Handling Death at 6 – Practice Session

Three years ago we finally took a deep breath. We moved RR from a good but not right for her preschool to a Montessori school. I worried constantly that summer and through the first year. Would they kick her out when they realized she didn’t care for circle time? Would we get a stern talking to when they discovered she couldn’t, wouldn’t potty train at three? Would she thrive there? Would she finally make friends? Would she learn? Would she be able to transition to public school? Were we making a terrible mistake?

We did not. Any fan of Montessori and, more importantly, any fan of our local Montessori would have lovingly patted us on the head to hear our fears but they didn’t because they are fans and there’s no head patting in Montessori. And they were right. Here we are in July, RR has graduated and is too old for their camp. She misses the work. She misses her teachers. We miss them too. And not just because together they made a good Montessori school, but because they are good, kind people.

Good people. People that when we called in tears last Monday to ask for help, to say that our beloved cat was dying, to say that we couldn’t bring RR with us to the vet, to say that our other lifelines (and there are a surprising lot of them) were all elsewhere, they said, bring her to us. We will keep her until you come. How many schools can you call and ask them to take your child?

The point of this post, and it’s a grim one, is that we had to say goodbye to imperfect, frustrating, biting, soft as a bunny, fluffy as a cloud, fun and funny, Sol. While he made it through the first scare, he never really bounced back. After a terrible weekend of staggering and listlessness, the vet confirmed that there was nothing more to do. One giant chunk broke off of my heart.

Debra and I spent last weekend, crying, petting him, and having a conversation about what more to do, there was a question with no answer. Do we tell RR so that she can say goodbye? How do we do it? Neither of our parents ever let us into the animal euthanasia conversation. Both Debra’s and my pets just disappeared with a comment after the fact. This didn’t seem right or kind or fair. And perhaps we were different children, but we felt like RR was mature enough to take it in.

What a terrible thought: This will not be the last death she endures as a child. Better to begin.

And so, she and I sat for a moment next to him. We held hands and petted his small head. Said goodbye.
Sol is very sick, I told her. I have to take him to the vet and he might not be able to come home.
He will die? she asked. Yes, I told her.
I’ll miss him.
Me too.
You’re crying mama. Big tears. Yes, I said. I’m very sad. I love Sol so much.

And that was it. When we picked her up from her amazing school, I told her that Sol had been too sick and that he died. She said, I’ll miss him so much. And that, was that. I doubt it will be so easy with her grandfather, but I’m so grateful for Sol’s last gift. A practice session.


Big Ass Cat

One of the pitfalls of having wonderful pets is having those same wonderful pets near the end of life. Also, there’s the spite-peeing (ON THE DOG) and the toilet-swimming, but you know, even if you have to keep cleaning litter footprints off of the rim of the toilet, cats still purr and sometimes keep your feet warm and look cute even when you can’t regularly cuddle them (I’m looking at you, Solomon).


Sol is (was?) fluffy and soft and practically begged to be scooped up and squeezed. At your peril. He is our hardy cat, weighing in at 15 pounds of pure cattitude, never sick, bounces back from anything that comes his way, plays in water, sits in the rain, plays fetch, charming…from afar.

But he started to look gaunt. He meowed more. Purred less. He lost weight at an alarming pace. He upped his litterbox misbehavior. He was no longer the big ass cat you could trip over in the night as he solidly, silently, sits at your feet waiting for your attempt to walk.



So off we went to the vet. I’m not generally the vet runner but a string of events left me the designee and for the best since had things gone less well, she’d have been dealing with a dead cat and dead is not Debra’s thing. But, the conversation still had to be had and he is still very very sick from and undetermined background cause and so we’re giving a steroid and antibiotic course a chance to see if he can rediscover life. As the vet says, some cats bounce back quickly, and other cats will not and if that’s the case, there is no further treatment we will try. No obvious cancer, possibly kidney failure, but alarmingly anemic and, well, it doesn’t look good for 13-yr-old Sol.

It’s not totally a surprise, we have three”senior” animals. As I said to the vet, we will be spending more time together in the next couple of years. And that’s super sad. And a reality. And just not the thing I need right now (or ever. Who does?) Wish Sol peace, however it turns out.


Things I Didn’t Expect To Say

Whose pee is that?

And honestly not know.

Because there are multiple culprits.

And I’ve said it more than once today.






A Better Times Bookmark

You know what you should do when every single day feels like a battle? Get this cat. Or that artist. Either will do. Consider fat cat Sol a reminder to write about better times.


While You Were Away…

You guys, I was on my way to bed, thinking to myself, “no screen time two hours before bed, even backlit screens, how am I supposed to do that” forgetting, for the moment, that I’m trying not to control everything so who the hell cares whether I’m reading a book on a backlit screen before bed, when I realized you were the only people who would appreciate how ridiculous I look.

Because here I am, blue face mask drying (anti-stress, it says) in an effort to hopefully get the blemish the size of Mount Kilimanjaro that arrived ON MY CHEEK to subside or at least stop being so red and so…tall. It is so giant that I’m distracted by it when I glance down. I am also wearing one shoe because two minutes ago as I was trying to wrestle a fitted sheet free from its boa constrictor-like grasp on my forearm, I stepped awkwardly on my heel which was already sore and a blinding pain shot up my leg and knocked me over. On my ass. So I hobbled around with snake sheet and blue mask until I got to my shoe because isn’t that what you’re supposed to be doing when your foot hurts…shoes…and I jammed the hurt foot in. I did not put on the other shoe because I can’t put enough weight on the first foot to manage the second shoe. I gave the cats some water because I’m a good person and also because I’m trying not to think about the fact that I might be left with those ungrateful bastards because today the vet found a lump in the beloved dog’s rectum and it’s being biopsied and I actually cannot think of that reality. So I don’t look where I’m going with my one shoe, blue mask, snake arm hobble and I put the bare foot right into cat poop.


So I’m calling you. Because who else can you tell this shit (literally) to?

Splish Splash





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The other day I was looking for one place in the house that didn’t have another person or animal in it. See that? It’s the world’s tiniest bathroom. And a giant cat. There is no space.

Culture Clash

When you buy a plane ticket to another place, you are also purchasing a little (or a lot) of culture shock. Maybe it’s just a weekend jaunt to New York from Miami. Or, maybe it’s Dubai via Lisbon and Atlanta. Either way, you already have an impression of those places, in relation to who you are and you’re ready (a little…or a lot) to meet the culture change and adapt (a little…or…and so on).

When you marry someone, you also sign on for a bit of culture shock. If you’re lucky, you get the views and the foods and the people to go with it. If you’re not, you get a lot of stuff you’re not prepared for, say inadvertent discrimination or outright antagonism. It’s hard to explain to others. After all, everyone you talk to comes from a place either more or less on the scale between you and them.

Them. It’s a smile if they’re on good behavior or, for a bonus, are just like you. It’s that sort of them when they aren’t. And hoo boy, it sure is us and them around here. So here’s a little culture shock for you (or a lot), courtesy of two weeks and counting of my visiting parents, their three cats and a 190 pound rottweiler named Sam.

I could stop right there, right? 190 pounds. That’s pretty much enough of a story. He’s about 6 feet tall. Or thereabouts. He’s practically Babe and the Big Blue Ox. Both of them at once. Only less nice.

I grew up with these people so I wasn’t surprised when they informed me that they had brought with them from Wyoming their three cats and that they had left them in the trailer in our driveway.** I wasn’t surprised to see that they only go out once a day to feed them. I’m not even particularly surprised that they don’t refer to them by name. Given the familial live and let die perspective, I was only mildly surprised when they went looking for a cat they thought had escaped. I wasn’t surprised when they stopped looking five minutes later.** D, who considers our cats family members, had a slight learning curve. All things considered, she adapted quickly, knowing both that my parents are basically kind people.

But man, are they fucking clueless.*** We stored our cats in the basement. I promise, it’s perfectly spacious and hospitable. Practically a five star hotel compared to a trailer. We do this because Sam has a cat tooth. You know, a sweet tooth for cats. Oh, he’s a big baby, says my father. My mother stamps around nervously but ineffectively, believing that as long as we do everything right nothing bad will ever happen.**** After all, she says, he doesn’t want to hurt anything. He’s just so big. And so strong, you guys, no one can hold him. The last time he was here, he tried to eat my cat. There are not enough italics for this post.


There’s nothing funny about it and I can’t even manage a quip here. It fucking sucked. They did not apologize. They did not pay vet bills. What they said was, “Are you sure it wasn’t Moses?” It was not Moses, friends, unless you are missing a loaf of bread and a pork chop, it is never Moses.


Our confined cats come up at night to engage with humanity, because we are not only basically nice but our pets are not the sort you store in a trailer. And, in the morning, we shoo them downstairs. Except on Wednesday when we didn’t shoo fast enough.

One cat had learned his lesson, he heard the tramp of giant feet and was a flash of white bolting down the stairs. The other cat, the one that swipes at everyone, was lazy and she tried to stroll. Sam snatched her up in his giant maw before any of us, including the cat, could move.***** In the chaos, Debra tried to restrain Sam and I pried the cat out of his jaws as she sprayed us all with urine and drew as much blood as possible. No one can say she’s not a fighter.


My parents? They did not apologize. What they said was, “Are you sure it wasn’t Moses?” although it happened in front of them. The remainder of the day was spent on eggshells as they alternately ignored the situation and muttered a story about how they once found their kitten in Sam’s mouth and how now, they proudly say, that cat is the only one who will go near him.

Anything you can tell me here is something I’ve already thought of. And you’re right, there are a lot of solutions to the problem, plenty of sympathy, and more than a ration of outrage. There are plenty of opportunities for should have and unacceptable. Suffice to say that we’re dealing with a fair amount of culture shock here. The scary kind of culture shock. The kind that makes you want to lock yourself in a hotel room and book a new flight home. As someone who is bi-cultural in this case, I’m at a loss. This visit is over in three days.

Everyone will be alive when we finish.******



* They tow this across country as opposed to flying.

** The cat was under the sink.

*** Whoops language. But, in this case, called for. Believe me.

**** Hello therapy.

***** She is fine.

****** They damn well better be.


No cats were harmed in the making of this post. Singed maybe, but not harmed. We have an excellent cat whose primary characteristics are playing fetch exceptionally well, delighting in water, and being giant. He also has a remarkably large tail.

No, seriously.

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He is negligent with his tail. He waves it around, all fancy and proud, but when it’s time to twitch it out of the way of a foot or otherwise move it in a way that would save him from being squashed, he just lays there and suffers without making a peep. Then he attacks your leg with the fury of a thousand vikings hopped up on Norwegian Red Bull.

He is so careless that, as a mere youth, he flaunted it directly into a candle flame while illegally stamping around the table. He didn’t even run, lest he disrupt the formation of his girth, but instead hopped down and lazily trailed his torch through the house. Nice. We put him out and he looked at us with viking rage but we countered with DUDE. YOU WERE ON FIRE. He let it go. That time.


Rest assured, he is alive and well. And, as you can see, he was protected by any trauma by a tail the size of the Nile. Most importantly, his brief turn as a candle did not impact his ability to lead a long and disruptive life as a white, furry, landmine.



In which my child begins to explore fatherhood.

In the morning over breakfast we learn that our kid knows many things about her classmates.  I barely thought she knew their names so much as she enjoyed shouting them after we said them like some sort of deranged parrot.  I was certainly underestimating her.  She has been in class with several of these kids since six weeks old.  She knows Jacob is an overzealous hugger and that Lucy is a…honey badger…she just doesn’t talk about it.

Now that I think about it, daycare for the under-two set is sort of like Fight Club.

Imagine my surprise when this morning over breakfast she announced a friend’s name and then tacked on DADA!  At first I thought she was trying to magically conjure him (tada!) but in fact, she was talking about his father (who reports that, yes, they see each other every morning isn’t she so cute)  Then came another friend followed by DADA!  Sure enough, he has one too.

Thinking about it, I expect they discuss everyone’s picture sheets at school (our picture sheet includes a picture of the two of us together).  No doubt it’s a point and shout exercise wherein the children are encouraged to bellow, “Jacob’s daddy,” “Molly’s mama,” “Lucy’s sister!”  Which would explain why, when we picked her up yesterday and waved goodbye to the only other little girl waiting for pick up, that little girl said “Bye mamas!” Bye mamas, indeed.

RR has experimented with dada previously, looking at one of us, pointing and asking, “dada?”  It’s an easy enough correction but it never fails to surprise us into laughter.  How odd to be trying to sort out the world only to realize that Ralph, Casey, Jacob, Molly and Lucy all have a mama and a dada but RR and Beth have only mamas (two and one apiece, respectively).  Fortunately, this is no different than RR’s dog or Beth’s sister.  And surely, the other kids don’t know that two mamas are anything out of the ordinary.  That’s another point for passive activism!

It is dada’s day this weekend and the traditional time for the school to hand over markers and devote an afternoon to toddler art made for the male parental set.  I wonder whether we’ll get a substitute commemorative handprint or whether it’ll be scribbled hallucinations, RR’s usual artistic contribution.  I can’t wait to find out.

You Deserve It

Here’s your reward for hanging in there this week.  The baby and, as a bonus, the cat.  Who, once you see his sheer size, will leave you wondering how he is able to fit through a cat door.