My Grandfather had a tattoo of my Grandmother's name. He'd scratch at it when they'd fight and say "Katie! I wish I'd never got this damn tattoo!" Their relationship was never easy; he'd drink and she'd complain and they'd fight and he'd scratch that tattoo.
He grew up in coal mining towns, never working the mines himself. He did suffer from the oppressive inhale and exhale of coal dust that lined everything he saw as a child. That dust doesn't just get stuck in the lungs, it gets stuck in the mind and in a person's heart and soul. Until finally it covers every part of their being in some sort of darkness; impossible to clean.
He carried that darkness through every day he lived and left it on all he touched. He carried it into his marriage and passed it onto his children, and grandchildren.
He died when I was two but he never went away. He was the empty chair at the table, he was the anger in the air, the fight in the words spoken and unspoken. He was the dust kicked up in the summer storms, black and uneasy.
My Grandmother loved my Grandfather and I'm certain he loved her. They just lived in a way that never got them anywhere. I'm sure they had hopes and dreams once upon a time; they just seemed to get stuck and lost somewhere under all that dust.
I wrote a song inspired by my Grandfather and Grandmother's story, called West Virginia Lung. It's on my Prophet On The Barstool album, and this is a solo version I recorded, and the album version is below that.