Thursday, September 25, 2014

Goodbye Velcro

The King is dead. There were no more miracles for Velcro, so he left this world painlessly yesterday, and we buried him on the hill above the barn next to his buddy, Black Kitty.

I woke up this morning because I heard him purring above my head just outside the window. Only not really. And now, everywhere I turn, there is something to remind me of him.  The cat bed in the bay window, the Mexican blanket on my favorite armchair still covered in fur, the rug that is flipped up in the bathroom for him to rest on the heating vent.  For fifteen years, he has been my shadow, running to the door to greet me when I come home and following me constantly, always ready to jump into my lap insistent that it was time for a snuggle.

He had a long, happy life. He is greatly missed. The pictures tell the story:

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Long Live the King

Every morning for the last week, I have been waking up and dreading going downstairs. In fact, I’ve honestly been afraid to go alone, hoping that my husband will decide to get up too so I don’t have to face on my own what I will find there.  It’s a familiar feeling. I went through it with my mom as her dementia exploded, with my dog, Pepper, and my cat, BK, as their time grew near, and they became weaker and weaker. And now, seemingly out of the blue, I am facing that scary, hollow space at dawn as it approaches the time to say goodbye to Velcro, our fifteen-year old orange kitty.  I walk down the stairs, wondering what state I will find him in, and I realize that very soon, there will be the day when I don’t have this fear anymore. It will be replaced with a bit of relief that he is not suffering and the yawning chasm of sadness that he is no longer rubbing up against my leg while I make his breakfast.

My neighbor jokes that Velcro is my “familiar”, a term that refers to the animal spirit guide of witches, shamans or cunning-folk. The French poet, Baudelaire, who loved cats, wrote: “It judges, presides, inspires Everything in its empire; It is perhaps a fairy or a god? When my eyes, drawn like a magnet to this cat that I love…” My relationship with this animal is definitely complicated. He was supposed to be my daughter’s cat, but he decided from the first moment I held him that his world would revolve completely around me. He clung to me like, well, Velcro.

 He quickly established himself as the King of our house, as vain and full of feline pomposity as a kitty could be. Velcro is a curmudgeon and a bully. He chases crazy pup, Stella, around the house. He sprayed and peed on my husband’s luggage, and it was only Mark’s love for me and our daughter that kept his Royal Highness from being tossed out into the cold. Promptly each morning and evening, he loudly demands that I feed him. Whenever I sit down, he claims my lap with regal posturing. His favorite place to sleep is wrapped around my neck with his face buried in my hair.

Several years ago, when Velcro developed the frightening habit of jumping on my head in the middle of the night while I was sleeping and biting my cheek, he was denied free roaming of the house.  He stays in the family room at night, and over time, he and my husband have bonded as Velcro claimed Mark’s lap during “Monday Night Football”.  When my mom died two months ago, I was truly comforted by the ball of orange fur snuggled on top of me whenever grief brought me to my knees.  So, three weeks ago, when Velcro suddenly started wheezing, having trouble swallowing and stopped eating, we were not prepared for how much it would emotionally rock our family. 

Having had a bad experience with Stella during the last time I took her to the vet, I decided to try going someplace new with Velcro when he got sick. And while this vet did all the right things, after x-rays and blood tests, she could not figure out what was wrong and thought it was probably some kind of cancer. Meanwhile, the King was wasting away. When the new vet told me on Friday that she was leaving for two weeks vacation, I decided to take Velcro back to our old vet.  We had gone there for over ten years, and I really did trust them. Plus, they had added a cat specialist from Cornell Vet School to their staff.  He could see Velcro immediately.

I rushed out to the barn before we went to the vet’s office yesterday, stood with Silk to pray for strength. “Okay, God, you drive. And by the way, we need a miracle please.” And we got a small one.  The cat specialist was surprised by how healthy Velcro was after looking at the x-rays and blood test results. He feels like this is a cat who wants to live, but is just having trouble eating. Perhaps there’s a polyp in the tube from his ear to his throat, and it’s causing pain when he swallows. Perhaps some cortisone shots and antibiotics will shrink the polyp. He felt it was worth a try, so they rehydrated Velcro and gave him the meds. The vet reassured me that when I came down this morning, my cat would still be alive.  Last night, for the first time in four days, Orange Man ate some chicken livers, and I slept soundly.

This morning, not so good. He coughed and wheezed after he ate a little, and now, he’s sleeping in the sun in the bay window in the living room.  The vet wants me to give it until Friday to see if the treatment is helping.  But it feels like borrowed time. This would all be much easier if Velcro was listless and fading away, instead of licking my hand and staring adoringly at me with his penetrating green eyes.

I have often thought that if one believes in reincarnation, it would be easy to imagine that Velcro was once a very handsome, vain man who has had to come back this time around as a cat.  Despite all the bites and scratches he has given me, I have never hurt him, and all of us here have always forgiven him. “Captain Evil” is what I used to call him, but my love has never wavered.

As I was cuddling him yesterday, I felt that Velcro had finally come to realize how much he is loved.  He has allowed me to syringe yucky pink amoxicillin into his mouth for five days. He let the vet pry open his mouth and poke around without any fight. One could argue that this is because he’s sick and weak, but it felt more like he,  at long last, had complete trust that I was doing what was best for him. So maybe that was the lesson he came here to learn and it really is his time to go. I won’t let him lose so much weight that he can’t walk and his kidneys give out. I owe it to this good -looking fellow to let him leave this world without pain and with his dignity.

No need to make any decisions for a few more days. And who knows what God has up her/his sleeve. Maybe there will be another miracle.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Clearing the House

We had the most ferocious rainstorm earlier this week.  The heavens opened up suddenly and an insane amount of water poured down for about an hour like someone up there had opened a faucet.  A few days later, I needed to get something from the closet in the family room and discovered we have a leak in the roof. The contents of the closet, all our board games, clothes, assorted treasures had been soaked.  It forced me to being the process of house clearing that I have been postponing for so long.

In a break from hanging damp clothes outside to dry and picking through wet cardboard bits to try to save “Candyland”, one of my daughter’s childhood favorites, I picked up a book by Denise Linn called “Sacred Space”.  I had read it about ten years ago, but forgotten many of the ideas that this healer/ house shaman recommends for clearing and enhancing the energy of your home.  To put it simply, she believes that our houses are physical representations of what’s going on inside us.  “The regard in which you hold your home can rouse an ancient and replenishing spirit from the deep to fill your home," Linn says, ”This power can heal you in the very center of your soul and heart.”

When I woke up yesterday and began my usual morning routine, I felt an undeniable, almost magnetic pull back to my bedroom.  Like a woman possessed, I began to clean and purge my room, determined to make it a true sanctuary.  By seven o’clock last night, I had finally cleared and transformed the over-cluttered, dusty place into a room that I actually liked to be in again.  I know deep inside that my mission over the next week is to clear the surfaces of each room of our house so that I would have this same sense of pleasure if my gaze stopped to linger in any corner.  Time to let go of so many objects that no longer have meaning or purpose in our lives. Time to move on.

While my mother was struggling through her dementia over the last ten years, it took all my energy and focus to keep the rest of my family on track and to care for her. One of the first things that Denise Linn suggests is that everyone who lives in the house help create a written intention of what you would like the place to be.  It’s time for my husband and me to decide together how to make our home full of love, creativity and promise. There was definitely a different vibe at the charming cottages we lived in before my daughter was born and my mom moved in, and I’ve been trying to identify what it was.  More music playing, more friends dropping by unannounced, more spontaneous fun. We could use that energy around here now.

I’m looking forward to having the holidays here at home again without rushing up to the nursing home on Thanksgiving and Christmas, feeling torn and longing to be back home. It made me sad for the last five years that my mom was not able to be here with us, and I used to remind myself that soon there would be a day when we wouldn’t have to feel divided anymore.  And here we are. My daughter is already making plans to bring home her new friends to stay with us at Thanksgiving, so the house will be full of lively college kid buzz. 

It’s time to clear the house and begin the next chapter.  

Monday, September 1, 2014

The First Day of School

I woke up this morning remembering all the days that I waited with my daughter for the big yellow bus at the end of our driveway on the first day of school.  Today, she starts classes at her college, and I wonder what she is wearing. It was always a big deal for her to decide what to wear on the first day of school. 

While I drank my coffee, I found these photos of us with our dear sweet old dog, Pepper, waiting for the bus at the beginning of fourth grade and emailed them to her.  I’m feeling very nostalgic these days but I’m glad that I knew enough to appreciate, as each year went by, how special it was and how fast the time would go.  It’s strange to hear the sound of the school bus lumbering past our house each morning while I’m still in bed.  The horses have learned that breakfast is served an hour later now that I don’t have to get up at 5 am to rouse the sleeping child, make her breakfast and lunch and be sure that she troops out to the end of the driveway on time.

Last Friday, my daughter registered for classes at her school for the first time, and it was an unexpected drama. She had written to two professors and secured her spot in their classes, was automatically assigned a place in the mandatory Freshman Year Seminar, and had only one more class to fill.  Armed with a list of many possibilities that she wanted to take, she charged into the battleground of hundreds of students rushing from table to table and line to line to sign up.  At each very long line that she waited in, just as she approached the table, they would announce, “This class is now closed!” So, along with everyone else, she’d rush to another line.  It was insane and frustrating.

I was worrying about her and texting back and forth as I ran my errands to get pine shavings for the barn and something to cook for dinner.  In the grocery store, my phone rang, and I heard my child repeat the line that I have often wailed when I reach the end of my rope: “I just feel like I’m going to cry!”  She had been told that she should wait until the list of open classes was compiled over the weekend and then pick from what was left on it.  Not acceptable.

I gave her a big pep talk about going back in and grabbing a professor in one of the areas that she needed for her major and charming him.  And I’m proud to tell you that’s what she did.  She found a political studies teacher, explained to him what her problem was, and it just so happened that some kid had moments before suddenly dropped one of his classes and a spot had opened up, so he offered it to her. It was a really good fit, a subject that was perfect for her.  She stuck to it and learned that this don’t-give-up attitude pays off.  “You are my hero!” she told him, the phrase that her grandmother was famous for saying.  I’ve been known to use it myself on occasion. 

That’s my girl, following the mother line.