18 Jan

100 words for 97 years. Is this all it boils down to? (This week my genre is Memoir)

Friday Fictioneers stories via the below photo prompt and fueled by unbridled creativity and imagination of writers around the world. The ringmaster of this circus is Rochelle Wisoff Fields, she of the purple website.

Thank you, Rochelle for helping me to remember.

AA Bookmarks

Two weeks gone, yet I still see Clark C. reading in his room, wreathed in blue cigarette smoke and huffing at his oxygen mask.

On the table by his recliner is an ashtray, a pack of Marlboros and three crayons. Next to a toppled oxygen cylinder on the floor is a hardback book, its open pages covered in red check marks.

I used to wonder why he did that.

Only now, in this deflated room, empty of his stubborn spirit and ninety-seven years of history, do I understand.

My grandfather hadn’t been marking his place. He’d been marking his time.


Clark C.

*He was the son of a captain of industry and an explorer whose discovery was refined and smelted and poured into the backbone of this country. I should have asked him a million questions. All I have now is this book and the stories of my family.

Lewis and Hepzibah Merritt

Alfred Merritt

Alfred Merrit and wife.

Clark C. Merritt

Lewis and Hepzibah Merritt and their children.

Alfred Merritt (Clark C.’s father)

Alfred Merritt and his wife

If you still have grandparents, talk to them. You’ll never know what stories they’ll have to tell. It’s part of who you are.



51 Responses to “Bookmarks”

  1. rochellewisoff January 18, 2013 at 9:33 am #

    Dear Doug,
    I’m not sure what to say about your story and the information you’ve generously provided. Amazing, beautiful and wonderful are overused and do little to describe my feelings.
    Without realizing it our ancestors are part of who we are, yet more often than not we pass them off as “has beens” and “old fogies”
    Your story went straight for the heart. I am grateful.
    PS Wishing you great success at your disc golf tournament.

    • dmmacilroy January 18, 2013 at 8:21 pm #

      Dear Rochelle,

      Thank you for such a nice set of comments re Bookmarks and for your wishes of success at the Maui Open. I’m headed there now. On Maui, in Kihei, about to pull the plug on the computer. Will try to hook up later.



  2. yerpirate January 18, 2013 at 9:37 am #

    That was stunning – a real testament – really you made a very good point in a wonderful way.

    • Douglas MacIlroy January 18, 2013 at 8:23 pm #

      Dear Managua,

      Thank you, Sir, for reading and saying so.



  3. Charles Oyeleke Williams January 18, 2013 at 9:44 am #

    It’s nice to get to know a bit about your family history through this generousity of your sharing. Thank you! I have just one grandparent alive, will make positive effort to get to know her better.

    • Douglas MacIlroy January 18, 2013 at 8:24 pm #

      Dear Charles,

      I’m sure your remaining grandparent will have some surprising stories to share, just as you share with us. Thanks for reading and commenting.



  4. Sandra January 18, 2013 at 9:50 am #

    Great story and fascinating photographs too Doug. Thanks for sharing. Isn’t it funny how people never smiled in the early photographs? Well, maybe just a glimmer…

    • Douglas MacIlroy January 18, 2013 at 8:27 pm #

      Dear Sandra,

      This weekend I will be the one with WiFi issues. I’m up on the side of a volcano holding an antenna just so. Thank you for commenting so kindly on Bookmarks. I am fortunate to have you reading my work.

      I’m smiling.



  5. unspywriter January 18, 2013 at 12:18 pm #

    Wonderful and touching story, as we’ve all come to expect and anticipate from you. And you’re oh, so right, about grandparents. They’ve all lived the history we’ve only studied. Great way to start the morning–with a great story. Loved the pictures, too.

    Here’s mine:

  6. writelindy January 18, 2013 at 12:37 pm #

    You touched my heart.

    • Douglas MacIlroy January 18, 2013 at 8:28 pm #

      Dear Lindy,

      That’s a succinct comment and one that makes me smile.



  7. kz January 18, 2013 at 12:41 pm #

    beautiful, Doug.. thank you for sharing this with us.. beautiful, not only the story but the photos as well..

    • Douglas MacIlroy January 18, 2013 at 8:32 pm #

      Dear KZ,

      Thanks for checking out Bookmarks and commenting so kindly. It’s nice knowing you’ve met my ancestors.



  8. oldentimes January 18, 2013 at 12:44 pm #

    Doug, how touching! I was blessed by grandparents who shared events, as I now try to do with my own grand and great-grand children. I only hope they will listen as I did and not lose the treasure of heritage

    • Douglas MacIlroy January 18, 2013 at 8:33 pm #

      Dear OT,

      One can only hope. Great-grandchildren? That must be a real treat. Teach them well.



      • oldentimes January 18, 2013 at 9:00 pm #

        doing my best :). I have 3 of the ‘great’ varitey with another due any day.

  9. Perry Block (@PerryBlock) January 18, 2013 at 2:04 pm #

    Very nice story, Doug, and the family information was fascinating. (Love Alfred’s mustache!)

    • Douglas MacIlroy January 18, 2013 at 8:35 pm #

      Dear Perry,

      They did know how to rock the ‘stache’, didn’t they?



  10. 40again January 18, 2013 at 2:06 pm #

    Hello Doug
    I loved your story, funny how the photo stimulated lots of Memoir genre stories this week.
    The old photographs are so lovely to see, especially for someone like me, tracing the sometimes forked branches of my family tree.
    Take care

    • Douglas MacIlroy January 18, 2013 at 8:36 pm #

      Dear Dee,

      When I saw the photo of the old gentleman in the photo prompt I thought immediately of my grandfather and the rest, as they say, was history.

      Thanks for reading and commenting.



  11. TheOthers1 January 18, 2013 at 2:10 pm #

    It’s amazing how well (and thoroughly) you handle whatever genre you tackle. You go from sensual, to nostalgic, to poignant with ease. I envy your knowledge and ability. Well done, Doug.

  12. Caely January 18, 2013 at 2:20 pm #

    Dear D,

    Love the story, as usual. I still have my grandparents around (at least the ones on my mother’s side), and I love nothing more than to listen to their endless stories and experiences. I hope for Zoe to experience their storytelling like I have.

    I think stories from another generation always inspire me. Somehow I think younger generations should pay more attention to their older generations’ stories. It’s an invaluable legacy after all.

    Love you,

  13. David Stewart January 18, 2013 at 4:20 pm #

    I think that’s something I can relate to, that feeling of regret of not learning more from grandparents before they’re gone. My grandfather told a lot of stories, but still, I don’t know much about my father’s side. Great, touching story.

  14. vbholmes January 18, 2013 at 4:43 pm #

    Your story was made even more interesting when I followed your links–a real-life example of a late-19th fortune built by ingenuity and hard work which was lost to a shrewd money man.

  15. sustainabilitea January 18, 2013 at 4:56 pm #

    I keep trying to get my parents to either write down or put on tape the stories of their lives and those of their parents and grandparents. Life has changed so drastically even since my dad grew up on a family farm and my mom’s birthday fell on Pearl Harbor Day. I was hoping one of the libraries in the three large systems I frequent would have this book but none of them do. It sounds fascinating and made more so by the fact that it’s your story, too.

    I had a wry smile on my face as I read how he was smoking while using an oxygen mask. He wasn’t alone in that behavior. Your story was beautiful and beautifully told, but I expect that from you.


  16. train-whistle January 18, 2013 at 6:06 pm #

    I am amazed by your writing each week, thinking it can’t get better than this, but I am wrong. This just tore at my heartstrings. You captured him so well and your description is amazing. I see the place, I see the man. I feel the emotion. I have no more to say, and it’s still not enough.

  17. Ken Arnopole January 18, 2013 at 6:11 pm #

    Aloha Doug,
    thank you for your wonderful story about grandparents. I was adopted my adopted grandparents didn’t accept me because I wasn’t Jewish looking. I have two grandchildren of my own both are in college they don’t communicate with me because of their mother. My oldest daughter is getting along with they very well my youngest daughter lost her husband and blames that on the rest of the world. It would be nice to be able to be in touch with my grandchildren thank you for reminding me of how important it is I’ll strive to figure out how aloha and shalom Ken. By the way where is this disc golf going to be played? Let me know.

  18. rheath40 January 18, 2013 at 7:10 pm #

    I’m enamored with this story. I think it’s my favorite one so far.

  19. elmowrites January 18, 2013 at 7:40 pm #

    97 years? You don’t look a day over 96! Seriously, this is fascinating, Doug. As so often, you give so much of yourself with these memoirs, unlike those of us who stick resolutely to fiction.
    I agree with your lesson about grandparents, but as a kid it’s sometimes hard to learn it in time, or to have the courage to ask the right questions, so I’m going to flip it over and say: if you have grandchildren, talk to them. You will live in their memories all the more boldly for being a rounded, imperfect person, and they will thank you for it even when they can no longer tell you so.

  20. elappleby January 18, 2013 at 9:25 pm #

    A fascinating memoir – left me with a whole heap of emotions about my own family which I’ll try to sift through at some point. wonderful writing.

  21. JackieP January 18, 2013 at 9:56 pm #

    Hi Doug. Great writing. I wish I could ask my grandparents questions. All of them are gone. One set and one grandmother died when I was quite young. The other no one was close to. It is sad that family doesn’t know their roots. Thanks again.

  22. keliwright January 18, 2013 at 11:18 pm #

    Doug, that’s beautiful.

  23. boomiebol January 18, 2013 at 11:48 pm #

    Thanks for sharing this

  24. Swirling Turnip January 19, 2013 at 2:28 am #

    Your tale pointed out a journey we should embrace and explore. Cling to your elders, learn from them and connect, you will be glad you did. At least that is the message I took from this piece. A nice slap back to reality, well done.

  25. billgncs January 19, 2013 at 5:58 am #

    some of my greatest treasures are stories of his life my father shared. One of my greatest sadness is that the war made him unable to share much.

  26. wmqcolby January 19, 2013 at 10:40 am #

    Very real. I lost a friend at age 86 just before 9/11/01. He’d been a WWII Navy pilot, very accomplished, lots of medals (kept in the back of a closet in a coffee can) and was the sweetest, gentlest, brightest and most spiritual man in my church. One of my great mentors.

    This writing brought it home! Keep bringing it!!! Awesome, Doug.


  27. claireful January 19, 2013 at 11:32 am #

    Sometimes when you’re around someone very old, and ill it’s so difficult to imagine that they were ever once young, with a fascinating history. A great story, that really made me think about that. Claire

  28. lingeringvisions January 19, 2013 at 2:21 pm #

    Thanks for the fable. (Isn’t a fable a story that has a lesson?) Well that’s what I meant by my comment either way.

  29. Parul January 19, 2013 at 3:53 pm #

    This made me really think. My paternal grandparents are no more. I don’t meet my maternal grandparents too often. Your piece made me feel very guilty because sometimes when I can go I avoid.
    Next time I meet them I will talk of the old times. I hope I don’t sound gawky or cheeky!

  30. bridgesareforburning January 19, 2013 at 4:21 pm #

    Hi Doug,
    What a great message in your story. So many questions I would like to ask my grandparents and even my parents, but they’re all gone. If there is one thing I’ve learned from my genealogical research, it’s that there’s not much you can find out about your ancestors, just a few basic facts. The stuff you’d really like to know is almost impossible to find out. Ron

  31. Linda Parkinson-Hardman January 19, 2013 at 8:11 pm #

    I’m afraid I didn’t really appreciate my grandparents potential to tell me my history until it was too late, I’m trying not to make the same mistake with my Mum.

  32. tedstrutz January 19, 2013 at 8:34 pm #

    I enjoyed ‘Bookmarks’, Doug. My favorite type of post… Sharing family stories and photos.

    Can’t wait to hear about the Disc Tourney. Don’t forget to scout out the Stairway to Heaven.

  33. The Bumble Files January 20, 2013 at 4:59 am #

    Dear Doug,
    You’ve written a beautiful story. I feel lucky to have read it. It’s true it’s important to talk to grandparents. I didn’t really get much a chance as there had been only one living grandparent for me to know. Now, I think about parents and how I want to hear their stories before it’s too late. I loved the photos.

    Have fun at your disc golf tourney. Enjoy!!


  34. valeriedavies January 20, 2013 at 5:34 am #

    Your story stirred up my heart. I regret now that I never pumped my father and grandparents for their memories. My father tried to tell me of his, and I was a bored and heartless young woman, so he gave up.
    Karma – my children aren;t interested in my past!
    Even the family history i wrote was given to the children to draw on the back of before being discarded… and I don’t think my beloved grandchildren are interested in my past – they’re so focussed on the present and the future..
    So maybe we have to write our memoirs for our great grandchildren!
    I’ll start right now!

  35. muZer January 20, 2013 at 7:18 am #

    What a remarkable memoir! Grandparents are always special and the way they treat grandchildren, I think even parents don’t. With so much unconditional love and affection. So pure. Loved the way you wrote this one.

  36. rich January 22, 2013 at 1:12 pm #

    i’m curious about how you added the “C” instead of just “Clark.” was it because it was a special way to refer to him, or maybe just a way to be sure to identify him from others with similar names? either way, well done.

  37. singleworkingmomswm January 23, 2013 at 12:00 am #

    I really enjoyed the short piece, Doug, as well as viewing some of your family history. My grandmother will be turning 102 this Valentine’s Day. I love hearing her stories when I get a chance. 🙂

  38. Björn Rudberg (brudberg) January 23, 2013 at 6:20 pm #

    Very nice piece, I enjoyed it a lot. Tack så mycket.

  39. nightlake January 25, 2013 at 7:06 am #

    Dear Doug, This was very touching and moving. Indeed, people are valued much after they are gone..Thank you for sharing

  40. Joanna (Lazuli Portals Trilogy) January 25, 2013 at 2:15 pm #

    Dear Doug,

    We didn’t take part last week (we’re fortnightly Fictioneers these days!), but I came here to see if this week’s story was up. It isn’t, so I read this one.

    I have tears, real tears, you tugger of heartstrings! I wish my grandparents were still alive . . . I’m sure I’d appreciate them more now (as a ‘proper adult’) than I did as a child, not knowing how much was ripe for loss.

    And ‘stubborn spirit’? That’s a fantastic duet of words.


  41. WordsFallFromMyEyes January 27, 2013 at 4:37 am #

    People who capture history, lives in the telling – my kind of people. This is excellent, precious, and beautifully stated.

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