Had my father Delbert Crawford lived until the 20th of this month he’d have been 103 years old. We lost him to pneumonia last April.
Thinking of him just now, I am remembering how he continued to savor life during his last months, even as age stole most of his eyesight, his hearing, and his mind.
When he no longer could see to work crossword puzzles or giant word jumbles, he shifted his interest to moon phases and what time the moon came up each night, waiting at certain windows to watch. “Did you see how pretty the moon was tonight?” he’d ask on the phone. He even made a study of what time each evening the mercury vapor streetlights came on.
His last summer with us—as his senses dimmed to a flicker—he often spent hours sitting in the swing on the patio, but rarely had much to say.
Then one afternoon, out of nowhere, a disheveled tomcat wandered straight up to the swing, jumped into Dad’s lap, began purring, and curled up to be petted.
My mother, Lucille, was amazed at the transformation that suddenly came over Dad. He began laughing and talking again, to the big gray cat with white feet.
No one around the neighborhood had ever seen the cat, which had been declawed and neutered, and its owner could not be found.
My mother called it a miracle. Dad called it a dog.
We never knew if he really thought the cat was a dog, or if, because he’d always loved dogs so much, he just imagined it was. We named it Dog.
One day Dad asked, “Have you ever seen a dog like this?” I said, “No, Dad, I really think you’ve got one-of-a-kind here.”
Some days my mother would hear him talking to Dog in the swing, telling him what a pretty and good dog he was, and singing to him that old hymn, In the Sweet By and By.
My folks had never allowed animals in the house, except for a baby lamb born one night back on the farm when the temperature was zero. But when winter came and Dad could no longer sit in the swing with Dog, Mom relented and allowed Dog into the house for long visits.
When Dad went to the hospital last spring and never came home, Dog began to lose weight and seemed lost for a few months.
At Dad’s funeral there was a picture of him and Dog in the swing, and John Kolasa sang In the Sweet By and By a cappella.
Dog has remained a special friend to my mother, who continues to care for him, and spends time each day loving him and playing with him as my dad did. She always tells him how happy we are that he found us, how very much my dad loved him, and what a one-of-a-kind dog he will always be to our family.