a country the size of New Mexico with no natural boundaries except the Carpathian Mountains in the south and the Oder and Neisse rivers in the west.
My grandfather spoke to me of coal mines in Freeland, Pennsylvania…
Coal mines where lives were lost – his own father’s life locked up in a deep, dark tunnel- and how he worked in a store selling mining supplies.
My grandfather talked to me of wars…
Too young for World War I, too old for World War II, he worked at Bethlehem Steel…
That once was America’s second-largest steel producer and largest ship builder.
My grandfather talked of dogs – how to train them to sit, stay, come.
How to love your dog without spoiling him (but we spoiled every one of them – Lady, Pixie, Sweepey, Sheba, and Abbey Road).
My grandfather talked of fairs and amusement parks – the big Ferris wheel, the rollercoasters, the up-and-down merry-go-rounds with their beautiful horses. We rode on them at Dorney Park each summer, just my grandfather and me.
My grandfather talked of polkas…
I stood on his stocking feet as we danced around the livingroom to music playing on a 45 record until we were both dizzy and breathless!
My grandfather talked of lakes – of diving off the big boulders at Lake Wallenpaupack, of catching fish with his bare hands, of boating on the cool lake waters. My favorite place to visit when I was five.
My grandfather talked of swimming like a fish – he loved the water, but I was afraid….
At Sailor’s Lake, we joined hands, took a big gulp of air, and went under to spring up like playful dolphins. And suddenly, I was not afraid!
My grandfather talked of farms, of planting corn and tomatoes, of strong-withered beasts galloping and rearing in green pastures. We traveled throughout the Lehigh Valley just so we could stand on fence rails to watch them.
My grandfather talked of love – for my grandma, for my mom, for me. He talked with his sparkling green eyes, his strong hands, his big heart. He filled me with confidence, with the safe assurance of knowing that I was loved.