Monday, November 29, 2010

All Roads Lead Back to Tucson*

One sweltering afternoon in August of 1994, I walked into the Tucson Humane Society, and told them I was looking for a cat.

I was living on my own for the first (and, so far, only) time in my life. My apartment complex didn't allow dogs, but they allow cats, if they were front de-clawed. (I was a graduate student living in a furnished apartment.)

For reasons I don't fully understand, I had my heart set on an orange cat.

So, when I walked into the kennel that day, I said, "I'm looking for an orange cat, front de-clawed, neutered."

The woman working was excited - because while I was describing a potential ideal cat, she thought I'd come looking for a particular cat.

In their possession was a orange tom cat, neutered, front de-clawed, who had been dropped off 7 days before.

His number was up, so to speak. It was his last day before he would be "put down".

So, when I walked in with such a particular request, they thought maybe his prior owner had had a change of heart.

$40 and some signatures later, I walked out with that tom cat.

His prior owners had relinquished him to the pound because he chewed on things on night and cried because he wasn't allowed to sleep with them.

I had no interest in keeping the cat out of my bedroom, so I wasn't concerned.

His prior owners had named him...and at this moment it seems important to remember what that name was. But I can't. I cannot remember what his name was before he came home with me. I do remember that I tried to call him that name and he didn't respond at all.

So I renamed him.

I declared his new name to be "Johnny" Nolan, but I never called him Johnny - just Nolan.

He was named after the character Johnny Nolan in the book A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, which is my favorite book of all time.

Nolan rarely chewed on anything, provided he wasn't left alone too long and he was allowed to sleep in my bed.

A few months later, he took to Husband immediately, (even though he was Fiance and not Husband yet).

He was a smart cat, and a good mouser, and a flycatcher, too. (And he once caught a bat, but I really don't like to think about that day.)

He rode across the country in the back of my Ford Escort, sitting in a laundry basket, watching the cars on the road.

He could jump high, and liked to hang out on top of the refrigerator. He once stole a jalapeno from a pizza and rarely tried to get "people food" after that.

We tried to camp with him, once.

Cats, let it be known, do not like to camp.

When I adopted him on that sweltering August morning, the vet said he was "at least 1, but not more than 3 years old" - when means he was born sometime in 1991-1993. Which means, this morning, he was between 19 and 17 years old.

He was a big cat - at one point hitting 23 pounds.

He had been sick for about a year.

On the morning of J~'s death, he had a mini-seizure. I yelled at him, told him he was not allowed to die that day.

And he didn't.

This morning, at 12:45, he stood next to our bed and cried. I pulled him into bed and laid him between Husband and I, because that was where he liked to be - right next to Husband's head.

He slept so deeply that at 6:00 AM, we weren't sure he was still with us, but then he lifted his head sleepily, and yawned.

At 7:40, I put him down on the floor as I got dressed.

He fell over, his whole body shaking, and he was unable to stand.

I think he used all the energy he had in him to make it up our stairs in the middle of the night.

He tried to drag his body to his water dish with his front paws.

I called the vet.

I called the judge I was supposed to be in front of at 10AM.

The judge's clerk told me to go to the vet and that the judge would call me if he needed to talk to me.

I wrapped him in one of Gabriel's baby blankets and drove to the vet's office.

At 10:00 AM, in the vet's office, he mustered the last bits of strength he had and threw himself off the examination table and landed on his head. His whole body shook, and the vet and I gently put him back on the table, and she said he was hurting and there was only one thing she could do for him.

At 10:20 his face was peaceful and for the first time I realized that his muscles had been bunched up in pain for weeks.
As I held him, cradled in the baby blanket, as he slipped away, I thought how far my cat had come, and how far I have come with this cat always by my side. I wondered if he missed the desert where he had been born, I wondered where he went when his body went limp. I like to think he is with J~ now. Maybe they are both chasing lizards in some heavenly Sonoran canyon.

Rest in peace, old friend. He is missed.


* Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers, Americano

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

I've Got a Good Mother, and Her Voice Is What Keeps Me Here*

Considering it's two days before Thanksgiving, and considering that I've not done the Facebook exercise of listing one thing I'm thankful for each day, I thought I'd list a few things I'm thankful for.

I'm thankful for:

  • ...being married to my best friend
  • parents (all of them)
  • ...having two children who make me laugh
  • siblings and the comfort of a shared history
  • friends
  • ....the strange sense of satisfaction of playing FB Scrabble with friends (see above)
  • ...having a job, especially one that, on occasion, let's me really make a difference for someone
  • ...books and music and the library and well-done television and people who still make intelligent entertainment
  • ....buying that extended warranty on my car
  • ...chocolate
  • ....rum

I'm sure there are other things, but those are the ones that come to mind.

This is a bittersweet holiday this year, and I worry that Christmas will be even more so. I'm trying to focus on making it special.


* Jann Arden, Good Mother

Monday, November 22, 2010

Still Standing

I'm still here. It's been a while.

Hello? Is anybody out there?

Random bullet points because I'm not sure how to sum up everything on my mind in any other way.

  • We went to Chicago for the weekend because Husband and the kids had a day off of school. We went to the Museum of Science and Industry, and hung out with Husband's best friend/roommate/Fraternity brother from college. We also had the opportunity to meet the very charming Ordinary Time family for a delicious Vietnamese lunch. E and J's son TM was adopted from the same orphanage as Lana, through the same agency. They entered the orphanage around the same time, and must have been cared for there together for a period of time. They are only six days apart in age. I am hopeful that knowing another person who experienced almost the exact thing Lana experienced will be comforting to Lana. (For her part, Lana was remarkably quiet throughout lunch, although she was very happy to have Summer Rolls, which I have never successfully made for her and which are nearly impossible to find at restaurants near us.) I would have liked to have visited longer with E and her family, but we had arranged for Gabriel to spend the afternoon with Husband's friend (Gabe hates Vietnamese food, a subject that probably merits its own blog post) - and we needed to retrieve him in time for Husband's friend to teach a class.

  • Someone on the bus said a very rude thing to Lana that was grossly racist. I am very upset about the situation, but I feel the school has, at least at this point, responded appropriately. I resisted the urge to confront the other parents, because I was so upset I didn't think I would be helping the cause of tolerance and understanding by ranting and raving like an angry bear. Thoughts on what to do??

  • Lana turned 8. I find that, around the time of her birthday, she is very sensitive to adoption related worry and distress. A few nights ago, I got in my car to re-park it in the garage (it was too far over and Husband would not have been able to get his car in). Lana was in the kitchen and she and I were home alone. When she heard the car start, she flung the door open and started crying. I got out of the car and asked what was wrong, and she wrapped herself around me like a rubber band and cried that I was trying to leave her. For days, on either side of her birthday, she was almost manic with intense energy and clingy in the extreme. I am hoping that she will calm down a bit now.

  • I've just discovered The Hunger Games books by Suzanne Collins. I'm about 75% through Book 1 and I cannot put it down. So, so, so very good.

  • I've also just discovered the show Burn Notice. It has all the qualities that keep me coming back to the treadmill, which is precisely what I need in DVD television.

And...that's about all for now.


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