It Was A Sad Christmas: 1916


It was a sad Christmas. Grandmother was no better, and Pa was running a temperature and complaining of more pain. He was very weak, and spent most of each day in bed. Stanley was only 6 months old and he too needed attention. Ma was constantly busy. We were all a very busy.

Sister Mary, who now had Mike's old surrey and his prize horse Jimmy Allen drove twice weekly (weather permitting) from Mahanoy City, and helped all she could. This was quite a feat since the road to the patch was very steep and dangerous especially in winter. When the weather was especially threatening, she would spend the night.

We were all very stressed and frightened--very frightened! In prior days it was always Grandmother and her big black prayer book, who was so consoling and who did so much to help us through hard-times. We missed her reassuring words her prayers (which always seemed to work) and her hugs.

Ma, in her grief over Pa and Grandmother, hardly seemed to notice us; and when Mike and Marty came in from Mahanoy City, they were constantly busy trying to help Pa or console Ma.

Alex was still living at home but was now working extra hours in the mines trying to make up for Pa's absence. What time he had at home he spent with Pa. They were always close. If he noticed us or our younger brothers, it was not apparent. He always seemed to be in his own world and far distant from the rest of us. In retrospect, I suspect this was his way of dealing with the stress he faced at the mines as well as at home.

Margaret and I did our best to look after grandmother and at the same time do our chores and look after our two younger brothers. Dorothy, although she was only seven at the time, was a great help with Tommy and Stanley. She too was bewildered about the cyclonic confusion that now existed; but this didn't dampen her nurturing skills. She loved her younger brothers and even learned to change and clean diapers--all of which was a great help to us. She had always followed Grandmother about and absorbed her every word. Now she had questions. We all had questions. ''If God is good (and pray we did) then why-did he allow Grandmother and Pa to suffer? Why were they still sick??'' We were all praying for miracles that never happened.

Christmas passed. It was now New Years and the FEAST OF THE THREE KINGS. The evening Pa became much worse, and began to roll all over the floor In pain. Marry ran for the doctor.

The older Dr. Rudder had retired; and his replacement Dr. Kennedy and his wife, a nurse, arrived--I'm sure they were there within 10 to 15 minutes but It seemed like an eternity- We were all clustered around Pa --some hysterical and all of us feeling very helpless.

This was the first time Pa was examined by a doctor since his accident seven weeks earlier. The doctor noted the residual discoloration all over the right kidney region and back, and now the exquisite tenderness and the unbearable abdominal pain. He gave Pa a few drops of a powerful pain medication. Alex finally told him about the mine accident and how Pa was hurt. He made notes, but because of the severe abdominal pains he told us that he might have acute appendicitis. Pa was rushed to the MINERS HOSPITAL IN ASHLAND.

Ma was hysterical. Dr. Kennedy recommended smelling salts and a bit of whiskey. Mike, who was usually able to comfort Ma, wanted to stay with her. “No. No.”she pleaded, ''You must go with Jacob and Alex.”

Mike returned the next morning. The news was not good. At the time of surgery, they found a mass of blood and puss involving the right kidney that had ruptured into the abdominal cavity causing peritonitis. He was not expected to live. They inserted a drain: and promised to keep him comfortable.

Pa died two days later.