I will soon celebrate my sixty-sixth birthday. I was born on a warm summer day in June at Cameron Hospital — five miles from where I live today. My grandparents, aunts, and uncles came to visit Bob and Barbara’s redheaded boy. I am sure some of them looked at my dark-skinned, dark-haired father and then looked at me, saying to themselves, hmm. Sixty-four years later, a DNA test revealed that my biological father was a truck driver from Michigan; a man who met my seventeen-year-old mother at a local truck stop where she worked. One thing led to another, and nine months later I was born.
Those who came to visit me in the hospital nursery brought gifts, though none of them brought gold, frankincense, and myrrh. One gift was a stuffed animal; a light-brown colored dog with a big nose and a hat. I left the hospital with two things: the nickname Butch, given to me by my doctor who said “isn’t he a Butch,” and my dog.
I quickly became attached to my dog. Over the next eighteen years, I lived in communities such as Bryan, Ney, San Diego, Harrod, Farmer, Deshler, Findlay, Tucson, Mt. Blanchard, and Sierra Vista. No matter where I lived, my dog went with me. In fact, he slept with me every night. When I left home to go to college in 1976, my dog went with me. By then, my dog’s stuffing had settled, its nose was partially detached, and its hat was lost somewhere between Ohio and Arizona.
While at college, I started dating a beautiful dark-haired girl named Polly. Six months later, we were engaged. Polly, of course, met my dog. As I write this, I wonder what she thought about my dog and my love for a scraggly stuffed animal. Whatever she may have thought, she kept her thoughts to herself. On one occasion, she performed emergency surgery on my dog, keeping his innards intact.
After we married, we left college and moved, for a time, to Bryan. From there, we moved to Newark, Ohio, the home of Polly’s preacher father and mother. We rented a house directly across the street from Polly’s parent’s home. By then, Polly and I had a baby and a toddler, and both of us were working full-time jobs.
We stored some of our belongings in Polly’s parent’s basement, hoping to retrieve them once we got settled in our new home. My dog was safely stored in a box, or so I thought, anyway. One day, I decided to retrieve several boxes from the basement, only to find out that the box where my dog lived was gone. This box not only contained my dog, but it also contained mementos (pictures, books, baseball pennants) from my childhood. Evidently, the box had become damp, and my mother-in-law unilaterally decided that the box was filled with junk and threw everything away — including my dog.
My dog survived twenty-two years of moving, but it didn’t survive a woman who had no regard for him (or for his owner); who gave no thought to whether the dog had any sentimental meaning to me. While my dog can’t be replaced, he and I did a lot of traveling and shared many wonderful experiences.
I miss him.
Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.
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