This week’s prompt is Close Up, and I am writing about an ancestor I feel like I know Close Up even though he died before I was born: my maternal grandfather, Joel Daniel MARTIN (1886-1955).
My mom, Gladys MARTIN HEISER (1921-1999) had seven siblings and lots of Martin cousins since her father was the oldest of 10+ children. Daniel/Grandpop, as he was called, died before I was born. But my mom’s mother, Florrie THOMAS MARTIN, lived with my family so everyone came to my house to see my grandma. The visitors were all natural storytellers.
That Martin temper
Daniel was a hotheaded man, as were many Martin men from what I’ve been told and seen firsthand. The Martin temper is known in our family as a few of the younger generations have it, too. When Daniel lost him temper, there was a lot of yelling involved. One of my mom’s cousins, Agnes, said that when she was little Uncle Dan’l scared her with the way he yelled. He was known for taking the boys to the woodshed, but never the girls.
A good memory can be a bad thing
If someone wronged Daniel, even decades earlier, Daniel could remember it like it happened that day with all the emotion of the event anew. This proved to be a health issue later in life when his remembrances gave him angina.
A hard-working man
I have letters of reference written by several farm owners where Daniel worked as a tenant farmer. Daniel was a hard worker, stellar in fact according to the letters of reference. He and my uncles went above and beyond what was expected of them. Daniel loved farming and wished he had his own land to farm, but it wasn’t to be. Instead, he farmed for others like their land was his own.
The music man
Daniel could play the mandolin, the guitar, and the fiddle. He taught all his kids how to play the guitar. Grandma played the piano. Some of cousins remember the jam sessions where Grandpop, Grandma, and all of our aunts and uncles would play instruments and sing. My cousin, Rose, remembered staying with our grandparents sometimes in the summer. Grandma would put Rose to bed, and Rose was lulled to sleep by the sounds of the instruments and the harmonized hymn singing coming from the front porch.
An honest and godly man
My mom said her dad, Daniel, hated liars. He would say that a liar was worse than a thief because you could lock up a thief but you can’t lock up a liar. He believed a man was only as good as his word. When Daniel shook someone’s hand over a price or a commitment of some kind, the other party knew Daniel would keep his word no matter what.
Daniel was a godly man, and he lived his faith every day. He was a lay preacher at times, and he listened to church on the radio even though he attended services regularly. One of his favorites was Elder Michaux who had a CBS radio show. There is a funny story about the time when Daniel took the family to watch the radio show in person.
A big man in a small package
Daniel wasn’t a big man. He was a preemie when he was born, and never grew into the Martin height. Still, all his siblings respected him even though all the boys grew to be taller than him. Daniel had a presence about him. He was responsible and could be trusted to do the hard things and make the hard decisions.
For the birds
Daniel had other interests, too. He loved bird watching. One cousin, Becky, said that when she would walk in the woods with Grandpop, he would sing to the birds and they would answer him. She was fascinated by this.
Cousin Agnes reminisced about the last time Daniel visited her in South Carolina. She said one morning she went out on the porch to find Uncle Dan’l out there watching the birds. He had put food out for them, and he was thrilled to see six pairs of redbirds all at one time.
There’s more, but I’ll stop here. I do wish I’d been able to walk in the woods with Grandpop as he sang to the birds, listen to him play his mandolin or read the bible out loud, and so many more things. Thankfully my storytelling aunts, uncles, and cousins told enough that I feel like I know Grandpop close up.
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