Tom notes how he never noticed the erosion of his parents’ marriage once he was grown. When the Wingo siblings had all become adults, Lila needed a new way in which to define herself, other than as a mother. She became very active outside of the home.
Tom remembers the birth of his first daughter, Jennifer. All of the teachers Tom worked with and all of the shrimpers sent them flowers. When Lila came to visit Sallie and Jennifer in the hospital, she found a very sick Isabel Newbury down the hall. Lila began bringing meals for Isabel, who detested hospital food. When Isabel needed to be transferred to another hospital, Lila took her. Isabel was diagnosed with intestinal cancer.
Amos Wingo had always been a poor driver; yet, in his old age he was even worse. He also refused to wear his glasses. After many incidents, including driving on the wrong side of the road and almost running over Mr. Fruit, Officer Sasser and Amos’s family wanted him to give up his license. Amos decided to talk it over with the Lord, and to no one’s surprise, the Lord said Amos could keep driving. The next week, while wearing his glasses, Amos hit Mr. Fruit with his car. Mr. Fruit was not seriously harmed, but Officer Sasser was not amused. Officer Sasser took Amos’s license.
The next week, Amos wrote a letter to the Colleton Gazette saying that he would water-ski forty miles and challenged Officer Sasser to ski alongside him. Amos proposed that if he were able to complete this feat, he should get his license back. Tom and Luke pulled Amos along as he skied. It was an arduous journey for the aging man, but they would not let him give up. When he made it to the dock, Office Sasser gave Amos his license. Amos collapsed in the parking lot on the way home and was taking to the hospital. They kept him for observation and treated him for exhaustion and exposure. A year later, Amos dropped dead of a heart attack in the grocery store. The whole town wept. That was the night the South died for Tom.
The day of Amos’s funeral Tom, Savannah and Luke sat together talking. Savannah told them neither one of them was dealing with their childhoods. She said the dynamic of their family was screwed up. Tom and Luke took offense. Savannah told them their mother was going to leave their father.
Tom returned home from work one day and found his father in his living room. Sallie told Tom something was going on and took the girls to Tolitha’s house. Henry told Tom that Lila had moved out. Henry lamented how he tried to make something of himself so that she would be proud. He told Tom that Lila will be back because she loves money and has no way of getting it without him. Tom said that she must have a plan because she is a bright woman. Henry said that he treated her too well, that he should have been stricter. Tom responded by reminding Henry of how he beat Lila and his children. Henry began to sob and said he never laid a hand on any of them. Tom grew angry. Henry cried harder. Tom screamed at Henry, telling him that he did not even care anymore about how his father treated them because it is in the past. Tom said he was enraged only because Henry would not even admit to what he did. Henry called Tom a liar. Tom grabbed Henry’s arm and asked how he got the scar on it. Henry said it was from shrimping. Tom told him the real story.
Henry was drinking and watching television. Lila made a cake for Savannah and Tom because it was their birthday. Lila told Henry to come to the table so the kids could blow out their candles. Henry would not move. The kids pleaded with Lila to let it go, but Lila was very angry. She walked over to the television and shut it off. Henry stiffened and told her to turn it back on. Lila refused. Henry grabbed Lila’s hair and told her to turn the TV back on. She refused and he smashed her face into the television. Savannah ran and turned it on. Henry turned it off and told Lila to turn it back on. Savannah turned the set back on; Henry hit her. Luke fired six shots into the television. He told Henry the television was broken so now could come sing Happy Birthday to his kids. Luke reloaded the gun and aimed it at Henry, asking him what made him so mean. Henry grabbed the gun and punched Luke, then picked him up and hit him again. Tom jumped on his father’s back and bit his ear. Lila tried to stop everything and Henry punched her again. Tom continued hitting his father until he was blinded by blood. Lila told the children to get out of the house. She held a bloody knife and told Henry she would plunge it into his heart if he ever touched them again. She had deeply cut his arm. Lila and the kids ran for the car as Henry chased them. They sped away. Lila said they would never return. Two days later, Lila gathered the children in the kitchen of Tolitha’s house where they had been staying. She told them they were never to mention what happened, because family loyalty was the most important thing in the world. They went back home. It was six months before Henry hit them again.
Henry cried as he heard the story. He told Tom that he truly did not remember any of it. He said he must have been drunk. Tom said that Savannah did not remember any of it either. Luke refused to talk about it. Henry tried to suggest that Tom made it all up. Tom told Henry to remember buying a new television set. Tom told Henry that he only hates him when he has to remember how Henry treated him as a child. Henry asked if Tom would talk to Lila for him. Tom agreed to speak to her.
This chapter shows yet another contrast between Henry Wingo and his father Amos. Amos has a wonderful spirit. The story about the license and water-skiing is to humanize Amos a little more. The reader encounters Amos’s strong will and determination. The stories of the water-skiing and of his funeral illustrate how well loved and respected Amos was in his community.
Conversely, Henry has become a pathetic man. The story of how he treated his wife and children (one of many occasions) shows he was not a man of integrity. When Henry says he does not remember the incident, it appears he is telling the truth. The reader should wonder if he has the same problem as Savannah with remembering traumatic incidents.
Tom mentions that Lila is a smart lady and would not leave Henry if she did not know what she is doing. We already know that she has married Reese Newbury, so we can assume that she does have a plan when she leaves Henry: to marry Reese.