My mom and stepdad have a habit of taking in stray cats. The older one of the two they have I found as a kitten in our back yard about fifteen years ago. The younger wandered away from his owner, who didn't feed him enough--I think he's eight or nine now. A third cat, in between the other two, died this morning. Her name was Sweetie.
I must have been in about the eighth grade when we got Sweetie. My stepdad was working at a local restaurant and noticed that a family of feral cats was living underneath the building. He liked the black and grey bullseye pattern that one of them had on its sides, so he caught it and brought it home.
It became apparent pretty rapidly that our new cat had some problems. She was runty and cross-eyed and extremely stupid. It was kind of exasperating at first, because she kept forgetting who we were. Every time you wanted to pet her you'd have to ease up to her very gently or she would run away. My mom was always best at that. "It's OK, sweetie," she'd say, using the same words and reassuring tone that she would with a frightened child. The name stuck, although it took her several years to adjust to being around people.
My mom related the story of her last moments in an email this morning:
I have some sad news to relate. This morning around 4:45 we were awakened by loud cat meowing, which isn't that unusual...often Bill will wake us early to be fed, and in fact we usually keep our door closed to avoid that morning surprise. We are greeted with waiting cats when we open the door every morning. Anyway, last night we left the door open because we kept the attic fan on all night, and I guess it was a good thing because otherwise we might have missed her last minutes.
When we finally turned the light on and checked, it turned out to be Sweetie, and she was on her side, crying loudly and panting. We got down on the floor with her and could tell that she was really frightened, which I guess is why she came into the room with us. She always came to us when she was scared.
A couple of times she managed to get to her feet and stumbled toward the kitchen...we think she was trying to get downstairs so she could get under the couch, which is where she spent most of her time. She made it as far as the doorway of the kitchen where she laid down and never got up again. Her breathing became shallower and shallower until she gave one last stretch and then passed away.
It hit me harder than I would have expected. I think that part of it is that, while I've been expecting them to lose one of their pets pretty soon, I thought it would be the older one, Leon, that would go first. I just got back from a visit to my parents' place and Leon was looking pretty old and crotchety. He's had a fair number of health problems over the past couple of years, and he's gotten all bony and arthritic. I even took a little time to say goodbye to him on this trip. Sweetie, though, was her normal self: dumb as a brick, but fat and happy. I guess I figured I'd have a few more chances to see her.
Maybe another part of it is how descriptive my mom was. I keep seeing the scene in my mind and thinking about how scared Sweetie must have been--even more so because she was so dumb. Maybe that's anthropomorphizing a bit too much. I'm sad about it anyway.
It's a little strange, when I stop to think about it, to be so emotionally involved with an animal. I wouldn't have thought I'd ever have to hold back tears thinking about that cat, but I do. I am. I can hear the strange little chirping noises she'd make and see the sort of vacant, sometimes loving, sometimes wary look in her eyes. I'm going to miss her.
What I'm Thankful For
Life has been kind of hectic lately, and between that and my natural tendencies to focus on the negative, it's easy for me to lose sight of the ways my life is good. Today, though, I want to take the time to be positive, to think of the parts of my life that are happy.
I have a wonderful, intelligent, beautiful wife who loves me and supports me, who listens to me and hugs me and wants to take care of me. I have parents who are proud of me and forgive the fact that I don't call them often enough, who have always done right by me and have been there when I needed anything from them. I've developed a good friendship with my younger brother--after years of fighting and friction we've come to understand each other and look forward to seeing each other. I make enough money to waste it on luxuries like going to the movies every week and maintaining this web site. I work with people I like, who I actually want to see outside the office. I have good friends who make me laugh and who I know I can count on. The future is full of potential, and I'm young enough to have time to make the most of it.
I think it's important to take a step back from the hassles of daily life and count your blessings from time to time, and not just on Thanksgiving. Life is too short to waste time dwelling on the things that get us down, especially when they're so often so trivial.
Things I Highly Recommend
- Getting married in Big Sur, CA. Not only one of the most naturally beautiful places I've ever seen, but also very special to me because that's where my wife grew up as well as where I lived for a while in my childhood.
- Breakfast at Deetjen's Big Sur Inn. Some of the best Eggs Benedict I've ever had.
- Lunch at the Big Sur River Inn. Sure, the burger is kind of expensive, but it's mighty tasty (and still the cheapest in Big Sur). Plenty of good stuff apart from the burger, too; it's my favorite restaurant for lunch. And, for dessert, the apple pie is my second favorite in this world (I have to give my mom's the number one spot).
- Dinner at Ventana. They have a filet mignon that just melts in your mouth, and if you go right around sunset you have a spectacular view of the sun going down over the ocean.
- The bathrooms in the Salt Lake City Airport. Cleanest airport bathrooms ever.
- Renting a convertible in Hawaii. Yeah, it immediately marks you as a tourist, but it's so nice to feel the wind in your hair.
- The Hotel Hana Maui. Hands down the nicest hotel I've ever stayed in. The road to Hana is very twisty and a bit stressful (since all of the other people on the road are also tourists), but as soon as you get there it all just melts away. The staff was amazingly friendly and helpful. It's also very close to Hamoa Beach, which is one of the most beautiful beaches I've ever seen. And if you're into horseback riding, the hotel runs tours on a couple of trails that offer some amazing views.
- Tony and Tina's Wedding. A very interesting off-Broadway production that makes you feel like you really are a wedding guest. It takes interactive theater to a level I've never experienced before.
- Breakfast at the Sea House Restaurant. About six or seven miles outside of Lahaina, it overlooks a beautiful bay and has a great view of Molokai (or maybe it was Lanai, I can't remember) and the food is excellent.
- The Koloa Fish Market. In Koloa, on Kaua'i, there is this tiny, hole-in-the-wall fish market that sells lunch plates that are to die for. There are no seats, indeed there's barely enough room to turn around, but the fish is so fresh and the prices are extremely reasonable.
- Air Kaua'i Helicopter Tours. Not for those who are afraid of heights, but for everyone else, it's amazing. Even the locals on Kaua'i say the helicopter tours are great, and with good reason. Such a beautiful place, and seeing it from a bird's-eye view is even better. And the Air Kaua'i helicopters have huge windows, which makes for a great viewing experience.
- Brick Oven Pizza, in Kalaheo. Also on Kaua'i. They have good pizza. Really good pizza.
- Marrying the one you love. My wedding was the best day of my life. We've been together for almost seven years, since high school. In that time we've had a lot of experiences. We've grown, and grown up, together. I can think of nothing better than knowing that this is the person that I'm going to grow old with, share my life with. I can't wait to see what the future will bring.