Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Salt and Pepper (07/24/14)
TITLE: Of Dogs, Parents, and Life
By Leola Ogle
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Sally and Peter – Salt and Pepper. Mom said she’d loved Dad from the time she was in kindergarten and he was in second grade. “I was a freshman in high school before your dad saw me as anything other than the pesky neighbor girl,” Mom told me. “After that we were inseparable. They nicknamed us Salt and Pepper because I was fair and blonde, and your dad was dark, with coal black hair. Everyone said we went together like salt and pepper.”
Mom and Dad had six of us kids. I’m Susan, the oldest. Our house was always full of love, fun, and laughter. It wasn’t that my parents never fought or had disagreements. They didn’t have many, but whenever they did, they always made up right away. “True love doesn’t mean you never fight. It means that when you do, it creates a vacuum inside you that can’t be filled until you make it right again,” Dad told us.
They stressed the importance of a good education as well as church and community involvement. Playing sports was optional. Our parents didn’t push us, but if we went out for sports, they were our biggest fans.
My parents survived losing my brother, Allen, in Vietnam. Ten years later we lost my sister, Ruth, to cancer. She left a husband, two small children, and another hole in our hearts. My parents seemed to draw closer and love each other all the more. It was their love that became the rock we all clung to.
The day finally arrived when Mom and Dad had an empty nest. They decided to travel. They bought a motor home and named it Salt and Pepper. “What else would we name it? It seemed the logical choice,” Dad chuckled as he proudly showed us through it.
Mom was sixty-five when the first sign of Alzheimer appeared. Within five years, it was apparent Dad needed help, although he was adamant they not be separated. “We would never do that to the two of you,” I assured him.
They sold their house and we had a small bungalow built on our property for them. “We want to be on our own as much as possible,” Dad said, his eyes shining with tears. “But you’ll be close enough to help.” By then, Mom didn’t know who I was but she always knew Dad.
“I’ve heard of a place that trains dogs to be companions. They help care for those who are sick, elderly and such. What do you think, Dad?” I was concerned that if either fell or got hurt, what would happen.
“You want a puppy dog, Sally?” Dad asked Mom, his hands cupping her face.
“Well, okay,” she answered. Maybe she didn’t understand, but her eyes lit up with joy.
Dad insisted Mom go with us and help pick out the puppies. “Those,” she said, pointing at black and blonde Labradors, a brother and sister from the same litter. “Salt and Pepper.”
“Mom, we just want one dog. Tell her, Dad.” I felt our roles had reversed and I was the mother and she was the child.
She started crying. “Susan, we’ll take both dogs,” Dad said, looking at me over Mom’s head as he wrapped his arms around her.
I smiled. “Of course. One for each of you. Why didn’t I think of that?”
That’s how Salt and Pepper joined our family. God knew what we needed. I can’t tell you what joy and comfort those dogs brought to us. If Mom tried to wander off, Salt or Pepper nudged her back where she belonged. If Dad fell asleep and Mom needed help, Salt or Pepper woke him.
Mom passed away quietly in her sleep six months before Dad. Sensing Dad needed comforted, Salt would sit in Mom’s favorite chair, and started sleeping at foot of the bed on Mom’s side.
It was Pepper who alerted me the morning Dad slipped quietly into heaven to join Mom. Some days I sit with the dogs on either side of me, and reminisce.
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