My mother and father came over to Addie Acres the other day for a visit. Dad usually sits on the far end of the couch watching us ‘strangers’ with a blank smile. He will be 81 this March and has lost 98% of his memories. Our faithful retriever, Cody, is golden in many ways as he is approaching 17 in human years with cloudy eyes and a painstaking gate. As I watched, Cody gently rested his head on dad’s lap. My father, not knowing Cody anymore, looked down at him with confusion, not sure what to do with this dog. Cody stood there on his shaky legs, tail wagging, and waited for my dad to acknowledge him. After about 2 minutes, dad finally put his aged wrinkled hand on top of Cody’s now gray-speckled head. The elderly dog looked up at him through once-brown milky white cataract eyes, trying to pierce through my father’s fog. It seemed as if he was inviting him to remember. My dad sparked momentarily and appeared to connect beyond his mind’s capacity, perhaps from a place deep within his heart. I could see the confusion soften a little as he started to rub the soft fur around his ears like he always had before the disease ate away at his personality. I’m sure it was painful for Cody to stand there on his arthritic legs as fur was both petted and pulled, yet he faithfully stayed his ground with dad. Before long, it became clear that the two of them were communicating with each other. Their eyes were locked, no words or sounds being exchanged. For a moment, both were once young again, pain free, reminiscing about a life lived richly and full of new discoveries. I wondered if the golden retriever’s memories of chasing rabbits and prancing around his humans melded with my father’s own of plowing the field behind a mule, muscular and strong. The old man and the aging canine connected for a moment, for a lifetime. Years of memories for each mixed with indifference and yet arriving at similar ends. Cody, the faithful, sensing the increasing fog slid away from my father and eased his aching bones down next to me. My daddy straightened his back and wiped away a tear before the cold mist of memory lost had fully rolled in, but not before mutual understanding broke through and our golden Cody had retrieved, even for a moment, hope from years gone by.
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