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  • Leanne W. Smith

Story Behind the Mouse on the Clock

My father was officially diagnosed with dementia two summers ago. 


We knew he had it. The signs had been there, slowly revealing what we didn’t want to officially admit, for weeks, months, even years prior. Then came the day…one hot June day…when it became life-interfering. 


Medical professionals were consulted. An official report was printed. Medications were prescribed. His truck keys were taken. Life shifted. And we went home to figure out our family’s new meaning of normal.


The rest of that summer…the summer of the diagnosis…was a season of heightened paranoia. 

He worried a great deal about his truck not being driven, and by his own inability to drive it. He worried about the height of the grass. The mower, who mowed it beautifully, never came quickly enough to suit him. 


The locks on the doors and the money in his wallet were checked incessantly…repetitively…as if Daddy could feel those areas he had monitored and controlled so conscientiously all his life, in his effort to provide for his family and protect them, slipping through the mental fingers of his mind.

It was during this season of paranoia that he also had hallucinations. Sometimes he saw things the rest of us couldn’t see. It’s as if the rooms changed on him, the ditch in the yard shifted, the shrubs became deer. 


One day Daddy and I were sitting in the living room and he pointed to the grandfather clock. My father was a clock collector. Several of them held the power to awaken overnight guests…me, certainly…every wee hour, but that grandfather clock has always announced its hours with the lustiest chimes.


“Do you see that mouse?” he asked.


I looked hard, but never saw a mouse.


“It keeps running out from under that clock. You don’t see it?”


Much as I would have loved to, I did not. But for him, it was a persistent little thing. He asked me about it again on several occasions when I sat with him, until the paranoia and hallucination stages passed and he became quiet…docile…frail…sleeping long hours in his favorite recliner.


After two years of becoming familiar with the hospital emergency room admission procedures for a host of side ailments, my father entered it for the final time this past April before being moved to hospice. Having passed in and out of consciousness for days, it’s a marvel and a treasure I’ll hold the rest of my own conscious years that his last words to me were, “I love you, too,” uttered in response to the whispered declaration of my own, his blue eyes never opening.


Daddy died late on a Thursday. The funeral was that Sunday. On Wednesday night I went to the class I was co-teaching at the women’s prison, a place I typically receive more than I give.


As soon as I got there, Sally (not her real name), a redhead with glasses and a constant smile on her lips, approached me and said, “Hold out your hand.”


I feel the need to point out here that neither Sally nor any of the other students in my class knew at this point that my father had passed away. 


“God told me to give you this,” she said. Sally has a crochet ministry. She keeps several little animals crocheted and on the ready. When God tells her to give one to someone, she does it, asking Him no questions.


I held out my hand, into which she laid a tiny white mouse. 


“I don’t know why God told me to give you this mouse,” she said.


But I did…I knew why.


And that is the story behind the mouse that sits on my father’s grandfather clock. It now watches over his empty recliner. 

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