Marvin Martin and what goes around

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By The Staff

Anyone who spends even a little time getting to know the people who are living at Williston Rehab can tell you this: you won’t find much in the way of self-pity in their talk.

In fact, to a remarkable extent, what you will find are attitudes and ways of being like those of Marvin Martin.

Marvin, who is 50 years old, has been living at the nursing center for four months, and this is the first thing he says in response to a sympathetic comment about how young he is: “Many folks here are in worse condition than me.”

Unlike most people, Marvin knew a great deal about life in a nursing home long before the health crisis that brought him to Williston Rehab for nursing care.

In fact, Marvin knew a great deal about Williston Rehab in particular because he had worked in the nursing center for two years back when it was known as Oakview Rehab.

The way it started was this: as a young man in the 1980s, Marvin provided home care for two elderly friends, the mother and aunt of Cornelius Williams, who was a widely-known and well-respected guidance counselor at Williston Vocational High School (now closed.)

This work gave him the experience to be hired as a nurses’ aide at Oakview. (In those days, nurses’ aides did not have to receive specific training and certification as they do now.)

Marvin says that he always enjoyed his work at Oakview and then afterwards at a Gainesville nursing care center. He says he’s always liked being around older people and that he had good relations with the ones he took care of.

Even now, he says that what he would most like is to get well enough that he could come back to Williston Rehab and help other people. Meanwhile, he feels like the people who are now helping him also really care about him.

Well, as they say, what goes around comes around.

While he works on recovering, Marvin spends the hours after lunch going from room to room in the nursing center, seeing who’s there and making new friends or renewing friendships with people he knew at another time of his life.

He’s also been reunited with some of his former co-workers who are still employed at Williston Rehab. He likes to play Bingo and has always liked playing cards. He also enjoys sitting outside with a cigar.

As we’re talking Lula, a C.N.A. who used to work with Marvin’s father, passes by and stops to say hello and kid around. She is obviously fond of Marvin, and I ask her what she has to say about him. She doesn’t need a second to think. “He’s a good guy. He’s the best. He has a wonderful personality. He’s always the same. I can’t find no bad in him.” She laughs and adds, “I’m still searching.”

While this conversation is going on, Sandra Moore arrives and quietly takes a seat on the bench next to Marvin’s wheelchair. She’s an old classmate of Marvin’s and visits him every single day. Like Lula, she says, “I can’t find no bad. He’s the same every day.”

When asked, Marvin’s advice to others is simple: “Just pray. Take one day at a time and pray. That’s how I make it through.”

Though brought up a Pentecostal, Marvin goes to every service that local churches hold at the nursing center. He says that as a child, he was made to go to church, but now he really enjoys the singing and praying. He says it would mean a lot to him if he could attend services in a church.

Something else would also mean a lot to Marvin: his favorite dishes are fried chicken with potato salad, baked beans, and collard greens with ham hocks. He has to watch the salt, but otherwise his diet is not restricted.

If you or someone you know could escort Marvin to church, have him over for a home-cooked meal, visit Williston Rehab for a few hands of cards, or otherwise enjoy the company of a man with “no bad,” please make arrangements through Activities Director Penny Moore or Social Worker Carmen Wagner at Williston Rehab & Nursing Center at 352-528-3561. Williston Rehab is located at 300 NW 1st Avenue, behind Hardees.

Marvin Martin’s photograph was taken by Donna Mitchell, who also interviewed him and wrote this article. Donna is the Community Liaison for Williston Rehabilitation and Nursing Center as well as Parklands Rehabilitation and Nursing Center in Gainesville; she also serves on the board of Friends Across the Ages (AcrossTheAges.org), a Gainesville organization whose volunteers make friends with people living in nursing homes.