Most of my old friends I visited had the latest model cars, spotless homes and nice clothes. Most of them retired at an early age. Seeing all of this made me think and ask myself the question, should I have left my country many years ago. As energetic as I was, I wouldn't have done much better than my friends if I had stayed in Holland. Since my mother is much older, if I had stayed, I would have been able to visit her more often. All of those things go through your mind. Since I had my heart-attacks and I wasn't working anymore I had more time to think. When I was working I was so busy with my job that I didn't have time think about other things.
There is a saying, "where you were born, your heart wants to go back to". I know all of those things I was thinking of were just dreams. I had made my life somewhere else and it was so different than what I saw about Holland. The Dutch people are well taken care of by the government. Young people are stimulated to stay in school as long as they like to advance their education. The Dutch government gives students a monthly allowance. As small as the country is, there are just not enough jobs around. Only the best educated ones are hired. I thought about Holland and what the future will be, especially for the young people. With such an easy social standard of living, how can the younger generation have any incentive of making something out of life.
I went around town and visited some of the old beer pubs where, during my coal-mining years I had spent many days flushing down the coal dirt out of my lungs. The town my mother lives in is very small, but on almost every street corner you can find a beer pub. I couldn't understand how most of them stayed in business as many people as there was without work, but in every beer pub I visited there were always people around. I met so many of my old coal-mining friends. Some of them came to me and introduced themselves as I didn't recognize them right away. After so many years we all had changed so much. It's such a good feeling to see an old friend again and reminisce about the days we worked in the coal mines together. As tough and dangerous as the work was, we had such a comradeship, and it still the same when I meet one of my coal-mining buddies.
Whenever I visit Holland I always spend a few days with my close coal mining friend Leo Paterski. For more than three years we worked together underground in the coal mines and did all kinds of work wherever the mining company needed us. Leo took me all around the coal mining property and showed me what has happened to it over the years. There wasn't a trace left that you could say there had ever been a coal mine at that spot. As I looked at an open area where once railroad tracks filled with coal cars were parked to be shipped away, was now a large warehouse with all kinds of American war equipment. I saw many American tanks parked all over the place. Under the NATO agreement this was one of the American defensive weaponry stockpiles for any aggressor against any NATO country. I was told the only thing the American government had to do is fly in the combat troops and all of the war equipment would be ready to go. Some Dutch people were employed on those bases, but it never replaced the employment the coal mines had before. As Leo parked his car and we walked around the grounds, it gave me a strange and also sad feeling to know that at one time there had been a coal mine I had worked in as a young man. Whatever I will be in life, or wherever I will live, in my heart there will always be a spot for those men and friends who worked so hard and were so sincere and honest in their daily living. Those years in the coal mines and the friends I worked with will always be part of my life. Leo retired from the coal mines when they closed the business. I asked him how the local people felt about closing all the coal mines in the area. He told me for the younger generation it made no difference if they worked in the mines. Most older people felt since the coal mines had closed, the comradeship among the people in town had disappeared along with it. Many of the older people wished the coal mines were still around. Leo was still a bachelor, and I asked him how come he never got married. He told me that after his father died he had to look after his mother. Not long after I returned from my trip I received a letter from my mother telling me that after a short time in the hospital, Leo's mother had passed away.