So in August 2010, I moved into his old farmhouse, and he quickly became like a third grandpa to me.
Some evenings we sat in the living room where he married his precious wife Ruby in May 1941.
He’d tell me stories about her, like the one about their first date. He took her to a carnival in Walton, and they rode the Tilt-A-Whirl. He’d been tilted ever since, he would say, with his trademark laugh.
He would walk around the house showing me all the awards she won for her delicious pies. He’d pick up photos to point out how good lookin’ she was and how lucky he’d been.
And he’d end every conversation about her with the same words.
“Ruby…what a gal,” he’d say, shaking his head.
She died four years before I moved in. He never forgot about her – a lesson in true love for me.
Merlyn was like that. He’d teach you about life just by living his.
I watched as age took its toll on his body and his steps became labored and slow.
Even when he couldn’t do much, he’d still try to do something for others. While we shared a home, he always seemed to buy too many groceries, so there was enough to share with me.
He even offered me some of his Honey Nut Cheerios, which became his dinner of choice many nights.
Then the tables turned, and I got to do something for him.
He fell on his porch one day and spent months in hospitals and nursing homes. I jumped at the chance to go in on my days off and feed him lunch when he wasn’t strong enough to feed himself.
But even then, it was him who was teaching me. I watched for hours as nurses paraded in and out of his room poking him with needles, causing him discomfort. Instead of complaining, he comforted them with his endless string of jokes.