Thursday, July 12, 2007

RV There Yet?

I swear, trying to launch an rv trip is like trying to launch a space shuttle. There's a big checklist to go through, seemingly endless scheduling delays, unexpected repairs and adjustments, crew training and practise, bottomless tank fueling to feed the mighty engine, systems trials and initializations, supplies loading, an anxious countdown at just the right phase of the moon when all systems are go, and finally...
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Monday, July 09, 2007

Gypsy's gone but not forgotten

Today our cat, Gypsy, died. Just a couple of weeks ago she was chasing lizards and leaping up on the outside bar to drink out of a glass of water we put there to throw at T.C., her nemesis tabby, who as an outdoor cat must remain away from the screen room. Gypsy drank from it leisurely to spite T.C. and loved to do it when the latter sat on a rock and watched enviously.

It was so strange how this very smart tortoise cat, so fit and trim, a great leaper and very playful to the end, met her demise. One day about two weeks ago we noticed her left eye was completely dilated, though the right eye was fine. Then she began pawing at the top of her head and shaking her head from side to side like she was trying to bat something off. But it wasn't on her head; it was in it. It was a brain tumor, and in cats they grow on the brain surface and crowd down, shutting down senses (the dilated eye, then the other dilated also, blinding her for the most part), making her unable to walk, jump, balance, and ultimately even eat or drink water. She kept her purr to the end, though, and loved to be petted and brushed.

We tried steroids the vet gave us, and it seemed to help briefly, but the tumor progressed. Only brain surgery might have helped, but it would have had to be done much earlier and would have been prohibitively expensive and unlikely to prolong her life more than a few months. All we could do, this week, was try to keep her hydrated and eating, and when that stopped, we couldn't help at all. Last week went by and she stopped eating and drinking her water, and each day she moved around less and less, sometimes just staring at a wall or wandering from room to room, and finally just laying for hours and hours and barely breathing. Then the weekend came. I had already asked for another appointment Friday to see if she would be well enough to board. Saturday and Sunday were agonizing as she got weaker and weaker. By then we were trying to force water into her mouth with a medicine dropper. Finally the vet opened early this morning and we rushed her there. We were going to insist on ending her suffering, which we both felt terrible over. But she spared us the guilt; she breathed a few heavy, rattled breaths as we pulled into the parking lot, then no more. She was gone when we opened the office door.

I still can't believe she's gone. She was my constant shadow at home, spending all fourteen years in our house since she was eight weeks old. Whatever I did, my "little furry girl" was by my side, putting away the clothes (she always jumped in the basket), packing (jumped in our suitcase), typing (stretched out on the keyboard), trying to write checks (she would bat at the pen), whatever I did, she usually got in the way, wanting me to pet her, and I always did. At seven every morning she stomped all over us to get up. By ten every evening she led us to get ready for bed. And often she would just stare back, and purr, and come over for a nice confirming pat or stroke.

Sometimes I thought she was just a pain in the you-know-what, but it was always because she wanted to be noticed and involved in whatever we did, and now I see her everywhere and miss all of it. Oh, and did I mention she was my number one fan when I played the piano in the living room? She loved to get up on top of the studio spinet and look down at my hands on the keys, and seemed to love to listen and feel the music's vibrations. I've long known that animals respond to music, often seeming to enjoy it. Even with her eyesight gone and no taste or smell, seemingly, she could still hear. Last night after brushing her, with her nearby on the rug, I played a set of tunes just for her. As usual, she seemed to like it--but I'm probably just wishful thinking. There wasn't anything else I could do. I knew it would be the last time, and I'm glad I did.

Oh, how attached we got to our kitty, especially as our sons moved out to begin their own homes. Despite all the problems she caused breaking out of the screen room many, many times and forcing us to install reinforcing barriers. Despite her feral ways smashing into the front windows in the middle of the night and screeching like a fight trying attack T.C., and scaring us to death from our sound sleep. (We had to put up big corrugated cardboard screens so she couldn't see outside before she would settle down.) Gypsy was not always an easy cat to live with, but she mellowed the past few years and became fiercely loyal, friendly, obedient and adorable, with those soulful eyes that followed us everywhere. And she seemed very happy, contented in her home, so long as we always came back before we were gone too long. Funny how big I thought she was, but how small she looked sitting there waiting when we returned.

We always get cats that show some spunk, that like to play, that are most likely to drive us nuts. We don't prefer the calm ones, it seems, no matter how pretty they are. I don't know what that says about us. But we got the spunkiest cat we ever had, the wildest and most feral, in Gypsy Rose. And ironically, she turned out to be the most loving and fun of them all, and the best companion for us all these years--and we've enjoyed several for over 16 years on average. We're good to our cats and they live a long time, usually. They fill a need in our lives and bring us joy. We'll get another when we get back from our traveling. We'll love raising a new kitten and watching her (him?) grow and adapt to us and our household and our ways. But I just hope it's half the pet our Gypsy was. She raised the standard.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

This Is My Front Porch Now

This is my front porch now: this couch, this lamp, this view outside. Here, mostly, I read, and write, and journal and blog, and watch tv and study and grade when I have those things to do.
There was another porch, fronting against my childhood Indiana home. And in it, a cushioned glider, an art deco floor lamp, the view of the front sidewalk and street shaded by the big maple tree.

The sights and sounds of the front street world I now get electronically, through the tv and radio and housecam monitors (my actual view looks through the patio to the back yard, canal bushes and western sky, but I like to see what's happening "out front.")

It's a busy street here for a residence, as it was there on my former porch. Lots of cars and trucks go by, and people walking and jogging, exercising their dogs, riding bikes and skating (but now on rollerblades, with helmets and knee protectors). I never knew who might be coming down the street, and the same happens here.

Service trucks, vendors, delivery vans roar by, lawn trimmers and roof cleaners, an occasional patrol car or code enforcement troll parks and scrutinizes the property--. The world goes by, life goes by. From my front porch I see what I see, hear what I hear. But I never cease to wonder what's next, as I did six decades ago on the former porch.

And I note the hour and the day, the changing air, the angle of the summer sun, and wonder at the constant flux and variety. And as then, I have so many questions and so few answers. As then, I have so much to learn. What is? What should be? And why?

So many things to consider, plans to plan, dreams to dream--a whole life ahead of me, and a whole life behind me. A whole family gone now, and another whole new family emerging. Wondrous, wonderful things to marvel and appreciate.

I think most people have a favorite place, a favorite chair perhaps, from which they like to cast their gaze upon the world. I think every soul has a home. Perhaps mine is here, as it was there some sixty years ago.