A little over nine years ago, my father died. He and my mother had been together from their teens. During their entire marriage, my mother had never spent a night alone--if Daddy was away on business, he left behind a household of kids.
From the time I arrived home for the funeral, my mother followed me around. At night she climbed into bed with me.
Two weeks later, things weren't any better. I'd started sleeping on the couch in order to get Mom used to being alone in the bed. I asked her if she'd like to get a dog or cat. She refused. She started talking about moving to Dallas to be with me--despite the fact that two of my brothers and her youngest granddaughter lived near her home.
One morning in the middle of the third week, I got up and told her we were going out. When we were in the car, she asked where we were headed. I said, "The SPCA to get you a dog."
We argued all the way to the shelter. When we arrived, I got out of the car, but Mom refused to budge. I left her there and walked into the shelter, hoping she'd follow.
I headed to the small dogs room, looking for a toy poodle, Chihuahua or Yorkie. I found a small white poodle that I thought might work. Picking it up, I headed toward the front of the shelter. As I walked past the larger dog room, I heard a familiar voice.
Most of the dogs were two and three to a run. My mother was standing in front of a run with a single dog in it. She was cooing to a trembling, slender, black dog. I walked to her and held out the poodle. She never even looked at me.
I asked, "What do you have there?"
She replied, "His name is Dancer."
I looked around for a name tag. There wasn't one. "How do you know his name?" I asked.
"I just named him," she answered. "He looks like a reindeer."
Although I saw no resemblance between the nervy whippet and a reindeer, I was too grateful to argue.
Since that day, Dancer and my mother have rarely been apart. He gave her the courage to face the world as a single woman. She's had nine good years. As she has aged and begun to forget things, Dancer has taken up the slack. He's the reason Mom gets out of bed in the morning, and he nudges her toward bed a little before nine every night. They adhere to his schedule.
During my most recent visit, I watched her make dinner for them in the microwave--two Lean Cuisines. They ate dinner, and she discarded the trays. About ten minutes later, the now seriously overweight whippet rested his head on her knee and began whining.
"Oh, sweetie," she cried. "Are you ready for dinner?" Before I could stop her, she went to the freezer and took out a new Lean Cuisine. I was hard put to convince her he'd already eaten. Dancer may only have a brain the size of an egg, but he'd obviously figured out how to scam my mother.
It's no longer safe for Mom to live alone at home. We've taken away her car and given her a choice: allow someone to come to the house each day, move into a supervised retirement home or move in with one of the four of us. It's indicative of her situation that my feisty little mother did not argue. She wants to live with me, but has agreed to move in with my youngest brother until winter ends.
My brother is a sports columnist. The Dallas Cowboys are playing the Giants this Sunday at 4:30. If the Cowboys win their game, my brother will be coming to Dallas to cover the Conference Championship on January 20.
My sister-in-law (a saint) is happy to take Mom, but is not thrilled at the idea of adding an elderly woman AND a geriatric whippet to a household including a manic four-year-old, a neurotic cocker spaniel and a fifteen-year-old daughter. My brother has announced, if he comes to Dallas that Sunday, he's bringing Dancer with him on the plane to leave with me.
They've agreed to keep Mom for the next three months. I can't refuse to take the dog, but I hate the idea of separating Mom and Dancer.
I can, however, secretly hope that Dallas doesn't make it to the Championship game.
Shhh. Don't say anything to anyone. I'd be run out of Dallas on a rail.