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The Last Decade
By Becky Allen Martin
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2012 Becky Allen Martin
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Chapter OneThe Turn of the Century
The year 2000, the turn of the century, was about here. The Martin family started the decade before January first. Henry's 70th birthday was on December 12 Th 1999. The house was already decorated for Christmas and ready for company; the extended family planned a big party at our house in Albany. Everybody in his family was invited and most of them who lived close enough came. His sister, Willie Glenn Holmes, who had not been away from the Wewa area in years was his special quest.
One of the boy's drove her up to Albany the night before so she could go to church with us in Parrot; our son David had been pastor at the Parrot Baptist Church for over twenty year and she had never heard him preach. This was special for Henry and his sister. Henry was proud of David as a preacher and happy that Willie Glenn finally heard him preach. Most of the Martin family from out of town came directly to the church. Sharon's choir was doing their Christmas cantata that morning and Billy came from Atlanta to Albany so he could welcome everyone who arrived before we got home from church. We had close to thirty people from four states at the house that afternoon.
Almost everybody was at the house before Doug and David; nobody knew where they were. David showed up at the house, followed by Doug in his car, with the biggest surprise of the day. David gave his Dad a new Ford Ranger pickup truck. He told him it was a thank you for the car's he had given his children over the years. Henry was speechless. Henry drove that pickup the rest of his life. The party lasted most of the afternoon. One of Willie Glenn son's drove her home; getting her home before dark. This was the way the Martin family started the New Year and the turn of the century.
Christmas was not as big that year as it usually is; after everyone had been home for Henry's birthday those with families didn't come at Christmas time. Sharon and Billy were both home for Christmas but had to go back shortly after. Henry and I did go see Andy and his family. Hannah was growing so fast that we wanted to see her as often as we could.
Early in January isn't the best time of the year to go fishing, but I found a dated picture of a large catch of fish, mostly bream. A tape measure was open showing the largest fish to be over ten inches long. I don't know how he caught them but that size of a catch was most likely out of fish baskets. Even with basket that was a large catch for winter time.
The next big event in the family was David moving into his new house. He had lived for over ten years in an old high ceiling drafty house next to the church. The church built him a three bedroom, two bath parsonage. Henry was glad that David now had a nice place to live.
We were going to Westminster Presbyterian Church at this time. They had been losing members for over five years. We stayed trying to help keep them together. At this time Westminster was renting part of the unused section of building to a small congregation of Baptist. The Baptist Worship Center worshiped with us every Wednesday night for supper and Bible study lead by Walter Flint. The men of both churches met together once a month for a steak supper and devotions. Henry was one of the main cooks; he grilled the stakes and stewed the onions. February was a special treat for the women; the men invited all the women to free stake supper as a Valentine's party. The men did all the cooking; those not cooking cleaned up. The fellowship hall was full and the fellowship was wonderful.
Henry and I went to the Flint River Presbytery's spring conference called Celebration of Faith. Sharon went with the group from First Presbyterian Church of Americus. Henry had one class with Sharon and we spent some other time with her. It was like having a short vacation with her and a large group of Christians having a good time in fellowship, worship and Bible study. It had been several years since we had been there. Henry knew that Sharon was about to graduate from college the next year; next spring she would be taking final exams and looking into possible schools. Sharon had gone back to college as an older student to get a degree in Early Childhood Education. Henry and I were so happy for her; she would finally get to teach lower grade school. She was old enough to sign for her own student loan and had a part time job. Her Dad was so proud of her independence. She spent her senior year as live in care taker of the Presbyterian student center.
The first week in May we were on the road again. We went to Greenville for our granddaughter Becca's graduation high school; she was graduating from Bob Jones Academy. She was the third of our son James Henry's children to graduate from the academy. We had gone up for both of the other two. Another step in the life of Becca's growing up. She's our only other granddaughter and Henry had a special place in his heart for his girls.
On the way home we stopped at Andy's to see Hannah. Henry just couldn't get enough of watching her grow. She won his heart the first time she smiled at him. The first time she reached out to him he picked her up with a wide smile on his face. She was at the age now that she wanted attention and Henry was more than glad to do what she wanted to do. Sometimes he just watched her as she played.
We don't go every year but this year Henry wanted to go to the Tupelo Honey Festival in Wewa. One reason for going was to get some tupelo honey; the whole family likes tupelo better than other honey. We can get the honey at other times but it gave us a reason to go. We didn't see very many people we knew at the festival, so we spent the afternoon visiting family and then headed home. Henry often liked to give tupelo honey as a gift, so I put it in fancy jelly jars
During June and July we stayed home and enjoyed our swimming pool and hot tub; we had the pleasures of a resort in our own back yard. The summer heat kept Henry busy at the apartments. The tenant wanted to keep their apartment at sixty nine degrees; this lead to problems. The air Conditioners were old unit; when they set the thermostats down lower than seventy the unit would freeze up and need working on. It was a job that Henry and Doug could do but when Doug was working Henry did alone. He was glad he had a way to relax when he got home.
Henry kept busy much of the time fishing with a friend or alone. Some time he just took the boat down the river. When I was younger and more limber I went with him but it took me longer each time to get in and out of the boat. I didn't think Henry was enjoying himself with me complaining so I stayed home.
The first week end in August we went to Willa Glen's annual birthday party. She had a party every year since the year she turned sixty. Henry once said she was afraid she wouldn't live to see another birthday. She was seventy nine this year and over half of her family and many of Henry's other sister's family were there. Living further away Henry stayed as close as felt he had time to. Like most of her family she was diabetic. Her health was fair but not good. Henry was diabetic but had his under control. He lost his extra weight and he watched what he ate. He didn't have the problems that most of his family had. Only one our children has diabetes.
On my birthday, Henry and I went out to eat with some of our friend from the Baptist Worship Center. One of woman, Gean Gunn, from the Baptist group had a birthday that week so we shared a cake with both names on it. A good time was had by all.
December found us down in Wewa the weekend of Henry's birthday. We were visiting with Willa Glen, when some of the family showed up with a cake, other party snacks, and drinks for all. There were not gifts like last year; this year was fun year. The gifts were silly; two of them were fish. From a crossed the room they looked like real fish mounted for the wall. They were jointed in the middle, wagged there tail and sang when you clapped your hands. The children who were there almost wore them out before we went home; Henry had fun watching the kids playing with them. They lasted long enough for Hannah to play with them. I didn't see them after that. They just seemed to disappear. They did show up again later as I was cleaning out a closet.
Christmas of 2000 was a fun time for everyone. It was the first year that Hannah was a really big part of Christmas. They arrived before Christmas and Hannah played with Henry's singing fish; she was also fascinated by the manger scene by the front fence. Each time she went by it she wanted to play with it. Melisa didn't think she should and kept her away from it; she let her get up close when Henry asked her to. He told them that the set was old and nothing would break. Watching Hannah open her presents was lots of fun. She wanted to open all the presents. Even at her young age she learned that they weren't all for her but each one she did get seemed to get her more excited. The whole family was here in Albany that Christmas day except the family of James Henry from Greenville. We went up to Greenville for a few days after Andy's family had gone home. Henry and I always enjoy go to Greenville after Christmas. It makes the wonder of Christmas last a little longer. We were home in Albany for New Years Eve.
Chapter Two2001 A Year of Much Change
The year started as many did. Esther and Don were down early for their almost yearly vacation from the bitter cold winter of Minnesota. They rented a condo in Destin Florida during January or February almost every year for six weeks. They came down in January this year. They stopped by and picked up Dorothy as they did most years. Henry and I go down and visit them while they are down, some years more than once. This year Kirsten and Keith and their children were there in the middle of January. We are closer to them than any of the rest of Don and Esther's family. We have seen them more over the years. While we were down Henry noticed that Dot didn't look like she was felling well. I thought it might be just that she had put on so much weight. We would find out differently several weeks later. After a nice visit with Kirsten and family, we headed back to Albany.
We went back in early February to what should have been a special. It was the first and only time my sister Bette and her husband Lowell were up from South Florida. Mary and Lowell were also there; it was the first time we had been together since our Mother died in November of 1994. We didn't plan to go out for supper; we had planned in advance who would fix and bring what we would have. We would eat together at the condo. As we were gathered together we spent a long time looking at the photo album I had made during the year and brought down to share. Henry let the family know he was proud of my work.
That afternoon as the older family talked, and even called Evie who couldn't come over, Dorothy became very ill. I noticed she was sick and even helped her but didn't say anything. We were too interested in each other. About that time Henry left in the car and when he returned he didn't come up to the third floor were the condo was located until supper time. I was upset when he left but he returned he was drunk and wouldn't eat.
We left shortly after supper going to the motel. I was upset and said, "Why did you make such a fool out of yourself getting so drunk? You embarrassed me." His answer was, "I couldn't sit there and see the way all of you were ignoring Dot. You know she is sick."
She was very sick but we thought it was the flu; we gave her juice to keep her hydrated. I tended to here other needs. Henry somehow knew it was more than the flu. When my sister said Henry had a drinking problem I should have told them his only problem was caring too much.
The next morning after talking to Evie, we went over to Pensacola to see how she was doing. When we called her she hadn't sounded like she was doing too well. Our visit made her feel that we really cared. We left her felling better emotionally which also helped her get back on the right track.
When we did get back to the condo there wasn't anybody there. They had finally called 911 after Bette and Lowell got there. Bette saw how sick Dot was and knew she needed help right then without delay. We weren't there to see it but they had a hard time getting her down stairs. Their condo was the whole third floor of the three floor building without an elevator. When they got her to the hospital her fever was very high. What was even worse, her blood sugar was almost 400. Her fever was from double pneumonia. The fact that she had diabetes was a big surprise. No one in the Allen family had ever had it. The fact that she was very much over weight was what caused the diabetes; we were unknowingly feeding the high sugar when we were giving her orange juice,
Henry and I went by to see her for a long visit on our way home. It took the doctors over a week to get well enough to allow her son Eddie to take her home to Birmingham. George and Evie couldn't get over to see her; everyone else had gone home. Dot was alone in a strange hospital for over a week. This bothered Henry but we couldn't stay down there with her. What could have been a time of bringing us closer was spoiled by not doing what we should have when we saw Dot was so sick. She never fully recovered her health. As Henry said we didn't pay enough attention to her needs. It was the last time we saw Bette and Lowell.
On May 9, 2001 at eleven in the morning, Henry and I were in gym at Georgia Southwestern University. Sharon was graduating with a degree in Early Childhood Education. With this degree she would be teaching K5 through third grade. Henry and I got to gym early enough to get good seat. We could both see her and take pictures. She had been living and working in Americus and going to First Presbyterian Church; her friends there had noticed her ability working with and teaching the children of the church. They encouraged her to go back to college so she could teach regular school. They prayed that the door would open.
Henry was as proud of her as an earthly father could be. She went back to school as an older student doing so she asked God for help; and He did. She worked while going to college and signed for her own student loan. Henry had a feeling of joy to see her so independent this time in school. When she graduated there were many of her friends from her church family looking on. Henry's eyes shone as her class stood up to start their walk Henry got some very good pictures. After Sharon graduated, her Dad was glad that she was home for a short time.
She started inquiring and calling school systems. She then sent out several applications and looked into three or four schools. She finally decided on a school in Wadley Georgia, a small town about sixty miles south of Augusta. There was a wonderful support system within the school. I went over with her look for a place for her to live. Someone at the post office told us about a woman who had a place she might rent to Sharon. We followed instructions we found the home of Mrs. Billie Mc Donald. She was impressed with Sharon and what she doing; she had not rented the cottage in her back yard before but she did rent it to Sharon. The cottage was on a fish pond and she loved it. It was furnished but Sharon had fun changing the décor with her collections.
Henry was busy with many things but not too busy to help her get moved into her little cottage on the fish pond. He took time to fishing before going home. He was proud of and happy for Sharon; she was about to begin what she wanted to do with her life. At times it didn't look like she would get there. Her Dad and I had faith in her and so did many of her friends in Americus.
Sharon started teaching the first week in August. She liked her class and they liked her. They showed her they liked her by the way they obeyed her. She was teaching third grade in an all black school but she had the best support system that a beginning teacher could have. They were behind her in everything she wanted to do. This really made her dad and me happy.
Henry had spent most of a year getting Willie Glenn an electric wheel chair by using her husband's Social security and her medical insurance. He kept after the company until she got it; the chair arrived just days before her eightieth birthday. She turned eighty on August 6th, just two day before the birthday of our youngest son. She had her party out at the park; her house was too small to hold her family
It was the middle of August that disaster struck the Martin family. We received a phone call from Greenville. Henry took the call and was so shocked that he handed me the phone. Our oldest grandson, Jim had gone to the hospital for jaw surgery; he never came out from under the anesthesia. He had a hemorrhage, the rupture of a brain aneurysm. It was very sudden and completely unexpected. When they called us he was on life support. They wanted to know if we wanted to see him alive. He was an organ donor and it was important to get transplants done as fast as possible. We told them that we would remember him as we last saw him. Jim was taken off life support so his soul went heaven and his body gave new life to several people. Both his body and soul lived on in different ways.
Excerpted from The Last Decade by Becky Allen Martin Copyright © 2012 by Becky Allen Martin. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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