A LONGSUFFERING WEEK

By Lisa Huddleston

My husband has gone to a conference, and I’ve had a lot of time to myself this week. That can always be a little risky for one with introspective, depressive tendencies, and that I’ve spent my time being the hospice nurse for my dying cat has added to my melancholy. Honestly, I’ve spent the week thinking a great deal about death and dying. (Doesn’t that sound fun?)

Interestingly and perhaps not coincidentally, I chose this same time to pull out a book a friend had recommended to me (twice) and to begin a serious contemplation of the value of life, the existence of the soul, and The Givenness of Things (essays by the Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Marilynne Robinson.) Heavy stuff but good and well worth pondering during a week of longsuffering.

Questions have floated back and forth in my thoughts as I’ve watched my cat hang on to his ninth life with tenacious claws. What is it that makes us alive? Is it more than the working of our bodily machines? And what is it that leaves when we die? We all have seen it or rather the effects of its departure—the deflating of the tent, the darkening of the lamp. There is a point in time at which alive becomes dead. A changing of the guard so swift that the ghost is gone without so much as a fare thee well. What is this thing and when will it leave Pippin and me to rest in peace?

While that point of time passes in the blink of an eye, a heartbeat, the getting there can take what feels like forever. Longsuffering is just that. L O N G and S U F F E R I N G. I nobly wrote last week that I was going to gift Pippin by allowing him to pass away at home, but more than once I have considered calling our veterinarian to make an appointment to have him put down. Please, don’t misunderstand, if he were in great pain, I would. But he is just slowly and quietly dying. I am the one who is suffering, and it is I who wants to be relieved of this gift. (Of course, Pip can’t really express his wishes to me, but he seems comfortable enough sitting and shedding on the back porch furniture and squinting into eternity.)

I woke up this morning hoping he was gone. I am ready to remove all traces of cat life and death from my house. I can already uncover the leather sofa my husband has protectively plastered with blankets for years in order to prevent the scratches and tears Pippin and his predecessor, Dusty, were so good at making. Mom, too, has tried to little avail to protect her furniture from the stiff white hairs that weave through any fabric and resist removal as strongly as Pippin himself. I need to remind her that she can clean to her heart’s content. And finally THE LITTER BOX can go! I have hated it for 20 years and even though my uninvited outdoor cats plead to take Pip’s place, it will be gone without remorse ASAP.

But really what I want to get rid of the most is this longsuffering and painful waiting and the useless plastic bubble wrap I have wound around my heart.

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MASTER OR SLAVE?

By Lisa Huddleston

I know I talk about my dog too much.  My cats, too.  Yes, I put their pictures on Facebook and believe everyone will get a warm fuzzy out of an especially cute expression or awkward position on the back of the couch.  So sue me.  Animals are people, too.   Well, almost.

Anyway, we have this dog.  Her name has been through several evolutions since she was found as an orphan puppy frolicking in the park.  The shelter named her “Dottie” which we kept.  But to that has been added:  Dottie Parker, Dotsky Plotsky, and the best of all, Dottie Pigbody.  This last and best name not only sounds amazingly cute, it also describes what must be her heritage:  a cross between Fox Terrier and Pig.

We are rather proud of Dottie.  She is a fearless watchdog—except when she is afraid.  She loves her cat brothers and sisters—especially when she is chasing them up trees.  And she has never met a toy that she cannot demolish in under ten minutes.  Therefore we are always on the lookout for that indestructible toy.

Recently my mother may have found the Holy Grail—a rawhide bone made of salmon skin.  Dottie has owned this prized possession for at least a week now, and it is still in pristine condition.  (I know, I know—aren’t rawhides supposed to be chewed up?  Don’t be picky.)

We are excited that Dottie has kept this toy around for so long; however, I have noticed a disturbing change in her usually pleasant personality.  In fact this bone, henceforth referred to as the “fishbone,” has become an idol of sorts.

Dottie holds the fishbone in her mouth and walks around the house and yard displaying it to the cats.  Naturally, due to its aromatic nature, the cats are interested and when they come for a closer look, Dottie rushes at them to pounce and pommel them into oblivion.  Her obsession has become so great that twice—not only once—I have seen her run headlong into an iron screen door nearly breaking her own neck just because one of the porch cats dared glance in to glimpse her “Precious.”

As I’ve watched Dottie’s moral decline, I’ve noted a universal truth.  Very often, although we think we are the owners of our stuff, it is our stuff that really owns us.  One crowded stroll through the basement lets me know that Dottie is not the only one with this problem, and I am ashamed.  Why do we keep so much junk?  Why do I?

I remember an Erma Bombeck article that reminded us to use the good china, to burn the fancy candles … and I think I can add to that list to get rid of things that I don’t need that others could.  Stuff shouldn’t own us.  Bigger barns lead to bigger ulcers.  Poor Dottie has to guard the fishbone day and night, and that’s not a good way to live.  Heck, those cats don’t even want that stinky bone.  They’ve all checked it out and gave it a pass.  Dottie is worrying for nothing, but she won’t believe me.

Even though she won’t listen to me, I think I’ve learned a thing or two from her.  Rusty old bike anyone?  How about some out-of-print school books?  Broken weed eater?  Good bye, my preciousssssss …