move especially Ma. We lived in New Boston, but grandmother, Grandfather and Ma's other sister and brothers all lived in Morea --only 24 miles away but not like being down the block since there has no other means of transportation besides our own two God-given legs.

Grandmother walked to our house almost daily and often stayed one or two days in inclement weather..

Pa had placed our name on the coal company registers for a house in Morea with a full barn. Ma already had one cow and the shanty in New Boston was already too small for mass menagerie and she wanted to expand. Grandfather had a small dairy in Morea and promised Ma one of his prize cows. I think he was hoping to eventually phase out of the dairy business and let Ma and our family take over.

At the end of August Pa received news that a house with a barn vas available. We moved In September, before the bad weather. Ma was expecting in January and wanted her household in order.

Mike started working with Mr. Pankowski and had graduated to driving his own horse and wagon. He was well liked by his boss and customers, and was now receiving wages equivalent to that received as a mule driver. Mike was happy and Ma was very happy..

Our math lessons also paid off. Mike was very quick to grasp all mathematical concepts particularly as they pertained to business and soon surpassed all his teachers. He continued to save a small amount of his wages on a regular basis --a habit he established as a breaker boy.

He was only seventeens but this step forward as a huckster had spawned a new aspiration --that of owning his own business. Ma, “ One of these days I'm going to have my own business and I'm going to buy us a fancy horse and surrey and then am going to drive you and Pa to church and all over moral”.

Ma smiled with pride --if anyone could do it Mike could. But it would take time. Meanwhile she was thinking about the new arrival.

If Ma worried about Mike--he also worried about Ma. A new baby arrived about every two years. Her priorities centered about nursing the new arrival, spending what time she could with the younger children, cooking, jarring and sewing. She made most of our clothes. In addition, she and Pa enjoyed their time together milking the cows. We all assisted in feeding and caring for the animals. There were many times when she really looked tired but kept pushing. Headaches were a frequent problem and I'm sure she felt the stress of caring for our enlarging family.

Ma depended heavily on Grandmother who seemed to have boundless energy, and tackled all jobs with a quiet enthusiasm. Her child bearing days were over and her body had a chance to heal.