I'm very fortunate to be able to teach microbiology every Fall semester at the University of Puget Sound---eleven years now! I mostly have juniors and seniors, and there is only one microbiology course available. Mine. These are some serious microbiological shoes to fill. I do my best to present to students the wild ferment (sorry about that) of near daily changes in the microbial sciences. It's such fun to tell students, pretty much every day, something new and exciting that was not known five or ten years ago. Anyway, I thought you might enjoy hearing what my budding micronauts think of the term "microbiology" on the first day of class.
Truly, I am fortunate to have students like these, and more fortunate still to have such a wonderful job. I'll remind myself of this when I am locked into Grading Jail later in the semester. I am lucky.
I haven't written a blog post since January of 2016. It has been a difficult period for me, personally. Yes, many people deal with far worse; I am simply explaining my absence from posting. I will be posting again with regularity, but I had best explain recent events. My mother, Wanda Jean Martin, passed away in 2012. Her death was after a brave and valiant fourteen year fight with Stage IV ovarian cancer, and she stayed pretty sharp mentally until the very end. That doesn't mean it was a wonderful experience for her, or for her family, of course. It left a hole in our lives, of course, and nowhere more than in the heart of my father. My father, Jack S. Martin, Sr., passed away at the end of March of 2016. Dad had spent his entire adult life looking after my mother. His hard work, sharp wit, grim humor, and perseverance were proven tools that helped my father through a tough life; but they couldn't do much against my mother's cancer. It was the first challenge he had ever faced he could not master. After my mother passed away, my father's health declined rapidly. Even so, he was very, very strong. The last two years, it broke my heart to see how his mind slowly but surely unraveled as his body began to fail him. I am fairly certain my father had several strokes along the way, or oxygen deprivation. He had good days and bad days. I learned to put aside the latter, and savor the former. I didn't even mind him repeating the same stories again and again; they gave him happiness and made me smile. There were bad times, too, during my father's slow decline. All we could do, as a family, is focus on the lucid and positive moments my father had. And celebrate his many positive impacts on our lives. Certainly, we could have focused on the darker end of things, the anger, the hallucinations, the dementia, and the harsh words. But I chose not to do so. I learned a lot during the experience; mostly about the nature of love and family. And memories. Here is my father's obituary. So strange to see such a rich and colorful life as mere words on a page.
The last month before my father died, I wrote short essays about the role he had played in my life: lessons, humor, experiences. I think I knew somehow his time had come. I put together a slide show of the little essays here.
My father was an unusual and unforgettable man. One thing he insisted he wanted at his funeral was bagpipe music. It didn't happen, and that bothered me more than a little. With my uncle and brother's help, I put together a slide show,in honor of my father's birthday in July. My friend KT Scott provided the bagpipe music. Here it is.
Neither my father nor myself believe in coincidences. So the fact that he was buried next to my mother, on what would have been her birthday, surprises me not at all. Please read a little about my father. And honor him with a Dos Equis, if you would. It is absolutely true that my father told me he had never felt like a man until his own father passed away. Since my father was the toughest man I had ever met, this surprised me no end. But I know what he meant, now. I have always adored Dylan Thomas' poetry. Obviously, "Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night" is appropriate. Here is a video of Thomas reading it.
Furthermore, another poem of Thomas', "And Death Shall Have No Dominion," moves me deeply as I think of my father.
Both poems certainly apply to how I felt about my father, at the end of things. Many thanks to my wife Jennifer Quinn for her support during this difficult time. Also for my brother, Jack S. Martin, Jr. And finally, my father's "little brother" and my uncle, George F. Martin, for patiently and kindly keeping us all in one piece during this awful journey. Hug your family, and call your loved ones. Do it today. Right now.