Tomb-Sweeping Day

I saw an article on BuzzFeed today about Tomb-Sweeping Day, an ancient holiday the Chinese observe where they visit the graves of family members and loved ones that have past. Apparently, in recent years the holiday has extended to pet cemeteries as well.

It’s hard to believe, but Loki, who would have been six this April, has been gone for almost two years. We have his ashes in a beautiful wooden box, and his collar still sits on a bookshelf in The Man’s office. I still remember how beautiful Loki was, especially his eyes. This was his favorite time of year, because we would open the window in our bedroom for him and Luna to chatter at the birds that would begin flocking to the magnolia tree just outside.

One of the tombs in the BuzzFeed article reads, “Gently you left, but will be in my heart forever.” That’s how I like to remember Loki. I hope you’re over the rainbow bridge, laying in the sun and chirping at birds, beautiful boy.

 

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furry friday celebrates – pictures galore!

Last night was a big celebration in our house! Although it’s hard to believe, Abby turned 1!!! It was a big day for her which started off with two new toys to keep her busy.

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“I think those belong to me…”

 

Then I was honored to be in a formal birthday girl portrait.

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Will I get a treat for this?

 

Next came a special dinner which she supervised cooking.

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Those taters look done… I swear…

 

She was very patient while her dinner was being cut up.

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For me?

 

And was spot on with “sit” to test the quality.

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“I’m sitting.”

 

And then a little less patient.

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FOOD NAO!

 

But it was worth the wait – steak, tater tots, peas, and some dry kibble.

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“I will do anything for that bowl…”

And no birthday is complete without dessert!

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Dog tested, dog approved.

 

Which she REALLY didn’t want to pose with, but did so begrudgingly.

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MINE!

It’s hard to believe that our 12 week old, 13 pound bundle of long legs is now a 56 pound one year old.

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The Man holding her the day we got her

 

And even though she’s not as tiny anymore…

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her favorite chair

 

And she takes up a lot more room…

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same chair!

 

She’s still our baby. Happy birthday, Abigail!

Charity

12 Weeks Old – THIS is how she stole our hearts

 

 

 

feline friday eulogy

It’s too soon in so many ways. You would think it would be easier and hurt less. You would think that writing about it would be simple with all the good memories you have. You would think you could push back the tears that threaten to overwhelm you when you see his chair, find his toy, hold his collar. But it isn’t easier. It hurts more than you can explain to anyone.

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It should be easier to share the feelings you have about it. There is a need to share that gnaws at the corner of your mind. Share his life, and share the joy that he brought and the anecdotes about his tiny existence. How beautiful he was and soft and funny and so fiercely loyal and in wholly in love with my husband. His cat, truly.

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On Sunday, we lost Loki. When he came into our master bedroom, despite the puppy being there, and started meowing, loudly and insistently, we thought he was hungry or looking for attention or maybe even regretting his decision to be near the puppy. I even took a video of it, finding it odd, but he’s always been very vocal. When we came home after running errands and found him laying on the tile floor of our upstairs bathroom, not moving, and he let me pick him up, we knew something was wrong. He wouldn’t walk, wouldn’t even stand.

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At 8 pm we ended up in the emergency room with him. The fact that he even let us put him in the carrier and didn’t fight was another bad sign, but I was in denial. Fearful, but optimistic. A blockage. Expensive, serious, but common. They would clear it, it could happen again, but cats live long lives with this problem and they just have to lose weight and change food.  Loki would have to stay overnight, but we could get him in the morning. At nearly midnight, though, they called us to say they couldn’t clear it but would try again.

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We picked him up in the morning with a battery of medications and the vet tech telling us they were so excited when they were able to clear the blockage that morning. We set him up in his own room so he could recover away from the puppy and began checking on him every thirty minutes. Had he moved? He wasn’t drinking water. We put some wet food in a bowl, but he didn’t want to eat. Luna wouldn’t go near him.

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My husband had to go to work, so the puppy and I began doing the checks. I sat on the floor, brushing him as he looked at me, the puppy nosing around him, licking his head and legs. She had never been so patient and calm with him. She knew what I did not. When he hadn’t eaten or drank or even moved, and when I called the vet and told them, I was told to bring him back in. It had been just under twenty-four hours, and we were back in the same cold exam room. The same vet tech who told me how beautiful and brave and calm he was took him into the back to be examined. The receptionist came in and told me a man in the waiting room was so upset for me he offered to help pay the bill if we needed it. How beautiful a gesture.

I waited, crying. The vet came out and told me how bad his heart rate was, his respiration too slow, how blocked he was again, and how much pain he was in. There was no optimistic solution this time. Quiet voices, drawn faces. Do you need to make a phone call? A long, painful phone call with my husband where he told me that he had already said goodbye.

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The vet tech brought Loki back in to me and told me her favorite place to rub him was behind his ears, the softest fur. That was my favorite place too. Do you need a blanket? No. Do you want to be with him? Yes. He curled up on me, his head nestled under my chin, eyes blinking slowly. We sat like that for ten minutes, me crying and telling him I was sorry. I had promised, after all, that he would get better, he would be okay, we would be going home soon. I held him, stroking his head, his paws, his ears as he was put to sleep, a tear rolling down the vets  face. I sat with him after, sobbing, unbelieving. Five, ten, fifteen minutes passed. It could have been less, it could have been more. He was just four.

When the  vet tech came back, she was crying too. She took his color off for me. She put it around my wrist for me.  She took him, gently and slowly, from my arms and stroked him as she told me how beautiful he was, and then hugged me, still holding him.

Our  beautiful little boy. So much love and joy in such a short amount of time. You have no idea how much you are missed.

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by the letter

The end of summer was always exciting when I was younger. It meant that friends were returning from vacation and camp, and even though school would be starting soon, play dates would resume. Despite the fact that many of my friends spent the hot months away, we always kept in touch. Because when I was young, we still wrote letters.

My dad was a letter writer himself.  I have a stack of letters he exchanged with his aunt in Germany, and always loved examining the stamps when they arrived.

IMG_20130818_155019_586And when I entered high school, I could always look forward to summer letters from my best friend Jen (who my dad called Beethoven). She abandoned me for summer camp, but I could always count on post cards and long letters filled with gossip to keep me company.  We continued this into adulthood. Though we live far apart and don’t get to see each other often, we drop each other a line, especially for birthdays.  Recently, when cleaning out my office, I found an envelope from her addressed to “Insanity Surveys Inc.” with my address. It was a survey I sent her when I was bored at work in 2005, with crazy questions like “If you were a bird, what bird would you be?” (for which she chose cockatoo).

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My friend Season and I exchange letters too. How we got in the habit  I don’t quite know. Our letters to each other are rambling, and they often are simple updates on our lives. Recently the Man and I received a package from her and a card. Inside the package, everything was blue. It had a special meaning that I’ll keep to myself, and I love her for it. It’s packages and surprise notes like that which make a day brighter.

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With email and texts and Facebook, choosing to sit and write a letter usually goes by the wayside for most of us. I wonder if kids even have pen pals anymore. So here is my offer to you. Do you want a letter? or a pen pal? E-mail your address to writercat81@gmail.com and I’ll send you a letter.

to my dad, for his birthday

Dear Dad,

Your birthday was yesterday, and I didn’t get you a card. I haven’t in a long time, so this year wasn’t different, but you were on my mind the whole day, just on the periphery of my mental to-do list that’s always churning.

You would freak over the amount of work we still have to do here. I spackled the dining room walls today.  Part of me thinks it would be quicker to just tear all the plaster down, but I think it came out pretty good. You could probably point out some spots I missed, but as good as I am, I’m still not at the level of attention to detail that you have. And you’d probably tell me that not all the prints in the house are level; every time I straighten one I chuckle in my head and think of you.  The moldings in the living room and dining room are in good shape, but I’d love to add some upstairs.  I wish you could help me with them. I really wish you could come see this place.

For your birthday, I just wanted to tell you that I hope you know that you were never one of those dads I was embarrassed by.  In fact, I was always proud of you and mom, and loved bringing my friends home. Whenever I missed the bus home after middle school, I was happy that I could call and knew you would come pick me up.  You would always ask about my day, and would always let me play whatever music I wanted.  Yeah, you made fun of The Cranberries (and called them the Raspberries) but I knew you were just teasing.

Paul and I had a friend over for lunch a few weeks ago and we started talking about what TV we watched as kids. I remember how you sat through more than half of the My So-Called Life marathon on MTV with me, not to make sure that it was appropriate, but because you liked watching TV with me. I hope you know how rare and special that was.  I would love to see your reaction to American Pickers. I think we would enjoy watching that together.

It’s hard to believe that it’s been 16 years. But then I try to remember your voice, and it all comes crashing back that you’ve been gone for over half my life. I talk to you in my head, sometimes, when I’m trying to figure out a problem in the house. There are so many things that we missed. I find fragments of you in the house from time to time. Things that I thought were back on Long Island or tucked away in a box. A card that you gave me when I won an academic medal in German class, a picture of you as a toddler that Oma framed, your old work glasses spattered with paint.

Mom gave me your watch recently. It’s huge on me, but I can see the hole where you used to tighten the leather band to, slightly worn, and I can almost remember your hands. I get so upset sometimes when Mom gives me something of yours. Not angry, mind you, but terribly sad because they’re the only things I have left of you. All I have are those things, and my few memories, and the wonderful stories that mom shares with me. I treasure those things because, in my mind, they keep part of you alive.

You would have turned 71 yesterday. Retired, I would think, and driving mom nuts with house projects or your model trains. I still would have stolen your red L.L. Bean flannel shirt from you, and you probably would have blamed your balding on me at some point. I would have made you sit down and translate your letters from Tante Lötte, written in her neat German script, so I could find out about that side of my family that I never knew. German was supposed to be our secret language together, but I never mastered it without you. We would have done so many things.

Happy birthday, Dad.

Ich liebe dich.

daddy

small victories

Today was a big day for me at work.  Some people will probably consider me a bit silly after reading this, or stop reading altogether.  But today meant something to me: I finally received my 5-year service pin at the annual employee recognition ceremony.

The funny thing is that I’ve worked at the same university for 8 years, not 5. When the recognition ceremony took place last year, I was convinced I would finally get my pin, and when I didn’t I was devastated.  I started at the university about a year after graduating college, so the better part of my twenties were spent working at the same place. I mentioned that to someone recently and they laughed at me, thinking I was calling myself old. But that had nothing to do with it. It’s what I’ve done while I was there… if you count them all up, I’ve had nearly ten titles during my tenure.  But it’s more than the titles, even. It’s what happened in my life and the lives of those around me, too.

In the time that I’ve worked at the university, my uncle was diagnosed with esophageal cancer and, four years later, passed away. My supervisor lost his thirteen year old son to cancer. My mother went through at least four major surgeries. My husband served two tours in Iraq, and later moved home from Hawaii. My “mom away from home” left the university and we have never spoken since. I began working on my Master’s and had a thesis advisor who opened my eyes to the kind of writer and person that I wanted to be; I earned my Master of Arts and was given the department award for writing for my class. I had two roommates leave, one of which I had to ask to move out and then had to call his parents because he became a shut in. One of my closest friends from college lost his sister. I spent several years working with one former coworker on his dissertation; he defended and earned his PhD. I negotiated the sale of a new car by myself. I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and learned that I have pre-cervical cancer cells. My husband lost both of his grandparents. My relationship with my father’s estranged brother was rekindled. My best friend from college got married, and a year later so did my best friend from high school.  I lost my job because my department was dissolved, and three days later got married. And two months later I was rehired. We bought our house.

And through it all I have had the chance to work with some of the most amazing researchers, doctors, pharmacists, and entrepreneurs I’ve ever known. I had a boss who, when he left the university, I finally told: “You were one of the most difficult people to work for because you expected so much. And I learned more from you than anyone else. Thank you.” And I have met people at work that I now call friends.

Anyone who knows me knows fully well that most days the place I work drives me absolutely insane. But I have always done my job with passion and with dedication. So while a 5-year pin doesn’t mean much to some people, to me it is a reminder that the better part of my twenties weren’t wasted there. Sure, I lost my job. But someone there knew me enough, and knew how much I had done, that they wanted me back. That counts for something. But some of my most life defining moments happened while I was working there. And somewhere along the way, I grew up, grew wiser, and learned some things along the way. I became the person I am today.