Daryl was sitting in the living room of the Dixon home on Christmas Eve, just enjoying the sights and sounds of his family and friends. The house was elaborately decorated for Christmas with a giant tree, lots of greenery and lights, and a warm fire was roaring in the fireplace. Everyone was sitting in the living room watching the Color Television set, watching the first manned mission into space that had left Earth's orbit. It was an amazing to think that sixty five years earlier man recorded the first flight ever and it lasted just minutes. Now here they were as a Nation, watching a rocket orbit the moon, and the whole time the astronauts were communicating with the Earth, over two hundred and thirty thousand miles away.
Daryl was now 68 years old, an old man in most people's eyes, but he still felt a lot of life left in him. He gazed over at Alyssa who was talking to their daughter with a bright smile on her face. Katy Scarlett, who had grown into a beautiful woman who strongly resembled her mother, was asking for advice on child rearing. She was twenty nine years old now, and the mother of two children. A daughter Jennifer Lynn who was four and a son Matthew Daryl (everyone called him Matty) who was two. Katy Scarlett had gone off to college right after high school to pursue a degree in medicine like her mother, but along the way she met a young law student named Elias Leesburg and they fell in love and decided to marry. Elias was now a New York attorney and the family lived in an upscale apartment that overlooked Manhattan. It was a far cry from the life Katy Scarlett had known growing up in Holly Springs, but Daryl always knew his daughter would one day leave the farm. She wanted to take the world by the horns, and when she announced that they were moving up North, Daryl gave his daughter and her new husband his blessing. It broke his and Alyssa's heart to have her so far away, but they both knew that it made their daughter happy. So when Katy Scarlett called and said they wanted to visit with the kids for Christmas this year, Daryl and Alyssa were overjoyed.
Alyssa and Daryl had another child when their daughter was four, his name was Ashe Lee Dixon (yes, once again Alyssa's 'Gone with the Wind" influence won over). Unlike Katy Scarlett, Ashe wanted to stay on and run the farm. As Katy Scarlett was the spitting image of Alyssa, Ashe looked like a younger version of Daryl. He had gone to North Carolina State University and graduated with a degree in agriculture. Though the farm was 'officially' still run by Merle, Daryl, and Jess, it was actually Ashe who was running everything and making all the decisions. He had moved into Daryl and Alyssa's first home when he returned from college and he worked hard from sunup to sundown each day. He had yet to settle down as there were several ladies that seemed to enjoy his company. In that sense he was very different that his father. Daryl still worked just as hard on the farm, but he was getting slower in his older age, and Alyssa was starting to push him more and more about retiring. They both knew Ashe was more than capable of running things, it was just the fact that Daryl felt he would get bored if he didn't have the hard work to keep him busy.
Alyssa had returned to practicing medicine when Katy Scarlett had turned a year old, and as promised, Daryl had a wing built onto the house so she could stay home and run her practice. It worked out well with raising a family and still being there to help out if needed on the farm. After Pete Anderson was arrested with Blake and Will, there were no more physicians in town, and that was finally what led Alyssa into officially going back to medicine. Her office thrived over the years and she had decided she would practice until she could draw social security at age sixty five. At that time she would shut the clinic down and sell her equipment. There were now three physicians set up in Holly Springs, and when she retired the town wouldn't be left high and dry.
Merle was now 76 years old and still chased Beth around like he was a young man. He didn't really work on the farm much anymore, but he still oversaw the dairy and made sure everything was kept up to his standards. Merle spent the majority of his time leading the men's ministry at Church and working to help feed and clothe the poor. During the holiday season he had even dressed up like Santa to hand out toys to the less fortunate in Canton. He loved to brag to everyone that would listen about his pretty wife and how he attracted the much younger woman. Of course as time had passed he embellished the story a little and had begun telling everyone he bought her as a mail order bride. And every time Merle told the story, Beth would be right there to correct him (Some would say 'scold'), and then she would tell how they really met.
Beth was now a fifty year old woman and she still looked at Merle like he hung the moon. Things hadn't been easy for Beth over the years, but she was still just as positive and cheerful as she always was. As it turned out, Andy was the only child they managed to have. After his birth Beth conceived three more times, but each of those pregnancies ended in a miscarriage. Though she and Merle were devastated, they still felt blessed with the son that God had given them. Andy had grown into a handsome and kind young man with a charismatic personality like his father. He made friends easily and was always the first person to volunteer to help out if there were problems that needed to be handled. He worked hard on the farm, and enjoyed working close with his father doing ministry work. It came to Beth and Merle as no surprise when he announced he was going to Seminary after High School. When he returned from college it just so happened Reverend Jimmy was retiring, and Andy jumped at the chance to take over as the pastor of his home church. He was ordained and six years later he was still the pastor, while his father proudly served at his side. Shortly after his return back to Holly Springs he also began dating Judith Grimes, and the two were now engaged to be married. It wouldn't be the first Dixon-Grimes wedding, but it just cemented the closeness of the two families.
Beth however, had lost more than just her three pregnancies. Shawn had died on the beaches of Normandy on June 6, 1944. In 1946 her mother Annette had passed away after a short battle with cancer. Beth and Merle had both worked diligently with Maggie and Glenn to provide the best end care they could. Beth felt that deep down Annette was content with her death, because it meant she would be with Shawn again. When she finally succumbed to the sickness, it was Merle who was the most emotionally effected as he considered Annette like a mother and she had shown him nothing but kindness. She never once judged him for his misdeeds and the two had grown very close during his marriage to Beth. He was the one holding her hand when she drew her last breath and he had sobbed like a child at her funeral service.
Hershel died three months later of a massive stroke. Even though he was 80 years old, everyone knew he died of a broken heart. Annette had been a second chance at love for him, and after she passed Hershel just wasn't the same. After Hershel's death, Maggie and Glenn decided to sell the farm and move back to town as Glenn wasn't that good of a farmer. After much discussion, Jess decided to buy the Greene property so the Dixon's could expand their farm even more. Everyone pitched in to keep up the house and year later Clarissa and Carl Grimes were married and they moved into the old Greene home. Carl had begun to work summers at the Dixon farm during high school, and when he graduated he worked full time, living in the bunk house with the other farm hands. Everyone knew Clarissa and he would get married one day, and they finally did after she returned from college. They had decided then that Carl would run the farm with her help, and she was taking a job at the high school as a music teacher. They had done well and had two children when Carl was called up to serve in the Army during the Korean War. When Carl was drafted their son Jacob was three and their daughter Martha was just an infant. The rest of the family pitched in to help Clarissa sustain the farm in Carl's absence.. He returned a year and a half later after receiving a Purple Heart. He had lost his right eye in battle and was honorably discharged for his service. At first when Carl returned he was self-conscious about his injury, but after time and much reassurance from Clarissa and the rest of his family, he learned to live with his handicap.
Hannah and Jess had probably changed less than anyone in the family over the past thirty years. Jess was an old man now, at eighty four years old, but he still managed to get around as best he could. He had gradually lost most of his sight overtime, but was still mentally sharp. Hannah helped him get around these days, because if she didn't, Jess would just try to do things on his own, which included driving. Though Jess could see things up close, anything more than six feet away was a blur, and after he had put the truck in the ditch on three separate occasions, Hannah finally took the keys and hid them. Jess was a Dixon after all and he could be stubborn as a mule, but Hannah also knew that Jess had his pride, and losing his ability to drive made him feel helpless. Fortunately for them, Carl and Clarissa had blessed them with two grandchildren and Jess had become very close with Jacob which helped him keep his mind off of his failing vision. Both he and Hannah loved being Grandparents, and even though their grandkids were now 18 and 21 years old, in their hearts they still saw them as the young children they had come to cherish. For many years Hannah had helped Clarissa with keeping the children while she taught at the high school. Once the kids were old enough to take care of themselves, Hannah needed a distraction, so she spent much of her time working with the poor just like Merle had. She started the women's ministry at church and it had grown greatly over the years. Holly Springs Baptist Church had grown to one of the largest churches in the county, and it was the first church in the Cherokee County to fully integrate. The segregation of the races in Holly Springs had come a long way over the years, and all of the Dixon's felt like they had helped people in their community with acceptance of the varying races.
Back after Will and Paula had been arrested (and later convicted), Daryl and Merle made sure that their stillborn sister received a proper burial. They decided to bury the infant in the family cemetery, and had a small service with just the family. Since the child didn't even have a name, Daryl and Merle decided to name her Angel, as it seemed fitting since she never really lived in this world. They bought a small headstone and laid the child to rest respectfully. When Will finally passed away in prison, no one in the family even bothered to claim the body, and Will was buried in a mass grave in a cemetery for indigents. It seemed like the proper justice for such a cruel and hateful man. The best part was that no one even grieved, not even Paula, when she was released from prison she had quickly re-married and moved to Alabama without giving Will a second thought.
Jesus was with the family this Christmas Eve, as he had been for every Christmas Eve over the past thirty years. He was now a college professor in Atlanta who taught sociology. This year he had brought his roommate with him, none other than the District Attorney Aaron who he had met at the Dixon's trial years earlier. Though everyone in the family knew the two men were in a relationship, the men were referred to as roommates, since homosexuality was still not an accepted social convention. Either way, it didn't matter to the Dixon family, and they accepted both men as they would anyone else.
Rosita and her son, Shane Michael Walsh Jr. were with the family this Christmas as well. Just as promised, The Dixon's and Rick had done everything they could to help Rosita throughout the years with raising her son. Though Shane Jr. had never met his actual father, everyone had made it a point throughout the years to tell him about his father. Shane Jr. referred to all of the men as "Uncle" and they all looked at him as if he was a blood relation. Rosita had met a man named Spencer ten years earlier and the two married. While she was sure she would never love anyone like she loved Shane, she and Spencer did love each other. It was a late in life marriage for both, but they both seemed content. Shane Jr. had followed in his father's footsteps and was now the Chief of Police in Holly Springs. Rick had retired three years earlier, and Shane Jr. had stepped in and taken over.
The Civil Rights movement had made great strides over the past few years, and Holly Springs had benefited greatly. The previous year interracial marriage had been ruled on by the Supreme Court and it was determined that it was indeed legal, and that states couldn't ban mixed marriages. Shortly after the ruling, Rick had legally married Michonne, and Glenn and Maggie had officially married. Their son Hershel Jr. was confused to find out his parents hadn't legally been married for all these years, but when they explained to him the reasons why, he understood. He was twenty six years old and a civil engineer in Atlanta. He made it a point to make a special trip home to be with his parents as they filed their marriage certificate at the courthouse in Canton.
After the Klan was taken down, and Blake and all of his cohorts were arrested, things slowly began to change in Holly Springs. It seemed Ezekial coming to town helped with improving race relations. The man was colorblind, and he hired both black and white workers at the quarry. After the war ended, the quarry turned out to be one of the best places you could work in the area, and as a result many families moved to Holly Springs. Black and White citizens worked side by side, and friendships grew between men performing the hard labor together. East and West Holly Springs began to blend and by the late 1940's it was simply referred to as Holly Springs. Neighborhoods began to pop up around the quarry, and both white and black families lived together on the same street. Though integration was somewhat slow, over the past few years it had grown with leaps and bounds. The schools were now desegregated and houses of worship were slowly starting to blend the races as well. Holly Springs Baptist Church now boasted a congregation that was one third black, and Merle and Andy were ecstatic.
The money that Dale had allocated to rebuild the eastern section of town had been what was needed to get things up and going again. It took about a year to get everything back to normal, but the best thing was that the white residents on the West Side of town were curious to see the growth on the East Side. Slowly but surely , white residents were regularly venturing to the other side of town to shop and dine in the rebuilt establishments. The desegregation hadn't ended overnight, but it did seem to happen in Holly Springs faster than it did throughout the rest of the South.
Daryl relished the feeling of having all of his family and friends here with him this Christmas. Those feeling increased when his four year old granddaughter crawled up into his lap and gave him a hug.
"I love you grampy" she said. Just those simple words almost had Daryl in tears.
"Love you too baby girl." He told her as he held her tight.
"Santa clause is coming tonight. Will he know to find us here?" She asked in a very serious tone for a four year old.
Daryl had to hold back a laugh when he saw the genuine concern on Jennifer's face. "Oh yeah he will know, he sees everything and everyone." Daryl assured her.
"I know, I'm scared because I was mean to Matty in the car when we drove here." She said on the verge of tears.
"Hmmm…Did you apologize to Matty?" Daryl asked her.
"No" she said tearfully. Tears…Daryl still didn't handle those well with any of the women in his life, four year old Jennifer included.
"Well, if you apologize to Matty and tell him you love him, I think Santa will overlook you being mean. But you have to really mean it." Daryl told her.
"I love you" She said again, this time giving him a quick kiss and then quickly crawling out of his lap to go apologize to her brother.
Daryl smiled. He was happy that his and Merle's children and grandchildren would never know the pain and heartache that the brothers had known. The Dixon's were once known as a family of drunken losers who weren't worth a damn. Now they were a well respected family in the community known for their fairness and kindness to others. Merle, who had at one time looked like he might follow in his father's footsteps was now active in Church and the father of the Pastor. And Daryl, who had been just a shell of a human being thirty years earlier, was now a tender and loving Grandfather. He knew Alyssa played a huge part in helping him overcome his demons, but his family and extended family also helped him learn to love and trust again. They were there to support him when he felt like he was falling apart, and all these years later he never felt that fear, guilt, or insecurity that had once plagued him every moment of every day.
Life had turned out wonderfully for him, and now he felt nothing but love in his heart. He had raised two great kids, but things weren't all rosy at all times. There were arguments, and some rebellious moments by both kids, but they got through them as a family. He and Alyssa had a few rough times as well as they went through their marriage, but that was normal, and it helped both of them grow and learn to pick and choose their battles. Their marriage just continued to strengthen, and both of them were still madly in love with the other. Alyssa could still turn heads when she entered a room. She was a little plumper than she was when they met, but Daryl liked her with a little meat on her bones. He was more rugged looking in his older age. His hair was whiter now, and his face and hands were weathered, but his health was good. He had stopped smoking shortly after Katy Scarlett was born, and he himself had gained a few pounds, but Alyssa always told him he was handsome. He was pretty sure she was going blind at that point, but he wouldn't complain.
He was brought out of his thoughts when everyone rushed over to the Television and turned up the volume to watch this moment in history together. Astronaut William Anders began to speak and then he began to read from the book of Genesis, leaving a lasting impression on all that heard and watched the historic broadcast:
"We are now approaching lunar sunrise, and for all the people back on Earth, the crew of Apollo 8 has a message that we would like to send to you."
"In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep.
And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.
And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.
"And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.
And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.
And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so.
Then another Astronaut, Frank Borman spoke:
And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day.
"And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so.
And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas: and God saw that it was good."
"And from the crew of Apollo 8, we close with good night, good luck, a Merry Christmas – and God bless all of you, all of you on the good Earth."
Merry Christmas to each and everyone of you. Thank you so much for reading and I hope you enjoyed this little wrap up of how life turned out for the Dixons.
Thanks to each and everyone of you who took the time to leave a review, or those who endured my long hiatuses with this story. It means the world too me.
Special thanks to the following for leaving a review on the last chapter.
Take Care everyone-