Excerpt from Stone Benches: Understanding the Invisible Footprints of Dementia
This beloved pet would be the reason Dad spent an entire weekend of his life building an elaborate chicken coop. She would be the cause for my mom to carefully glue egg shells back together, then number them. This was done, I suppose, in case we ever became curious as to just how many eggs D.D. laid in her lifetime and were inclined to dig through boxes in the attic for absolute proof. I am quite certain this was my clever idea.
D.D.’s appearance in our lives also subsequently led to five roosters and a Rhode Island Red hen briefly residing in the backyard of our city home. Their brief stint as boarders was ended when the roosters began to crow which, from my recollection, did not take long. This surrogate mother tale requires a rather elaborate explanation of how my grandma came to borrow fertile eggs from a local farmer. This is a story for another day.
The point is, none of these things would have occurred had I not triumphantly won the drawing. The prize acquired was a baby chick, hatched as a science experiment in my first grade class. This fuzzy yellow bundle, which easily fit in my tiny hand, was soon to be christened D.D. Make no mistake, I would have never been allowed to enter the drawing had my parents thought there was a chance, at any location this side of heaven, I would win.
To their amazement and disdain, I did. In time, however, even they grew to love that chicken. Yes, even my dad. He truly loved our resident pet chicken. Perhaps it was the joy this beloved animal brought me that he treasured most. This is why the morning he stopped me short of the backdoor was so painfully difficult. As was my normal morning routine, I was heading out the backdoor to feed my pet. Dad intercepted my chore and relayed the terrible news. D.D. had died of a heart attack.
I was not even aware this was possible, but then I was only in fifth grade. There were many things I did not yet know. Later that day, when I returned from a tear- filled day at school, we buried my beloved pet. Dad officiated. I was devastated. We all mourned the loss fervently. All of my elementary school classmates will tell you, that chicken was special.
Several years ago, I found myself looking through a picture album with my father. “Look at this picture, Dad,” I said, “there I am holding D.D.!” He gazed lovingly at the image of his daughter holding this beautiful animal. Obviously, this photo had sparked a recollection. He smiled. “She was a good pet,” I said. “Too bad that cat got her,” he lamented. Horrified, I dropped the photo and directed my attention to the architect of the chicken coop. “But Dad,” I pleaded, “you told me D.D. died of a heart attack!” “Well, I imagine she did,” he chuckled.