Monday, March 26, 2012

It starts with a parakeet

Later, you realize a few things; first, that little birds are susceptible to mere drafts as Victorian ladies were preported to have been … then, that watching anyone you even mildly cared about or cared for pass away is increasingly more difficult to bear.

One would think that habit would make anything easier, but, with dying / death, I have found it to be cumulative.

You begin as a child, coming home one day in Second Grade to find your bird-friend kindly laid out in a charming white shoe box with the lid on; inside the blue line border on top, your mom has penned: "Here lies Sammy," with his dates. You sit at the kitchen table for an hour or so, box open, crying. You still believe that maybe the bird will wake up. Later, you and mom go to the yard and dig a grave.

The second time, you see death up close in a different way: struggling goldfish — hours of crying — swimming 'round and 'round the bowl, tilted sideways.

Then, there is the runaway dog. Meanwhile, a greatuncle you knew as the one you hardly saw but who knew your soul (Joe always called me "Mean Tracy" in a dear way) passes away at the age of 35, from cancer. And you can't think of him without crying, even now, when you're past 35 years yourself.

Then, your paternal grandmother dies from lymphoma while you were on vacation at the age of 10 in Hannibal, Missouri, playing at Mark Twain's home and in a waterpark with a wave pool that nearly wiped you off Earth. And you were just beginning to understand her and have a relationship. Her Underwood typewriter, all 20 pounds of it, sits in your foyer as an artifact.

Then, there was your favorite, the suddenly vanished (banished) first cat who, to this date, still represents your only kitten-love; Tiffy had such chronic fleas in an age when Frontline did not exist … we fumigated the house many times, and still, if you went to the basement, you'd have to coat your pulled-up white tube socks with Raid and then move quickly to avoid being devoured — I used to look like a leper.

He would follow me around like a dog through the neighborhood; he used to drag my comfort blanket from my bed to use wherever. We had a fun hide-and-seek game, etc.

There was lost Chainsaw follower-cat (known only one hour in college but who was *sure* to be there in the morning but wasn't) …

Birdie, another parakeet, who was a fun friend who liked helping me type papers in college, died while I was overseas in Japan.

It has only gotten harder.

There was the dear little bedraggled cat who showed up at our apartment a few years back, black and white, sweet as pie, sans (all) claws and who seemed to be there to comfort me for my maternal grandmother's death … only to succumb within a year to the inoperable intestinal cancer that made her vomit up things that only nurses (God bless them) are used to. I'm not sure, though, that anyone gets used to things like that, though I think we should all be more aware and in touch with them.

Milo, a fat orange cat, died suddenly and alone one night while I was at work and my spouse was there to find him under my desk around midnight. I got a text, and I know that finding his tongue-out body still weighs heavily on my husband. I cried at work, and no one noticed. I cried even though this creature had cost me $900 and two ER visits due to his violent paranoia about other cats.

We have paid to cremate them all. We have all their ashes, and I don't know what to do with them.

The grandmothers, of course, are buried.

I did not mention Sugar, who, like Milo, was here about a year and also because her previous owner, like his, was old and had died, and there was no one else able to keep them.

I did not mention Superlemon No. 7, a yellow (and before the cats) free-range budgie who developed a tumor at age 10 or so that made him cry out in a way I will never forget. And I so wanted him to be able to be saved. But small things are not within human power to try to begin to handle, I was told in less ceremonious terms.

Sugar's last hours are burned in my memory, too, though she did not cry. To see her try to walk, after we harassed her with getting into a carrier she hated … to take her to her euthanasia on a Sunday and at ER cost — it was horrifying and heartbreaking how she collapsed.

Then, not too long afterwards, and not too long ago, we acquired a new cat.

It was not planned, as with most of the others. The pet supply store allows a rescue group to bring in samples on the first weekend of the month.

Not expecting to meet great new cats and an excellent dog while just picking up bird food, we thought we were safe because, "We only take old cats because of our birds."

"Oh, we have a cat for you," the representative said.


"We'll bring her in tomorrow; we normally don't because she's not …."

So, a month ago, suckers again we became. Bree is, as billed, a bit "special needs," but she can jump better than any of her three aged predecessors. She is matt-y but in better coat-shape now that she's getting regular petting. She eats little, but I think it's from her mouth infection. She's going to the vet on Saturday.

It feels odd because, as Sugar's personality was so mild, I hardly remember her doing anything. It probably was too soon. But … old things need homes, just like young ones, and there is never any shortage of needs of all kinds.

Also, as a dear (human) friend of mine reminds me, "It would be good if we all could go as they do."