Mac and me
Meeting Mac in his civilian garb was really a happy time. Here we were after all the time on Anzio and throughout the war. We made it. Our only celebration though was to stop at a tavern and have a beer. I thought maybe the civilians would come up to us and say something like “welcome home” but they were already passed the Victory day celebrations which were held in the streets when VE day and VJ day came for both wars. It was getting to be ‘old hat’ for most civilians now. Some young girls were “giving us the eye” at times. I should have been less bashful. I was a little hopeful that the ‘girl I left behind’ might reconcile with me and I didn’t want to have any ‘baggage’ to confess.
I don’t recall if we stayed overnight in Seattle. I do recall boarding a Greyhound bus. It was a helter skelter tussle to get on board the crowded bus. Transportation was a scarce commodity. I was a bit disgusted with having to nudge and elbow to get on board. I recall saying, “have a heart, I haven’t been home for three years”.
I remember meeting another returnee named Daniel Green who was heading home for Toppenish. We promised to keep in contact, but we lost tract of each other as we were caught up in civilian life.
The bus finally pulled into the Bus station in CLE ELUM which was at the REED HOTEL. There was no one there to greet me. That’s okay! I was heading home and didn’t want any delays.
The bus station was right next to the rail road depot and tracks. Like a bum, I hiked up the rails with my bags to the bridge which crossed the river. It was a three mile walk to the farm home. I crossed the bridge. There was no traffic at all. It was late in the day. I was hoping for a ride.
I was off the pavement going along a gravel road when a car pulled up beside me. The driver said, “Want a ride soldier?” I turned to look at who ever was the driver! BY GOLLY it was Joseph Lelinski! A school chum from the 1st grade on. He was driving a 1931 Chevrolet which my brother had sold to him when he got home from the service. I must tell about Joe.
When I was on Anzio, my folks sent to me a local newspaper called “THE MINER ECHO”. In that issue it told about Joseph Lelinski and Roger Yurko being drafted. When I was in France my folks sent another paper and in that paper was an article with headlines. “Joseph Lelinski returns from the ETO”. Joseph and Roger both were thrown into a battle in which they lasted just minutes or hours. Both of them returned with parts of their guts missing. It doesn’t take long to get maimed in a battle.
Both Roger and Joseph are dead now. No doubt their lives were shortened by the severity of their wounds and too they both had a severe trauma which went on unrecognized by their wives and families. Joe suffered a divorce. Roger might not have married. He became an alcoholic.
Joe took advantage of the GI bill and actually became a superintendent of a school till his early death.
Joseph Lelinski asked if I had met my brother’s wife yet. “My brother’s wife”? Hell no I didn’t even know he was married!! Don only wrote 3 letters to me while I was in the service. I was really angry with him for that neglect, but he became a full-fledged farmer and was busy with the farm operation. He blossomed into a fearless investor and good farmer.
Joe drove into our farm yard. I jumped out of the car while he unloaded my bags. He left without waiting for my thanks. He knew my anxieties were running at a feverish pitch! I slammed open the kitchen door. There wasn’t anyone in the kitchen so I ran into the next room and there I saw my sister with her little girl Bonnie who was now three. She was only 3 months old when I left for overseas. Bonnie was frightened out of her wits to see me barge in to the room. Yep we were bawling already! Ella my sister couldn’t speak, she just pointed to the bedroom where my mother lay in bed. It was one of those scenes movies were made of. My mother sick in bed. I dropped down on my knees and fell on her and sobbed and sobbed as I am right now as I write about it. “I’m Home I’m Home” I said over and over again. We weren’t the hugging and kissing kind but I couldn’t help it.
Then the facts of her illness unfolded. Tomorrow she would have an operation. Her sister had died from the same complication and the prospects of recovery were dim at that time.
Even today, when I see Bonnie, she remembers the day I came home causing such a tearful ruckus in the house which was at peace until I burst into the scenery.
I asked where Daddy would be found and Donald. They were in the field digging potatoes. They were scheduled to be home in an hour or so bringing the trucks loaded with sacked potatoes which had to be placed in a cellar about 20 miles away.
Daddy finally came home. Gee, I was glad to see him! Bald head and all! His blue eyes were gleaming as he looked at the soldier he knew had to go to war that day when Elmer Pays’ radio blared out the news of Hitler’s invasion of Poland. We didn’t hug! We just stood there shaking hands for the longest time. Hugging another man in our family was out of the question. A vigorous hand grasp conveyed the message of love.
The very next day Mom had her operation. It was a success.
Because gas was rationed we were not able to make a trip 25 miles away to the hospital in Ellensburg. I got into the act of farming. I went to the field to help dig potatoes. Daddy and Don had bought a new little John Deere “H” model tractor and I had my first grand opportunity to sit on a new modern farm tractor. I loved it.
One day after the work was done we drove to visit Mom in the hospital. I got to drive the 1937 Chevrolet car for the first time in all those years of my absence. But like swimming, once you learn you don’t forget. Don had run the wheels off that rig during my absence. It was quite shabby.
Don and his wife rode in the back seat and Daddy in front with me as I drove. We were on a rough gravel bumpy back road going kinda downhill, when Daddy said, “Norman, don’t you tink you dribe it too fast”? I kinda said to Daddy what most comments are to back seat drivers,” who’s driving me or you”! It was a very smart alec comment and I am ashamed of myself for making it.
THEN just as I said it, the drag link to the steering dropped off on the rough road and we headed over the bank and over a big rock almost smacking a light pole! Daddy’s wisdom would have prevailed if I had only been creeping down that rough road. Don and his wife were jostled around coming back down on their back sides on bare metal after the seat flew out from under them. This could have been an opportunity for Daddy to ‘rub it in’, but he didn’t say a word like, “I told you so”! We were all lucky the car didn’t hit the light pole!
I looked over the damage underneath. I placed the tie rod back on the ball joint and we drove on more carefully. We visited Mom in the hospital and came away feeling elated over her success and better health. She lived to her hundredth year. Daddy died in 1951 at the age of only 58.