Today my lithotripsy procedure was moved up a few hours. As it worked out, the family and friend who’d planned to accompany me – to give me moral support and to drive me home – weren’t able to be there. I got to check in alone, fill out paperwork alone, receive my IV alone, and be wheeled into general anesthesia without saying goodbye to anyone.
It suited me, to be honest.
Illness, accident, and then death: they come for us all. When I arrived at the hospital I parked my car in the sunshine and looked out over my beloved Aberdeen. Any time could be one’s last; I suppose when heading off for a drug-induced near-death sleep, it’s as good a time as any to appreciate these sorts of experiences. I wouldn’t want anything different. I am happy with what I have.
But of course – I woke again, and lived to see another day.
And now that I’m home, and the house is quiet, I’m thinking on how quickly life changes. We have yet another mama kitty here in our home, with her five (thankfully healthy) little two-week old kittens. My children are navigating teen- and preteen-life and there have been a few surprises: some pleasant, and some less so. My halftime job is heading into a period of intensity: Friday, a man screamed at me on the phone, for no other reason than he is a very unhappy human being and he thinks abusing a woman in the clerical field will make him feel better.
A friend of mine passed, suddenly, on April 27th. My heart still hurts over this one. Thanks to the internet, and a passionate community of friends, I have been able to trade stories, to see old photos, and to process the grief. It is a welcome experience. I need people. Maybe on the terms that suit me best, but I need them all the same.
Then home. And housework, laundry, filing papers, paying bills. And kitten handling and maintenance. Life’s a full time job!
It’s a perfect kind of night for a funeral. It’s dark and quiet, no wind. A chill in the air, but nothing a car coat won’t stave off.
My husband, son, and I make our way a mile down the hill and the bluff stairs, back through a quiet neighborhood along a canal, under a bridge into a wooded area my children are now calling Chu’s Crick. With us: our dog, cheerfully taking his favorite walk of the day. Our kitty Herbert Pocket, whisking alongside, and then ahead. Brave and proud. Nels carries a flashlight; my husband, a shovel. I follow last with a cigar box. Inside: a nubbly bit of soft cotton fabric swaddling four tiny babies, their little mouths peeking open to nurse, which they never will. Lucky, who was born without breath. Sardine, who passed soon after. Chu and Anchovy. Anchovy was the strongest. The little blonde head I held close, and so carefully.
They are silent, and hold no warmth, but they are still soft, their limbs loose. Their weight in the little box is somber. They are sharing sleep.
The night lights are orange, burning in the midnight deep, a senseless flame. The woods are foreboding enough I would not venture there without company. On the path, with my family, I am safe. The earth is soft with spring promise. Water trickles through the loden banks, icy and careless of my feelings.
Nels finds us a sturdy tree. It is good soil. My husband digs deep, very deep. I read a small eulogy.
It is harder than I make it sound.
It only takes a moment to fill the grave. My son collects his hands in a prayer, summoning us to be silent. Then he walks into the wood and finds a green leafy branch, plants it in the earth. “There,” he says grimly. I put my arms around him. What a birthday present!
We are walking back. A funeral in the night, it is good for being alone with your thoughts.
I feel terrible leaving those littles in the cold earth. There is no comfort for me as I climb the mute steps back up the hill.
The children were outside playing a game, after a swim date and a full spread of party fare and a special birthday cake, when we discovered Trout had delivered her kittens.
She came to us Tuesday, as a foster. She was a very ill, beat up, stressed out pregnant kitty – very young, herself. She’d been fending her way and she’d sustained an attack or two – facial injuries and a nasty cold, with thick ropy discharge coming from her mouth and nose. We took her to the clinic on Thursday where a very kind veterinarian gave her a thorough examination. He said her injuries were healing, and she had feline rhinotracheitis. He said she might get over her cold before her kittens were born, which would be a stroke of luck. He told us she smelled so horrid because she’d been too stressed to groom herself properly.
We brought her home, and I knew we’d care for her very well.
Yesterday she was already feeling better. Her eyes were bright and she would purr and stretch out while I pet her.
No one told me, nor did I think on it, that she might deliver her babies catastrophically early.
One was dead soon after birth (if not before); the other died in my hands.
Two remain, and Nels and I check on them every two hours and give them care as per veterinary instruction. We give Trout some love as well. She vacillates between calm and loving – then protective and stressed. She is, however, finally grooming herself – and her appetite is better. Even as her younglings die, she is recovering.
I don’t know what’s worse. To be up tonight on this vigil, or to think of relieving my shift – waking my husband – and sleeping, only to wake to bad news.
A few months ago Ralph emulated this really terrible voice, saying really awful things, by way of demonstrating our rabbit’s internal monologue. What Ralph said – in an awful, high-pitched scream-voice – was so foul that I will not write it here.
And of course, the children heard. And of course, one of the children, I’m not saying who, let’s just say this child’s name is “Nels H.”… no wait, that’s too obvious – “N. Hogaboom” – anyway, ONE of these children delights in how incredibly naughty Ralph was with his Bun-Bun impression so this child has been parroting this shrill, mean voice and repeating this really rude thing. And – well, I mean, I try not to laugh. Because when you look at our rabbit – who helped me knock out a mango and a blaxploitation reboot yesterday evening – and how he hunches down with this serene but hostile expression like he might straight up CUT you, then we’re like, Yeah, that’s what he sounds like alright.
The Hoga-critters are settling down a little bit now that foster-kitty Peppy has gone off to be spayed and returned to her mama. I’m kicking at the grass a little, because “losing” a foster placement is weirdly tough. You wouldn’t think so, and yet – there it is. It’s like I keep thinking how I’ll never see the wee girl again. But the whole point of helping I guess, is to help, and then let people (and animals) off on their way, wherever they need to go. There’s no real payoff, anyway, or at least not in this lifetime. It’s just a practice, like everything we do, whether we think of it as practice or not.
This week sort of gradually slid into the toilet. I tried to avert this a time or two but finally, I just kind of let it happen. Yesterday I was obliged to cancel my afternoon cooking session with Phee’s class; I ran out of gas (or more specifically, gas money), and I was ill-prepared to buy food for the session. A sunny day Friday gave way to a fierce, soggy, surly one today. Our venus fly trap caught a moth and it took the insect a full twenty four hours to die a gasping, vampire-death.
Misread cues. Physical pain. Fear. A friend injures himself, goes into hiding. The painful, pinched twinge returns to my right knee – even after all the care and TLC I’ve afforded it. My pajamas are falling into shreds at the heel; my underthings aren’t much better off. The car’s brakes can’t be put off much longer. The pantry is downtrodden and uninspiring.
Still, there are bright spots. I find a recipe for a Victoria Sandwich, and buy butter with small change; the confectionary is put together, it rests overnight, and is devoured with delight by the family. My mother buys Nels lunch a few times, which keeps him in happy spirits and hearty nosh. On one such outing I tell my mother a story and I laugh so hard tears stream down my face; she is confused, but after a bit she begins to laugh as well.
In bed, and Ralph turns aside to set his alarm. I take this cue to silently and fiercely tickle-attack our son, who has snuggled between us. Nels ripples out in laughter – his particular musical, effervescent laughter – and he tries to yell for his father. Ralph turns around – slowly (he already knows what I’m about), and as he turns I pull away from our son and I affect an innocent air. “Dad! Dad! She attacked me!” Nels is twisting, rolling about, grasping at me with fists, giggling helplessly. “What?” Ralph asks. “What are you talking about?” Nels is delighted and exasperated. He loves games like these.
We continue in similar fashion, a few more rounds of stealth-tickling (by me) while Ralph finds a pretense to look away. Eventually, things wind down. I’m tired from wrestling my son – who grows stronger and stronger each day. I roll back to my side of the bed to journal; Ralph returns to his work online.
It is silent a beat, then Nels says, “Dad. Dad. Turn around again.”
Today I swam a long swim, hustled money from one old rotten tree stump to another (to cover bills about to post), did the housework, got my kiddos where they needed to be, took an alcoholic and an addict sans vehicle to two back-to-back meetings, and swooped in to pick up and foster a kitten displaced by an evacuation in Hoquiam.
Beyond tired. No quips here; and I lack the stamina to write a bit more about it, really.
I’m dismayed to report that stress has gotten the better of me, just a bit. It’s not that I think I should be stress-free or anything. It’s just: I’m on that roller coaster and while I can practice some self- and other-care to help me out, I can’t just magic-wand the anxiety away.
A few times this last week I’ve been slamming awake at night just minutes after falling asleep, in a panic. This used to happen nightly; but I’d had a reprieve for a few months, thank baby Jeebus. The panic dissipates slowly over a few minutes, and I fall asleep within a half hour. Then, I sleep well (I think), but then in the morning, the last couple weeks or more, every morning, I wake up and:
How will I feed the family today? Tuesday I had put aside my Singer treadle; an acquaintance had asked us to hold it and was adamant they wanted to buy it. Then, about an hour before they were to come over, they cancelled. Now this kind of thing, to them maybe it’s no big deal, but for me: food for us for the next four days, vanished. I am not angry, though – of course not. I know that caring for my family is my responsibility, not someone else’s.
Yesterday I saw my doctor for a few issues, including some “sports” injuries, and an unrelated nerve pain in my arm. He gave me medicine for the latter and said it would help with insomnia. I thought about telling him I was experiencing stress but I kept quiet on that point since we had other things to talk about. I have a follow-up with him in two months and if I’m still having troubles, I can tell him then.
There are times in my life I find it almost impossible not to be intensely preoccupied with the struggles I have. Yes, they are real but, come on – they aren’t that big a deal, when I pull back and look at my life from the perspective of the massive, infinite Universe. I am only on this planet in this body for a minute or so! Why my preoccupation? Selfishness, really.
I do what I can to find some balance. I try to eat right, to drink my five quarts daily of water, to get some exercise, to rest up, to meditate. It is at the point that even if I rest, I don’t feel very rested. I am drained and tired. But I try to rest and eat anyway, as well as I can, and I turn my thoughts to one thing that seems to ease my mind and nurture my spirit: helping others without regard for return.
And on that note, wee kitten No-No, whom we’ve fostered a little over two weeks, is going off to PAWS on Saturday to receive her vaccinations and be made viewable to the public. Surely she will be adopted her first day in public (and if not, we will pick her up and bring her here again, then bring her back on next adoption day) so on Saturday when we drop her off and I CONFESS after we kiss her black kitty lips at eleven A.M., it will likely be the last time I get to hold her.
This is going to sound – well, who gives a shit how it sounds. What I want to say is, I am proud of my family for fostering this little kitten. She is just a little tuft of life but without our care (and the vet’s medical attention) she would have had a feral kittenhood and adult cat life, which is to say a dangerous one. As it is, in our home, she’s been well-fed, de-flea’d, and loved up almost every waking moment.
Maybe it’s precisely because times are tough, doing something I know makes a difference, it feels concrete in some way.
Some people teased me we were just adopting a kitten, not fostering it, but our foster intentions were real and still are. I am glad to let No-No have a forever home although I’m not going to lie, I will MISS HER so much.
Even as I type, she prounces under my desk and swats at my feet. I reach down and she’s already purring, an anticipatory response to pleasure. I curl her up on my chest and smell her honey-fur warmth and it’s off to lie down a bit. Patience, and rest, and taking things slow.
A few chores then Nels and I spent the day on the road with a friend, who bought us a wonderful lunch. When we got home I put in several hours sewing something, the first project I’ve worked on since a little after New Years. Whether due to my bodily pain and fatigue, or some other unnamed and unknown issue, even after this modest day’s activities I am tired and looking forward to sleep.
I’ve had a chronic and irritating pain for several months now; a pain that starts deep in my bicep and extends down the length of my arm. At night, after a day’s worth of work and exercise, I often notice the sensations have extended: across my scapula and into my upper back, and down through my forearm into the hand. My history tells me I have a high tolerance to pain – especially chronic pain – and I also have a tendency to tough it out and wait for it to resolve. In this case, however, I have decided to seek treatment for my arm, because I do not think it is improving on its own. I have been waiting it out a little bit as the new year has started and we will be paying on a deductible. But I don’t know how much longer I can or want to wait.
The day draws to a close; my son bathes and sings in the adjacent bathroom. He can make up songs and sing them for over an hour. His sister, fresh from her shower, sits next to me and sketches. “Mom? Do you have any tips for ____________?” she asks, naming one of the important issues she’s grappling with. (An issue that obviously is remaining private!) In the kitchen Ralph puts away dinner – pierogi and green beans. The dog sleeps beside my bed. Our foster kitty watches Nels in the bath, sneaking up a tiny little peg-like paw now and then and retracting it. Her ears are on point; her bright eyes affixed on droplets of water trembling on the enameled tub.
Yesterday a friend asked me how I gave up drinking; what made me decide to stop, and how I knew I “had a problem”. As much as I think about this I have never been able to figure it out (except for the date, and the way I felt on that date!). I still can’t fully articulate in a logical way how and why I made this change and just exactly how much it has affected me to stay sober. I don’t think about alcohol (or drugs) or miss all that but at the same time, I think a whole heck of a lot more about my feelings, my thoughts, and my conduct than I used to. And I honor my feelings a LOT more than I used to.
Nights like tonight when I am very tired I think of how glad I am to have the life I have and that I don’t need to do anything or take anything to relax, and to sleep a good sleep. I’ve begun to wake up, to see things as they really are – or more so at least, and life is – different. Tonight I know that pain and deprivation have me run a little ragged, but I also know I can get through the day with a little dignity, helping others, and enjoying what the day offers. I am so grateful to have a partner, and children in my home – and pets! – and so many wonderful friends who love me and whom I love very much. At the end of the day I hope I’ve done my part, discharged my duties, had a few laughs and made the world a better place to live.
Tonight I am going to put forth a little prayer. I have these hopes for this and that, a few necessities in life, and it must be confessed a nicety or two as well. But mostly, I know I am at the mercy of the Unverise, and today I am okay with this. I have patience and I have faith and those are some of my best possessions.
Last night I made Ralph one of my favorite arid, incredibly civilized, faultlessly prosaic British television shows – in this case, “Foyle’s War”. I laughed in silent delight the entire hour and a half as basically almost nothing happened, in the way that I love “nothing happening” in these kinds of dramas. After almost an hour of talking a statue on a manor’s roof fell and actors looked pained and dyspeptic and disapproving. Ralph valiantly kept his eyes open and pretended he wasn’t in agony; eventually his efforts were rewarded when someone finally got murdered in the most parlor-room non-grisly sort of meek way. I WAS DYING because Ralph watched this dry crumpet of a show just for me because he loves me. And I love him very much and there is literally no one I’d rather watch telly with.
Ralph spent our last $20 on trappings for lasagna tonight: a hearty meal to share with my mother next door. I took a break from my usual sewing flow and helped my son learn a bit on my machines – serging yardage, winding a bobbin, threading the machine. Nels was at first irritated I was asking him to learn these tasks; but within a few minutes he was quite skillfully managing the very exacting and precise hand movements needed to sew with accuracy. He made his father a “quarter holder” (a very small fabric sleeve) and is now excited to sew much more elaborate items for his Daddy.
The kitten No-No bandies about on bow-legs, now running through the house following Ralph, or one of the children. Only a few ounces of swaggering hubris, she surprises us all by LEAPING off our king-sized bed and waddling after Ralph with her round, tight belly hindering quick progress. Her appetite has increased to ravenous and she is more adventuresome, less likely to want to cuddle. She lays on her back between our legs and lets us pet us, then “attacks” with these tiny, useless paws and teeth so small they don’t count.
Nevertheless: no biting, No-No! We are quite stern. We’re not running a charity here, you know.
SERIOUSLY though this kitten-fostering has no downside. She’s so young and mostly she needs so much love, water, food, and cuddling. That’s it.
I should add that if anyone reading here wants to adopt No-No, our family is not responsible to place her. Interested parties can call Inge Johnson at 533-1141 on a Wednesday or Saturday – she works at PAWS of Grays Harbor. I have not yet met Inge; I have been working with Deb from Harbor Rescue (FB link) and very slowly learning the ropes of fostering and responsible rescue.