And Then There Was One

My cat died today.

I don’t know what to write.

I’ve been trying for weeks to compose an appropriate goodbye post for the cat we lost in September, and now this.  I am overwhelmed.

I can’t think about either of them without a huge lump in my throat and water in my eyes.

It’s hard to type.

Rusty and Poupon.

My babies.

Dear Rusty,

A few months ago, you walked out into the yard as a seemingly healthy cat.  When you came back inside, you started sneezing and you really never stopped.

You got sick.  Maybe there was cancer growing inside you for years.  We will never know for sure.  All those diagnostic tests, and we never got an answer.

None of the medicine worked.  You couldn’t keep the liquids in your stomach.  The pills made you gag.  The shots had no effect.

You got i.v. fluids and oxygen too, but nothing helped.  You declined quickly.

In mid-September, we took you to the vet to have you euthanized.

It was one of the most difficult decisions we’ve ever made, but your breathing was labored, you had lost four pounds, and your energy was sapped.  It was time and we knew it.

Today, I feel relieved that you aren’t suffering, but watching you in those last few minutes was a heartbreak I can barely stand to think of, much less communicate here.

You were a big cat – tall, muscular, imposing – over sixteen pounds in your prime.  You were once a graceful and merciless hunter, catching birds in our small backyard whenever we let you out for a minute.

As you aged, you were still keen on the low slink through the grass to get a butterfly or lizard, but you generally did a lazy flop in the sun just short of your target.  Too much trouble when there’s a plate of Friskie’s just inside the door, I guess.

We got you and your brother over ten years ago, when I was pregnant with our son.  You were my faithful companion then.  We spent hours together, curled into the corner of our fat blue couch, waiting for the baby.  You seemed to know that I felt sick to my stomach and a little bit sad most of the time.  You fit perfectly in the crook of my arm.

You were such a comfort to me then – more than I was to you those last few weeks, I’m afraid.  I am sorry for that.  You should have had a fat blue couch and a fat blue mama to comfort your weary body around the clock.  I sat with you as much as I could, but life interrupted a lot.

Your brother and Poupon seemed to know you had something scary.  They really wouldn’t get too close to you in the final days.  Just typing that makes me so incredibly sad.  You deserved more from all three of us.  You really did.

I loved you, Rusty.  I hope you are healthy and happy somewhere now.

Dear Poupon,

Today was difficult.  I took you to the vet and got confirmation of what I already knew.  I had to let you go.  I held you for a while and I said goodbye.  I cried and I watched as the doctor administered the overdose of medication that would end your life.

I had no husband or friend beside me this time, but it seemed appropriate that I didn’t.  You were a gracious, independent lady of great strength, and I know I am meant to carry that legacy on your behalf.

I was just thirty when you tumbled into my life.  You were a fluffy, flea-covered kitten, abandoned and crying in a nearby yard.  My neighbor came around with you in her arms and asked us all if we knew where you belonged.  She even posted signs and placed an ad, but no one claimed you.  I was smitten.

For a few years, you played second fiddle to a smart Russian Blue named Shadow.  When she passed away, you moved elegantly into her place.

You were a funny girl, my Fairy Princess.  You used to wait outside the shower door to rub your flyaway fur all over our wet legs when we emerged.  You used to chase things that weren’t there and occasionally, you walked into a room and flopped your Rubenesque figure right upside down with your feet in the air.  You stayed like that for long minutes, daring the boys to come anywhere near you.  And you chortled.

I’ve grown up with you, my friend.  What will I do without the sound of your sweet voice and the clicking of your silly toenails on the tile floor?  You were a ballerina.  A big, fat, beautiful gray ballerina and I will miss you so very much.  I love you, Pou.

 

♥♥

Dear Betsy…

I said I wasn’t going to write about you anymore, but I have to say something tonight because I had lunch with your girls and my mind is racing.

I miss you.  I really do.

Today what really overwhelmed me is how much I want my son to know you.

It isn’t fair.  Everything is so hard for him already and he has to make it in a world without you and my dad.

That can’t be right.  It isn’t right.  It hurts me and I hate it.

I can’t stand the image in my head of what would have been.  I don’t want to know how easily my son would have fit into your life.

You would have gathered him in your arms and your heart and kept him safe, just like I try to do.

You would have helped him learn and laugh and love.

I know that as sure as I breathe.  But I don’t want to know it.  I really don’t.

Sometimes, I try to tell myself that we wouldn’t have been friends if you had lived.

I try to tell myself that we were drifting apart.

I try to tell myself that we were not interested in each others’ lives or kids or homes or hobbies or dreams anymore.

But that just isn’t true.

We drifted apart regularly, but we always drifted back.

We fought a lot, but we always made up.

We found each other ridiculous, annoying, rude, uninteresting, boring, petty, maddening…all the time…and then we didn’t.

So I know that picture of what would have been is accurate.

You would have loved my son.  You did love my son.

So I miss you for that, you know?

I miss you because you loved my son.

♥♥

It takes a while

After dropping off the little boy at school this morning, I took a brisk walk around the campus and through the adjacent park.

I probably needed to walk the loop more than once, but even that fleeting twelve minutes worked wonders on my foggy brain.

This has been a strange week.

My uncle’s passing and the daily updates from mom about the flowers and the neighbors with food and the service and the other little details that you can’t predict until you’re dealing with them, all of that is spinning in my head and kicking old memories right to the front of my thoughts.

I remember all of this from the week after my dad died.

It’s good to have those things to keep you occupied until you can settle into the fact that your loved one is gone.

It takes a while to do that, you know, to settle into it.

It takes a while to stop reaching for the phone to call him.

It takes a while before you stop rushing home to tell him about your day.

It takes a while before you think of where to put the thoughts and feelings you kept just for him.

It takes a while to like the holidays again.

It takes a while before you stop buying him trinkets or bringing home magazines with articles on the things he collects or the places he goes.

It takes a while before you stop getting an extra slice of cake or a few more oranges at the market.

It takes a while before you stop regretting this day or that day.

It takes a while to forgive yourself for fights and failings.

It takes a while before you can clean out his stuff and actually decide what to do with it.

It takes a while to remember all of the people who would want to know that he is gone.

It takes a while to recover when you stand alone in your house with the phone in your hand and you realize you have told everyone there is to tell and now you must face a conversation with yourself.

It takes a while to really cry and to feel the way you really feel – mad or sad or relieved or sick or lonely or not.  Happy or stressed or scared or buoyant.

It takes a while to decide where you think your loved one is and whether or not he sees you and knows you as this new person that you’re taking a while to become.

It takes a while to rearrange your life and to realize how you rearranged it for him before he left.

It takes a while to settle into it.

For me, it has been a long time.  Eight years.

Today, I finally stowed away some of the Christmas decorations.

In the space I made for them in my closet, I found a box with some papers in my father’s humored, unhurried, and purposeful hand.

I will keep the box, of course, and I will frame some of the papers one day.

But it could take a while.

This week reminds me that I am still unsettled.

P.S. I threw some tomato seeds into the yard a couple of weeks ago.  Can you see the sprouts in that photo?  They are teeny next to the fully established ornamental strawberry leaves, but they are thriving.  I can’t wait for this year’s crop to show itself.

And speaking of delicious produce, the strawberry patch at Main and Third is open for the season again.  Go get yourself a flat.  It’s worth the drive.

♥♥

 

Another Goodbye

My uncle died.  Yesterday.  He died.  Far away from here.

My mom was there, with her sister and my cousins and their families.

This wasn’t completely unexpected.  He had cancer and he fought, but it’s sitting heavily with me and I wish I could be there too.

My uncle was a good man, he provided a good life for his family and I think he loved me in whatever way an uncle loves a niece.  I loved him too, but now he is gone.  Just like that.  Just like everyone.

Just like my dad.

I hadn’t seen my uncle in person since July of 2005.  We were all in Lexington to scatter my dad’s ashes at the Kentucky Horse Park.

My dad’s name is on a plaque there, under a maple tree.  Someday, I will get there to see it again.  Mom brought me a leaf the last time she went.

I keep it with the pieces of the leaf I took when I was there in 2004.

That first one was the victim of the little boy’s curiosity.  My heart ached a bit when he broke it apart, but I had to let that go.

He was just a boy.

It was just a leaf.

And I still had the pieces.

Even so, I was relieved when Mom brought me a new one.  I keep it in the same box as the first, but now the box is stowed away from tiny dancing fingers.

I don’t mean to make a ritual of it, but I tend to take out the leaf whenever someone dies.  Seeing it makes me feel better for a moment.

My uncle was funny.  I remember his sense of humor.  I remember being amused around him all the time.  That’s a good thing.  That makes me feel better too.

I know what will happen in the next several days.  My mom will extend her trip, there will be a service of sorts and everyone will say goodbye.  And then, the arduous task of going forward, one man fewer.

I remember when I left Kentucky, I felt so conflicted about leaving my father behind me.  The most painful part of the trip was the day after the service, when I went again to the Horse Park to say a last farewell.

When I turned my back on dad’s tree, my limbs got heavy and the air felt like drying mud in front of me.  It was hard to wade through it and get to the car.  I kind of had to swim.  Swim or sink.

I swam.

I swim.

Now my uncle is gone and the air feels a little bit muddy again.

I am sad for my aunt.

I am sad for my cousins.

And the kids.

My uncle has sweet grandchildren.

I am so sorry for their loss.

Goodbye, Uncle Bill.

I will never forget you.

♥♥

Bad Morning

I just told my kid to shut up.

Parenting fail.

I think I’m in shock.

There was a tantrum brewing.

But I needed to eat.  I still need to eat.

We’ve had a very bad morning and I actually told my autistic, precious, frustrated son to “just shut up.”

I said that to my best friend once too.

The look on her pretty face is burned in my memory.  She was disappointed, utterly defeated by the challenge of communicating with me.

I haven’t seen her face in eight years, but I remember how it looked that day.

She would probably be angry with me now if she knew how easily I summoned that specific image of her to shame myself.

She wouldn’t have wanted me to do that.

She would have wanted me to get over it, forgive myself, be calmer and kinder – to myself, to the boy, to her memory.

So yeah, feeling like a pretty crappy mom person right now.

The little boy said “noooo shut up.”

He knew what I meant.

I am mortified.

Will he repeat that at school?  In the store?  At Grandma’s?

Will everyone know I told my son to “shut up?”

I’m typing it here.

It doesn’t matter who else knows, because I know.

I am an ogre in this moment.

Interesting how an ounce of ogre ruins a pound of positive parenting.

I feel stupid, obvious and far too large in my motherhood this morning, like a bull in a china shop.

I should eat.

Interesting how an ounce of ogre taints the taste of breakfast too.

Reality check…

my son is autistic.

He is a challenging little boy.

When he sets his mind to something, there is no veering off to the left.  Or to the right.

All surrounding souls must be singularly focused on the boy’s immediate goal, or all hell breaks loose.

I know this.  I do.

And the little boy is in the habit of making demands.

And the grown-ups are in the habit of complying whenever possible, practical, and sensible.

Life is more peaceful that way.

But sometimes, like this morning, the demands are too much, too desperate, and too rigid.

So I can’t comply.  Not completely.  Not immediately.

I have to assert my free will, so I know I still have it.

I have to confirm that I am still a grown-up, capable, on some level, of determining my own fate.

For the sake of my sanity, I did this stupid thing and now the analysis of it will rob me of the sanity I was trying to protect.

It sounds so dumb.

And no matter how hard this is for me, it’s harder for him.

But my sweet little boy is now upstairs, laughing, and I am here dissecting myself to tiny bits.

How is it that he recovers so much more quickly from the ogre sighting?

Is it easier to face the ogre than to be the ogre?

It must be.

Thank God my mom is babysitting today.

I need a break.

I wish I could leave my ogre somewhere for a while too.

Sigh.

Happy Sunday.

P.S.  Husband has somehow talked me into seeing TRON: Legacy today.  I have low expectations.  Maybe I will be pleasantly surprised.  And I can get through two hours of just about anything with the promise of Filippi’s afterward.  I love you, Filippi’s.  🙂  It has been too long.  Far too long.

♥♥

I’m Just Saying

I’m just gonna say it to get it out of the way.

Today is the day my dad died.  Seven years ago.

Do you call it an anniversary?  That seems celebratory and that’s not exactly what this is.

But I didn’t wake up depressed today.  At least, not about this.  Not about my dad.

I know he’s in a good place.  And wherever it is, he can walk and run and ride horses.

I’ve said before that I don’t make appointments with grief.

I don’t believe that I am supposed to be sad just because a given day marks a somber event.

I’ve said that before.  You’ve read that before.

I guess I’m just bringing this up because writing a post about something else today seems disrespectful somehow.

Last year, we were traveling in January, so I spent the 8th posting a recap of events from the road.

I didn’t think much about the significance of the date.

This year, I’ve been sick and I’m just home and not engaged in any hugely distracting activities, so there it is, the anniversary of my dad’s passing.

I think my mom is a little teary today.

She loves her life and everyone in it, but there’s always going to be a space in her heart that is reserved for my dad.

I’m not even sure it’s a voluntary reservation.  It’s just par for the course of love and loss.  I have it too.

Crying about the past doesn’t mean we’re not thrilled about the future.  We are.  We both completely are.

My dad would want that.

On a lighter note, I feel a lot better today.  I sound worse, but I feel better.

The husband boosted my morale with personal sacrifice.

He skipped a movie night with the boys to let me off the parenting hook last night and then he got up with our son this morning so that I could sleep in.

I’ll be gone tomorrow, so today was supposed to be his day to sleep.

I am forever grateful.  I think he let me turn the corner on this cold.

And to sweeten the honey-do credits, he’s now at the store picking up my hair color.

In the morning, I’m driving a couple of hours to meet some friends for shopping and lunch.

I can’t wait.

Thanks to husband, I think I might even have the energy required to really enjoy it now.

Of course, I may feel differently when the alarm rings at 5:30.  😐  We’ll see.

What are you doing this weekend?

Have a Happy Saturday!

♥♥

Has It Really Been Seven Years?

Happy Birthday, Pop.

I’m thinking about you today.

I wish you were here to go to a thrift store or get a doughnut.

Maybe we could even sit in the garage and listen to music while you tell me a story about Caruso.

Or we could share some See’s and talk about your mom and dad.

Then we could pull out the graph paper and draw our dream houses or chart the year’s best horses.

Later in the day, you could call me and pretend to be a serious government employee, needing information only I can provide.

Your name would be something like Petunia Snardfarter.  Or maybe that would be me.

Do you remember that time we were turning into the parking lot of the Amvets store on Broadway around 9:00 a.m. on a Saturday?  A six-foot-something man (?) dressed in drag with great long fishnet-stockinged legs crossed in front of the car and wagged his tongue suggestively, right in your direction.  I think he wanted to get to know you better.  Do you remember?

Or how about the time I walked a few paces ahead of you one evening as we were leaving the Tower Records on El Cajon?  A couple of twenty-something punks started hitting on me in the parking lot.  You grumbled something to dissuade their bad behavior, so they asked if you were my granddad and you replied that you were my husband.  I think I turned four shades of red, but they turned six, so it was fine.  Do you remember that?

I remember all of it.  And more.

It all still makes me chuckle.

You were such a good dad.

You always made me laugh.

I miss our friendship.

I really do.

Happy Birthday, Pop.

I hope those other angels bake you some devil’s food today.  🙂

With white frosting.

♥♥