I have a few more pictures of my mother’s daddy than I do of Granddaddy Townsend, but not many more memories. Both my Granddaddy Townsend and Granddaddy Merritt died in the same year. As with Granddaddy Townsend, Joy and I would go to NC and spend a few weeks each summer. Quite a different world for us.
BELOW: Granddaddy Merritt…in Dothan, with me…1953
Here’s what I do remember about my Granddaddy Dekater DeLeon Merritt. All I ever heard him called was Granddaddy or ‘Lynn’. ( My middle name is Lynn after him. And, my niece is Lori Lynn after me.) He was a kind, soft spoken man. He was always smiling, and dancing around with us girls! And yodelling! He could yodel with the best of them. We would have to start early convincing him he needed to show us again. He’d say,”Wait till I rest a mite.” Then he’d say, “Wait till supper time.” Then, “After supper, after supper!” And then, “Before you go to bed.” And, that was about all we could take. The pleading and begging would commence. “Just one time, Granddaddy, just one.” “Pleeeeeeease”. And then, when we weren’t looking…or expecting it…he would start,”Yo-del-ay-hoo! Yo-del-aye-hee-hoo! Yo-del-yo-del-yo-del-aye-hee-aye-hee-hoo!” And, that was it! He had amused and delighted these granddaughters for another day. How did he do that? Why, that’s about the most amazing thing I had ever heard! Who taught him? I don’t even know if you can teach someone to yodel. I tried and tried and tried to learn how to sound just like him. I think I got to be pretty good…but Joy said I just sounded dumb! Whatever! It was definitely a source of amusement and envy for me!
I remember that in the years we were there visiting at Christmas, one of the nights he would take us to see a giant Christmas Tree somewhere in Wilmington. I do not remember much about it, except that it was big…very big. And quite an amazing display for us to see. And, I can also remember him taking us to see a big battleship, as well. The tree was much more impressive!
Granddaddy and Granny Merritt lived in Wilmington, NC at 1619 Orange Street. How can I remember that after all these years? There were rocking chairs and a swing on the porch. And, there were doodle bugs in the soft dirt in the backyard. We thought we could make them come out of their holes if we sang to them. Well, I didn’t really really believe it. I just went along with it for Joy’s sake. Cause that’s just the kind of sister I was…and am! I know they used to live in Clinton, NC where all the rest of the family lives. And, Mom and her sisters and brother all grew up in Clinton. I don’t think I know why they moved to Wilmington, maybe I knew at one time, but that info is buried under something else at this time. My uncle and aunt (his son) lived down the street from them. And, I think there were some other relatives in Wilmington also. Granddaddy worked at a farmers supply.
He would come home for lunch everyday. When Granny fixed the plates, she would fix an extra one and send Joy and I next door to take it to Mrs. Williamson…who was really old (according to us). She was feeble though, I remember that. After lunch, we would all sit on the front porch of that big, ‘ole house…and swing and talk…and laugh…until he would reach down and put his shoes back on and go down the steps to his car and back to work. Then Granny Merritt would send us outside to play. We would go out into the back yard and try to entice those doodle bugs to make an appearance, or head down the street to our cousin’s house.
Here are Granddaddy and Granny standing in front of their house on Orange St.
The year was 1963, and Joy and I had been staying between Clinton and Wilmington. I would have been 10 years old. We were back with Granny and Granddaddy in Wilmington. I got a letter from Mom the day before that said that she and Daddy were going to ride their motorcycle up to visit us. She just told me the secret and no one else…especially Joy…she was just a baby (8) and she would have told everyone! 🙂 Granddaddy came home for lunch, and told us that if we were good girls that afternoon, we would go to the beach when he got home. Oh, that would be great! We loved to go to the beach and go swimming. Fun, fun, fun! We followed him to the car, and he stopped and did a little jig with Joy on the sidewalk. Then he got in the car and drove off. We waved till he was out of sight. Then we went inside and started getting our swim suits on. Because it was only going to be 5 hours till we left! A girl needs time to get prepared.
I don’t know what all happened next…somehow it was hidden from us for a while. But, when Granddaddy got back to work, he said he didn’t feel good, and he went to sit down in the doorway, where there was a cool breeze. And, then he had a cerebral hemorrhage, and within minutes, he was gone from this world. The rest of the afternoon is a blur. Granny Merritt left, so someone had to take care of us. But, I don’t remember who. And, soon after, people started coming to the house. I do know that Granny or someone found my letter from Mom. They knew I had a secret, and thought it wise to find out what. They called Mother and Daddy, who were very close to leaving on the motorcycle. They repacked and left in the car. We all went to Clinton, about 70 miles away and that is where he was buried. I can remember thinking he was so old. I always thought of him as old. In later years, I found out that he was just 57 years old when he died.
Smiling, and laughing, and gentleness is what I think of when I think of him. As with my Granddaddy Townsend, I sure wish I had more memories of Granddaddy Merritt. Of course, We lived so far away, and only saw them once a year…I am just happy to have some memories.
This is why I write a blog. This is why I write things I can remember about my grandparents. This is why I write about my parents. One day, one of my boys may say,”I wonder what Mama’s Granddaddy liked to do.” And, they will be able to find out what I knew. Or maybe one of their children will want to know about Mom and Pop. So, with hopes that I never bore you, I write these memories…while I can still remember them!
I ‘come from’ good families. Hard working, honest people. Kind and generous people. Loving people. I am blessed.