PLATTSBURGH – “Hi, Mom.”
Sometimes, it's in the wind.
“Hi, Old Lady.”
That's two of Dalton Rashad Criss's greetings for his mother, Barbara Criss, that she misses.
“I said, 'I'm not old yet, but I will be getting there pretty soon. Pretty soon,'” the Morrisonville resident said of her late son, who died August 20, 2019 after a tragic car accident from which she survived. Barely.
“Other than being an exceptional young man, everybody knows that he loved his family, his friends, his church,” she said.
“People who went to church, and people who didn't go to church; Dalton loved everybody.”
On July 9, she visited his grave to ask him what he wanted her to say.
His birthday is today.
“I was going to say, 'We are celebrating your 20th birthday, and that's very, very special because you would have been emancipated from your parents,'” Barbara said.
“So on the 30th, anything you want to do, that's what we're going to do.”
Dalton loved baby-back ribs, and Barbara will cook them today in his memory.
“He made the best deviled eggs,” she said.
“He would never tell me his secret. He said, 'Isn't a family secret supposed to be secret?' I said, 'Well, we're family. You can tell me.'
“He would say, 'Mom, you don't tell me all that goes in your potato salad?'”
Barbara explained to him, it's a pinch of this. A pinch of that.
Dalton, a Peru Central School wrestler and football lineman, pointed out the disparity between the size of their hands.
“I said, “You're absolutely right,'” she said.
“So, I would have him stand over me while I was cooking. He would always put his head sort of on top of my head to let me know he's dominating me.”
“How's the weather down there, Old Lady,” Dalton would say.
“I said, 'It's fine,” she recalled.
“'Get your head off of my head. Haven't I carried you for nine months? You were so itching to get out, you wanted to be breech. You couldn't wait to get out of here.'”
A SISTER'S WISH
Dalton always had a blast on the Fourth of July because it's his birth month.
“Recognize and reflect your worth,” Dalton would say.
“Mom, you know everybody is like a snowflake. You can't find two of the same.”
Barbara spent two days in labor, in hindsight, at Wyeth where she worked overtime on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
“Mat Rushford, who was the nurse, said, 'Please, don't have this baby on me,'” Barbara said.
“I had Dalton that Monday morning. I was hurting so bad. I took a shower. I put Danielle in a pretty dress, and then put her in the car seat and called and told Dexter (her husband, a SUNY Plattsburgh chemistry professor), 'I'm on my way to the hospital. Meet me at the hospital.'”
Barbara called her boss.
“I'm not going to come in today,” she recalled.
“I'm going to have a baby.”
At Champlain Valley Physicians Hospital, Barbara parked her car, got her daughter, Danielle, out of her car seat, reached for her suitcase, and the 3 ½ year-old escape artist took off.
“I'm waving my hands,” Barbara said.
“'Someone stop her!' She knew where she was going.
“Danielle kept coming home and said, 'Trish Miners has a baby sister.' She said, 'Daddy, please can I have a baby brother?' She thought Dexter could walk on water.'”
"FELT PEOPLE'S HEART"
Danielle got her wish.
Dalton was a loving brother, Peru-blue Mustang GT-500 aficionado, and a team player.
His chemistry-challenged football teammates were tutored by Dexter, the master chemist, and Dalton, who broke it down in layman's terms.
“He was an extraordinary person,” Barbara said.
“He always felt people's heart. He gave his away in the end.”
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