Clocks, critters and family coincidences

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Mama’s clock has stopped. The one that’s hung on my bathroom wall for 20 years.

Not just battery-run-down stopped. But stopped for good.

Although I’m not sure what this symbolism means – if anything – it seems to signify something in the scheme of things regarding our family’s experiences related to departed loved ones. We’ve never had any significant cardinal encounters (you know, a redbird’s appearance is said to be a visit from beyond from someone you cared about), but we’ve had a dog incident, plus a previous clock anomaly.

I know. Sounds a bit paranormalish, which our family definitely isn’t, but still, perhaps it’s prudent to put this situation into historical perspective.

The bathroom clock stopped the week of July 19-25. If Mama were still alive, on July 22 she would have turned 107 – nice to acknowledge, yet not an especially significant anniversary. But the year 2020 is significant regarding Etta Dolores Gunter Hollis. Sept. 1 will mark 20 years since she left us.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about that a lot. Maybe that’s where all this is coming from

I must admit: I don’t remember the exact day the clock stopped because initially I thought the battery had just conked out. I even let the clock sit a day or two before getting Hooshang to insert a new battery, only to find that the timepiece had ticked its last tock. Now, I wish I’d paid more attention.

The clock used to hang in Mama’s bathroom in Rocky Branch, and it later graced her room at Alpine nursing home, where she stayed for only a month before passing on to her reward. I inherited the clock, and through the past two decades I’ve enjoyed my almost daily inspection of its images of muted roses and an even more muted cat’s face.

It’s a no-brainer as to why I admire the roses, but the significance of the cat requires an explanation.

Mama was an animal person. She loved them all – cows, dogs, cats, birds …. And they loved her. It was actually cute (she was the proverbial cat lady who fed kitties at the garbage dump) but sometimes embarrassing (neighbors’ animals ran away from home and adopted Mama, and there was no getting rid of them).

Enter Sam, the dog.

Right before my erudite father died, he told Mama that if reincarnation existed, “I want to come back as one of your animals. You treat them so well.”

Pretty soon after Daddy’s death, Sam appeared – a huge black lab with eyes like no other dog I’ve ever seen, eerie in their humanness. Mama tried to run him off but, true to course, he wouldn’t have it. So my no-nonsense mother finally had to ask, getting right down into Sam’s face, “Are you Flavil?”

Sam cocked his head and groaned the moan that reaped him rewards. Not sure whether he was saying “yes” or “no,” Mama soon gave him an in-house pass like her other dog, Shasta.

Unfortunately, Sam didn’t get to remain with them long. After just a few months he was struck and killed by a car on Louisiana Highway 143, which ran past our house. The kicker? It was the exact spot where a car almost hit Daddy many years before, coming so close that it severely dented the bucket he was carrying – the bucket he used for feeding the cows for decades afterward.

So that’s the critter part of my family’s beyond-the-norm experiences. For the rest of the clock saga, you’ll have to tune in to my next column. Until then, I’m wondering if for you (cough, cough) time will stand still.

Sallie Rose Hollis is a Union Parish native, retired Louisiana Tech associate professor of journalism and Ruston resident. She can be reached via email at