Monday, July 11, 2016

Dr. John's first daughter!


a young city doctor married a country beauty,

it’s deep into the Great Depression, with money tight,
at that time, for them, a package of Nabs
a potential luxury on the honeymoon,
each family history blessed with ancestors who knew themselves
and made the most out of the hands they were dealt,

a first child, a daughter, was born into joy and hope in 1939,
each developmental turning appreciated, sure, 
and photographed for almost two years,

then the world shattered at Pearl Harbor,
her father the next day signed up for the Army,
all in his generation felt the call,
and war always needs doctors,

in those next early years,
when decisions and control are vitally important to the child,
Martha’s world was out of her control:
army bases in Arkansas and Texas,

hard times and sacrifice,
a sister born in Texas,

then her father off to the South Pacific 
for the last long months of the War,
immersed in the horror of what travesties 
could be inflicted on young American men,
Daddy gone when she most needed him,
Mama, sister, and her back to the roots in Glasgow, Kentucky,
the welcoming arms of family while the War tore at surety,

a close cadre of first cousins all about the same age,
each cousin still a part of her,
each a piece of who she is,
then the War over, the family reunited,
her father knitting himself back together,
the family knitting itself back together,
the medical practice resuming,

there is a brilliance to Martha’s mind,
a passion to her will,
a drive to honor her father with her accomplishments,
 a drive to be herself despite society’s denials
of what a woman can be,
pushing herself to do her best,
to earn her Ph.D. in physics,
like her father, but another kind of doctor,

a drive to be herself in politics
despite conventional wisdom
and despite differences with her father,

like an original explorer, 
she made the first paths
so her younger sisters could follow boldness,
a book shared, a way to help the younger
find a truer course,

a calling to be a teacher,
to help student after student find the way forward,
on the West Coast, then on the coast of Maine,
called by the ocean, loving the perch of land next to Mother Sea,

a love of and gift for the piano,
knowing the language God speaks with math
and echoes in music,
treasuring the family piano as what she most wanted for herself,

blessed with a passion for family, and roots,
and also blessed with a sureness to follow leadings
that still call to her
to think, to assert, to be herself,
despite how hard it all can be,

these last years Martha has revealed and expressed the artist in her,
the painter, another way she truly lives as Dr. John’s first daughter,
art, too, called to him.

by Henry H. Walker
July 7, ‘16

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