Louis Woodrow "Woody" Martin. A man who I almost have to consider backwards through time, because unlike a lot of people who knew him and loved him, I was one of a chosen few that got to experience the Jeckyll and Hyde story he could be.
First of all, let me clear away any misconceptions. He was a good man at core. A hard worker, he'd go all day at International Harvester, then eat dinner and go out doing handyman stuff with his brother in law. (I should point out right here that, having seen some of his work, he was more Tim Taylor than Al Borland.) He loved kids, though by the time I rolled around, he was a bit old to get too involved. He was rarely ever violent, and the mere sight of his hand on his belt buckle was all he ever needed to restore order.
But there were two Woody Martins. The one I lost sight of was all of those things above. He was, I thought, a handsome man when he wanted to be. Never knew a man to not be his friend. Fair, funny, and dedicated to an extent that was hard to see. But there was another Woody as well, and for a long time he got in the way of all my memories of the man.
Beer. Beer changed him. The handsome features shifted: the eyes lost focus, the steel brow became a mass of sagging lines, the turkey neck became pronounced. The attitude changed; suddenly every story had to end with, "...and he said, 'God Damnit, Woody, you're right!' " But the stories were just the start.
Somewhere along the way, like many of us, this man had to reset his self-esteem from some perceived low, and only knew of two ways to do it. One was the stories, repeated ad nauseum. The other was to belittle those he was closest to. He would come up with some apparent weakness, some character flaw, or something that happened years before, and nag on it. And nag. And nag, in a slow, low, slurred voice. Pecking away at one's self restraint until you had to shout back at him! And then, his inevitable reply:
"Why are you yelling? I'm not yelling."
The other man was very skilled at hurting you, pressing your buttons. Legend has it that an older brother came to blows with him one night before my birth. I watched him kick in the bottom of an aluminum screen door one night when Mom locked him out. Spent more than one night shut up in the bedroom with her, picked up shards from more than one bowl hurled at him.
Some in the family found that hard to imagine. There were five of us kids, and I was the baby by ten years (thus two had moved out before I was born, and another left when I was three or four.) Oldest brother was a Girardot like me, and we bore a lot of the brunt with Mom. Two were more like Dad and escaped the worst. (Think I'm kidding? Out of nine grandkids, he had nicknames for 6 of them: Jonesy, Stinky, Smokey, Smiley, Tag, and Bruiser. Only one of them did not belong to the two "Martin" kids- the other to my middle sister, who was basically neutral.) To the favored, which included one brother -in-law, he was the greatest guy in the world. My other sister's sons, "Smokey and Smiley", idolized him.
I could never understand it. By the time he died, the man who watched baseball and football with me, got along with all my friends, made me the top rank euchre player I am today, busted his butt so I'd have something- he was buried too, but not by soil.
I was just going into high school when Mom died and I became the prime target of the other man. I couldn't see how much I meant to the real Woody. Shortly after Mom died, Dad made a dinner that I don't remember, but I didn't want it. I was a far more finicky eater back then, and it was nothing for me to refuse to eat something, Mom never forced it on me. Dad was a different bird, though. He took it as a personal failure, not with food but with me, and broke down in tears. Maybe, if things had been different, that could have bridged the gap between the insecure man and the self-centered boy. But within days, the other man was telling me that, despite the fact I had been doing our lawn mowing for three years and Aunt Cleo's for two, I was "afraid to get on the lawn mower, Mom has you scared to do anything", and the moment was lost. Finally the drinking caught up to him. After an all-day binge while I was in classes at IPFW, he plastered half of his pickup truck onto the back of a parked semi about two hundred feet from home. Miraculously, he had been in the one place in the vehicle that anyone could have survived; any passenger would have been decapitated.
And the first thing the other man did when I got there? Reached into the shattered truck's glovebox to pull out a pair of woman's panties, saying, "Where do you suppose these came from?"
That was the last words the other man ever said to me. The increasing drinking since Mom had died ended that day. I actually got to spend the last year and a half or so with Woody Martin.
It was years later at a Promise Keepers rally that I finally came to terms with the two sides of my Father. That the real Woody Martin was the hard worker that I first described. The man who busted ass to make things better for a punk kid that never appreciated it in time. The other man was just a loud and obnoxious weakness in a man who had fought unknown demons and tried his best. Which is all any of us can do.
So when Father's Day comes up, I still have a hard time seeing the difference between the man that made me love being called "you dooflink" and the one who made me sick of hearing, "I'm jus' happy-go-lucky." (I still cringe at that phrase, and it's been over 30 years now). Every memory is a fight to remember that there WAS a difference. But there was. And there is.
Some of you may know by recent comments that Scrappy had kind of a rough yesterday. We took a long walk, and he gets so pumped for them, I never know that he's hurt himself until the adrenaline wears off and he finally starts to slow down. Well, He started showing a little when we were almost home, and once we got there, he had a painful limp that was really killing him. He would barely put any weight on it, and I actually took his dinner to him. About 9 PM I had to coax him to make a pee trip, and he was warm and giving me that "Daddy, make it better" look. I looked around to see if we had any of his old pain meds (we didn't), and just as I was about to give up in despair, I came up with a seemingly good idea:
If it's giving him a fever, cool him down. Give him some ice cream.
Two scoops of Fudge Swirl later, he laid down until Laurie got home from work. When he got up, the limp was almost gone. This morning, he's 95% normal. Either I'm a genius or he's a hypochondriac.
Anyway, here's a look at some of what did him in.
|I thought to myself, Dog equivalent of sniffing girl's bicycle seats.|
|Down to the creek.|
|The recent rains cut the channel a bit deeper than it was.|
|Aw, c'mon, Dad! There's something I wanna roll in here..|
|Funny little sandbar.|
|Robin taking a bath in the swamp.|
|And as usual, Scrappy never saw him... and tracked his scent backwards.|
|Blue Jay actually posed.|