Sunday, 30 June 2013

A Party Favour into a Book Prompt


Last September I was invited to a gathering at my neighbour’s where I. enjoyed an evening of food, drinks and conversation. The purpose of the evening was to meet her friends, visiting from California.

As I was leaving, the guest of honour inquired if I was the writer. When I replied yes, she demanded, “Why don’t you write something about how widows are treated?”

I knew she was a widow, unaware at the time that she had lost her husband only six months before, which would account for the emotion that was evident with her asking.

I didn’t know what she expected me to write, but I was curious and did some research. After reading a series of articles full of self help advice and personal experiences, I was drawn to the plight of these women as they struggled to rebuild their lives.

A prolific note taker, I had pages after page of notes and put together an article that I think touched on some of the things she was experiencing. She read the article out loud, and at times was reduced to tears as the information hit close to home.

I always felt she had wanted something more from me, though I don’t know exactly what that might have been. I just felt I was not done with the topic.

As November approached, I needed a story line for NaNo. If you’re not aware November is National Novel Writing Month, more commonly called NaNoWriMo, where the challenge is to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. I decided to make my story about a woman, recently widowed, and gave her a few conflicts, just to make it more interesting.

I made the deadline, with words to spare and spent months doing the edits.

I usually write in a very organized fashion. If I’m working on a book I have my book binder with story ideas, plots, and character profiles. Any research I do on locations or interiors go into the binder, along with photos torn from magazines for a visual reference.

When I write I’m constantly going back, rereading and, I dare say, editing, as I go along. My usual first draft is not as rough as some, but presents almost as more of a first edit.

Not so with my NaNo book. In order to keep the word count going, I didn’t have time to go back and edit as I went along. It was an interesting experience, and I’ll probably do it again, but next time I’ll be more prepared.

For one thing, I’ll make sure I’m ready for Christmas. After the stress of writing for the whole month of November it was a shock to get back to the real world and realize that Christmas was only weeks away. Like I said, I’ll be better prepared next time.

At any rate, I began the editing process, gave it to friends and a fellow writer to read, and took all their suggestions into consideration when I did what I hoped was to be the final edit.

The book is titled ‘Left in Sorrow’. I recently published it in an E format on Kindle.

 
Photo and cover design by John Kerns... www.john.kerns.ca

Here’s a bit of the beginning, like I said before, I gave my girl some conflicts to deal with.

CHAPTER 1

Holly inserted the key and opened the door to the fourth floor condo. Hands shaking, the key seemed to stick in the unfamiliar lock, as if to defy her entrance. With a feeling of trepidation she entered and looked about with some caution, fully expecting that someone might appear and question her right to be there.
 
She had every right, and no right, and that was the problem.
 
Her eye was immediately drawn to the impressive view of the lake and sky framed by the glass paned French doors. As she glanced beyond the terrace, she could see the marina, the docks sitting empty, waiting for summer and another season of sailing to begin.
 
Turning back to the room she noted the done-by-a-decorator style of d├ęcor, where everything was carefully coordinated; the fabrics, the furnishings, even the art that hung on the walls. It was show room perfect but felt cold and impersonal.
 
Now it belonged to her, not that she wanted any part of it.
 
She didn’t belong in this stylish place. Holly looked down at the jeans and simple leather shoes she wore, and felt out of place. This place belonged to a lifestyle she knew nothing about. What did middle-aged housewives know about secret hideaways?
 
For the last few months her life had been nothing but one shocking and unexpected event after another, and her world had been turned upside down.
 
She’d known what it meant that night, when the two police officers had appeared at her door. “Mrs. Prentice, we regret to inform you…,” they began. The conversation was etched in her memory. On that stormy February night, when her husband of almost twenty-five years had been killed in a car accident, her comfortable life had come crashing down around her.
 
She had been numb at first, thankful for the tasks that kept her busy. Friends and family had hovered, and then everyone went back to their lives, as if she were healed, like she’d just had her gallbladder cut out, instead of her heart. Her friends were married, they still had their husbands, and their lives had not changed.
 
When the letter came, from a bank they had never dealt with, addressed to the Executor, she’d taken it to Bob Watson, her husband’s friend and law partner for an explanation.
 
“I contacted the bank, Holly,” he later told her. “It looks like Richard had an account there and in the safety deposit box I found ownership papers for a condominium on the waterfront.”
 
The news about the condo struck her hard, at a time when she was already feeling unsure and unsteady. Why did he have a secret place? What was he hiding?
 
Bob tried to talk her out of it, but she had wanted, no needed, to see the place for herself. Reluctantly, he had handed over the keys.

* * *
 
Pauline, when you read the book I hope you feel I captured Holly’s feelings, and touched on some of the issues faced by women who have lost their life partner or spouse.

Thank you for the inspiration.

Friday, 28 June 2013

In my Next Life

WRITTEN IN THE WINTER OF 2010
            I have had an awakening, an epiphany, if you like. And so, with a sudden need to believe that this life can't be the only life I'll ever live, I embrace reincarnation as my end of life view.
            I need to believe that I will have an opportunity to experience the life that I missed out on, this time around. I have felt a restlessness these last few days that I attributed, at first, to the grey skies and constant threat of a storm after a winter of basically sunny, blue skies and an absence of snow. But today I can admit that my blue mood has been the result of my approaching birthday, a birthday that marks the passing of another decade. Reflecting back on my life, I find it lacking…and unfulfilled, and am distressed with the realization that the future years are now more limited.
            In a 1928 interview with the San Francisco Examiner, Henry Ford stated his belief in reincarnation. Why would you not, he asked, for “...if there was a chance” wouldn't you embrace that “...time was no longer limited.”
            Reincarnation comes from Hindu-Buddhist philosophy that believes that one's soul moves from body to body in an ongoing birth-death-birth cycle. They believe that the status of each successive body is the direct result of the quality of life that soul led in the previous body. So if a soul lived a 'good' life it would move on to a higher quality form, and if it lived a 'bad' life it moved on to a lower form. This can really get interesting, as they believe that not all souls move on to another human form but may move on as an animal. That should make some people very leery of where they might spend their next life, after all, what goes around, comes around.
            Such is the Law of Karma, the central foundation of Hinduism and other eastern based philosophies. Karma teaches that good deeds are rewarded and bad deeds punished. The ultimate goal is to progress to the highest level of existence, to become one with the universe and...you have unlimited chances to get it right.
            Reincarnation is not in line with the dominant doctrine of Christian faiths, Catholic or Protestant but I feel the concept of reincarnation is as substantial as the concept that you'll 'get your reward in heaven'. I don't want to sound as if I have no faith, for my Protestant upbringing has stayed with me even if my regular church going has not. Living a good life so one can get into heaven, or living a good life so one can move on to a better life, not much difference in my opinion. Both require a faith in something, some form of afterlife.
            Even New Age philosophies, such as the Wiccans believe in a form of reincarnation. Their belief is that the soul is moved to a place called Summerland, to rest and prepare for the next incarnation. Once reincarnated, they believe that you continues to do so, until you've experienced all that there is to experience and move to a higher plane of existence.
            The thing is, none of this can be proven, there is no evidence that reincarnation actually happens. It's a leap of faith, and faith, in whatever form, is what gets you through the day.
            Too many years have passed, not all of them kindly, and I am left with the regrets that I didn't live enough, didn't love enough, didn't risk enough. It is too easy to get weighed down with regret, with missed opportunities and with lost dreams.
            I am reminded of the poem “Warning” by Jenny Joseph, when I am an old woman, I shall wear purple. Having felt trapped by convention, by responsibility, for most of my life I look back and see all the wasted years and regret that it is only now, in my senior moments, that I am brave enough to wear purple.
            I hope when I move on from this earth that my soul will have it better. May it find a new life full of fun, may it not be so serious and may it not be lonely. That is what I wish for my soul, for us, and that is why I want to believe in reincarnation.
PS I searched the internet and found bits and pieces of information when I wrote this. Today as I was posting, I remembered that I have readers from many parts of the world. I apologize if this information is inaccurate. The intent at the time...by writing about my thoughts and feelings I got all those negative thoughts out of my head, there was no offense intended..

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

A Glimpse into a Child's Inner Thoughts


I want to share a conversation I had with my eight year old granddaughter. We’ve had many such interesting, and dare I say philosophical discussions, usually when we’re in the car and have no outside distractions.
“Poppa’s dead isn’t he?” she asked, catching me by surprise. (Poppa being her maternal grandfather who died before she was born.)
“Yes,” I answered, waiting to see where she was going with this.
 "I never met him, did I?”
“No, he died before you were born, but he would have loved you very much,” I said.
“Where did he go when he died?”
Oh great, I thought; now we’re into it. How do I reply?
“Poppa went to heaven,” I answered, cautiously. Was this going to be reassuring, I wonder? Is she worried about death and what comes after?
“Maybe he’ll get born again,” she says.
Well, hell, or is it heaven or reincarnation, or what. Where does she come up with this stuff?
In for a penny, in for a pound, which is a really silly phrase but its meaning is fairly well known. Ok, go for it, I tell myself.
“Some people believe that when you die, sometimes you can be born again. If you lived a good life, it’s like you deserve another chance.”
This I say to a child getting a Catholic School Education, I’m surprised I wasn’t struck down by lightning on the spot.
And here we got to the crux of her question.
“Maybe if I got born again I wouldn’t have to take medication.”
It broke my heart and I had to blink back tears that this sweet young thing felt her need to take daily medication was a negative thing, that it made her somehow…less.
I did my best to reassure her that taking medication is just something we have to do, to help us live the healthiest life we can. I told her that I take medication everyday too, but I’m not sure comparing her situation to mine, (given the fact that I’m ‘old’), was really the comfort I hoped it would be.
I think it’s so sad that children grow up feeling ostracized for being different, and then as adults strive for individuality and their own identity.
Funny, but I too had had thoughts about reincarnation, and will share those on Friday, but for now, I want to end on a happier note, so here’s another story.
This same child, much younger at the time, came to visit and we were having a snack and watching a movie. Slouched down on the couch, our feet on the ottoman (well, my feet were on the ottoman, hers wouldn’t reach) we were eating potato chips.
She had control of the bag and was handing me chips, one at a time, before giving me a handful all at once. I set them on my upper chest, as with my semi-reclined position, and my generous bosom, I had a shelf to rest them on.
I watched her mimic my action and immediately told her not to do that, realizing the bad example I had set. I told her she didn’t want to get grease stains on her nice T-shirt, but it didn’t matter about mine as it was my art shirt and it was already covered with paint.
She looked at me very seriously, considering all this information.
“So, it’s OK if you have paint on your shirt?”
What else could I reply but yes, it made sense with her child’s sense of logic.
Maybe, sometime, I’ll share our conversation about where food comes from.
What a kid, she keeps me on my toes.

 

 

Friday, 21 June 2013

A Story of Cane and Able


One of the greatest challenges I’ve faced, in dealing with a chronic illness, is accepting that, sometimes, I need to ask for help. For my entire nursing career, I was the one giving and doing for others, and now I’m learning to step aside and letting others do for me.

It’s hard giving up, not only my independence, but the control that goes with it.

A number of years ago I bought a cane, when my balance became an issue. It didn’t leave the car. I’m stubborn, and didn’t want to give in to my disease, until…. The following is an essay I wrote that clarified the issue for me.

Writing everything down after this ‘fall’ gave me better understanding, but like I said, I’m stubborn. It was awhile after the incident below that I finally gave in, or got smart, whichever way you want to look at it, and actually took the cane out of the car.  

 
A STORY OF CANE AND ABLE

            I could feel the heat of the summer sun. It seemed to drain my energy with every step. I needed to concentrate; left, right, left, right...to concentrate on walking, as if my legs and feet wouldn't know what to do if I didn't cue them.

            One block, only one more block. I was wandering all over the sidewalk. Only if I ran my hand along the store fronts could I stay relatively straight. When it became more crowded I'd stop and look in the store windows. I didn't want to bump into anyone or have anyone bump into me and knock me off balance.

            Finally, the bank. Standing at the teller's counter, I could feel her watching me. I must have looked rough as she asked if I was alright. I needed to get home, to get out of the heat and rest.

            I cut through the back parking lot to get to my car. I was hot and sweaty, my vision blurred, my legs weak and uncoordinated.

            “Damn speed bump!”.  I hadn't been going fast at all and the speed bump stopped me flat.  I tripped and fell hard, road burns to my hands and knees, and the pain, pain in my knees, pain in my shoulder and pain in my hands. I was so self conscious and embarrassed. With my already 'bad' knee I had difficulty getting up from the ground without a chair or some kind of support, and there I was, weak and injured, sitting in a wide open parking lot.

            Very quickly there were strangers around me, those people who'd seen me fall and those whose curiosity had drawn them near. It was difficult getting up, even with the help of others.

            Go away!  Go away and leave me alone!  Help me!

            One kind soul seemed to sense my discomfort and led me to her car. She drove me to where my car was parked and saved me further embarrassment and discomfort. I had overdone it. Walked too long, too far and on a day that was too hot.

            Had I used my cane would I have been better able to walk straight, without so much energy spent in maintaining my balance? I've had the cane but it has never been taken out of the car. I feel awkward with it, but would I look as awkward with it, as I looked staggering along without it?

            How did I look? Did onlookers think I was inebriated? Did shop owners think I was loitering with the intention to steal? If I'd had the cane would someone have held the door for me, or given me space so as not to unbalance me?

            As my Multiple Sclerosis is basically invisible I feel the use of the cane draws attention to me.  I've learned to use whatever is available to help maintain my balance and to walk a straight path. I use walls, store displays, benches, whatever is handy. I use shopping carts like they’re a walker, for support so I can walk farther and longer. With a cart I can rest momentarily by leaning on it and so reduce my fatigue.

            With the cart I can walk a straight line. I am protected because the space immediately behind the cart is 'my' space. I don't get caught up in the crowd, subject to other people's movement that might require a responding move on my part. I can't move suddenly or quickly and maintain balance. I tend to avoid crowds where I might be jostled, especially if I have no hand hold to steady me.

            Over the last few years I have subconsciously changed my shopping habits and now rarely shop where there is no cart available. I rarely go to the mall to shop and though I miss the variety, the wide open walkways and the crowds intimidate me.

            I avoid downtown for the similar reasons. The sidewalks are crowded and not as wide as the walk ways at the mall. If I want a store across the street it's more walking, to cross at the intersection, as jaywalking is dangerous, on the chance I might have to suddenly hurry to avoid traffic.

            And then there's the parking. At both the mall and downtown the walk to the actual shopping area can be long enough to be fatiguing, and I've avoided getting a handicap parking permit the same way I've avoided the cane. At least in a plaza setting I can park close to the store I want and avoid the long walks and crowds of the mall or downtown. My steps are hesitant and irregular especially over uneven surfaces. I have an increased sense of vulnerability and a fear of falling. Large chain stores that offer a variety of goods and services are my salvation. I can do most of my shopping with one stop.

My fear of giving in to the cane is just denial. I'm avoiding the truth, that on some days, I need some assistance. The cane is a common sense tool. I've not shown a lot of common sense in my stubborn refusal to make use of something that could benefit me.

            What is that quote, something about pride going before a fall?  It's time to make a necessary adjustment and adapt to a new way of doing things. The cane doesn't have to be an always thing but I need to admit that, on some days, I need the help. This way I won't push myself doing too much and paying for it later.

            A quick trip to the store in the morning, when I'm rested, may be managed independently. On an afternoon when I'm tired, I'd be glad of the support. It's a matter of knowing me and knowing my limitations.

            I have to go out and do some errands. As its late afternoon I'll miss my nap and I'll be tired. So it's a perfect day to take the cane out of storage. Maybe I'll even venture out to the Department of Motor Vehicles and check into a Handicap Parking Permit.

*  *  *

In update, I did get the Handicapped Parking Permit, and used it cautiously, the cane stayed in the car.

One day a friend and I went to a cottage country outdoor art show. Parking was quite a distance away, and she suggested I park in the handicapped parking, right near the entrance. I started to pull into the parking lot and was stopped at the gate by a volunteer. Even when I showed him my permit, he looked skeptical.

And why not? We were two middle aged women, in apparent good health, laughing and enjoying our day. By all appearances, my illness wasn’t overt, nor was my friend’s asthma, which would have made walking a long distance difficult.

We could see the man watching as we parked. I flippantly said “I’ll limp and make it look good”.

She answered “Use your cane”.

And so I did.

I think one reason I hesitated to use the cane was the public declaration it made. I was not perfect, (like that had ever really been my reality, but you know what I mean), I had an illness.

This was my public persona, and my public persona was presenting as a person…with a disability.

I think using the cane when out and about, away from home, eased me into it. Part of my reluctance was that it felt awkward; trying to manage cane, purse and whatever else I might need to carry.

I had one more excursion, to the St Jacob’s Farmers’ Market, where I used the cane and found it invaluable.

I discovered something important on those days. People are considerate of the cane, doors are held open, no one rushed me, and crowds gave me space. My biggest fear in a crowd is getting knocked off balance and falling. You know…the ‘I’ve fallen and I can’t get up’ syndrome.

I became comfortable with the cane so by the time I was using around home I was prepared. When I met people I knew, who had never seen me with the cane, their first question was always “What’s with the cane?” They were expecting an easy answer, like I sprained my knee or something, and were understanding when I explained.

I’ve conquered the cane; or ‘the stick’ as my grandson calls it, and am now faced with another challenge. The walker. Walkers are steadier, more like the shopping carts at the store, and they have a built in seat should I get tired and need to rest.

I know I should get one, and I will. I’ll probably store it in the car until I’m ready.

 

 

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Old Habits, New Routines and Signs of Things to Come



I’ve been ten days in the new place, half way to the three weeks my Dad told me were required to make something new a habit or routine.

Twice last week when returning home I found myself headed to the old place, so I think I’m going to need all of those three weeks.

My kitchen here is smaller, less cupboard space and less counter. I was spoiled with the old one. I guess I’ll manage; it would probably help if I actually used it, and like cooked something.

My eating habits over the last…ha, ha, ha…three weeks have been atrocious, fast food, freezer dinners, cheese and crackers with cold meat. I guess I’ll have to train myself to eat healthier, to make better choices. That’s why my fridge is full of salad, vegetables and lean meats.

Three weeks eh? So no more snacking in place of meals, and I’ll start with breakfast, the most important meal of the day.

The one thing that has taken no adjustment time is the switch from my desktop to the laptop. I can’t believe how fast it is and have wasted a lot of time just surfing the net. My favourites list that was on the old computer has expanded on the laptop as I discovered numerous new art sites worthy of a revisit.

There’s a garden space to the left of my door that extends around the corner of the unit to the back door, so I spent an afternoon researching small gardens, along with artsy additions and statuary.

I have a lovely stone angel that was meant for the garden. It’s heavy as all get out, and covered in a sort of green verdigras. I always had it on a table at the end of my loveseat, as I thought it was too pretty to leave in the garden. Alas it will be in the garden now, but right outside my door where I can see it every morning.

I have to tell you about the strangest thing that happened tonight.

I was at my daughter’s to celebrate her son’s fifth birthday. After dinner, presents and cake, we left to go to his sister’s soccer game. I made the trip through the Tim Horton’s drive thru for tea and sat at the side of the field to enjoy the evening watching a really good soccer game. Unfortunately she lost 8-6.

Anyway, back to the strange thing. I was driving home, one town to another, about 15 kilometres and knew I wouldn’t make it home without a pit stop.

When I went to turn left onto the local highway to home, two cars ahead of me were also turning left, but from the right hand lane. Good thing they had their turn signals on, I stayed back and let them make their turn, exercising my right to yell and curse from the privacy of my car.

The first car made the turn and almost immediately changed from the left to the right hand lane, and put his signal on to turn into Tim’s. I did the same as that was going to be my pit stop. The older gentleman got out of his car and stood watching me with some trepidation as I pulled in beside him.

It took me a moment to understand why he was acting with such caution, he thought he was about to come face to face with a case of road rage. The look on my face had nothing to do with being angry, but more to do with how badly I needed to pee.

When I walked around the front of my vehicle with a cane I don’t know whether he was immediately relieved or feared I was going to hit him over the head.

We arrived at the entrance at the same time, and he kindly held the door for me and I gave him a smile and words of thanks. Even if I had been angry, I think he realized he could easily out run me.

Road Rage.

If I feel angry at someone’s driving, I keep my comments verbal, spoken aloud for my ears only, and I never gesture. I think it’s some of those rude gestures that can turn an annoyed driver into an irate one. It’s better to show some caution, you never know when the other driver may be on the edge, holding who knows what emotions in check and a simple ‘finger’ is the last straw, to send him into a rage.

There is one gesture I use all the time, its hand speak for ‘I Love You’. I believe it’s used in Sign Language, and the kids and I adopted it, instead of a simple wave, from the time they were very young.

Recently, I stood at the door of my old building, as my daughter drove out of the parking lot with her son, and raised my hand, little and forefinger raised, with thumb extended, in our usual parting’s last ‘word’.

I wish I had been in the car to hear my grandson’s response. He’s reached a new level of awareness since he’s started school and seems to notice things he missed before. Apparently he got very excited when he saw me sign, and I went up in Grandmother Points because he thought I was giving him the Spiderman Sign.

Aren’t I just the coolest Grandma, I made the Spiderman sign, though I failed miserably at throwing out any Spidey Web.

I had to laugh, for I am so not into Super Heroes, but I impressed, for that moment, a little boy with his love for make believe characters.

Well, shazam.   

 

  

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

How Can This Be Wednesday Already?


"I'm late, I'm late, for a very important date".I feel like I've fallen down the rabbit hole.

I’ve lost track of time, since everything has become a blur since Sunday, the day I moved.

Sunday was the official move-in date; though I’ve been moving my stuff in gradually for a month. As of the other night, my bed and body were finally in the new place.

I slept well Sunday night, whether it was overwhelming fatigue or a sense of relief, I don’t know. I’m more inclined to think it was the few glasses of wine I had with the neighbours at the old place before I left.  

When I was doing the A-Z Blogging Challenge in April I knew I was going to be moving. I look back and realize how the impending move flavoured my posts, like ‘Purge’ and ‘By the Yard’.

Downsizing is not easy, especially for an artisan hoarder like me. I spent days pulling out fabric, yarn, paper and other craft supplies from every nook and cranny in my apartment. There were lots of surprises, like ‘I remember what I was making this for’ and ‘I knew that was in there somewhere’.

I have a lot of ideas, but poor follow through, it seems.

It might be hard for others to understand this moving by bits and pieces, but it works for me. I have a limited amount of strength and energy, so my whole life is lived in bits and pieces. I needed to move the most important things first, and then sorting through the rest became easier.

I have my bookcases, most of my books, and my angel collection so I’m happy. I gave up my computer and desk for the laptop, but still have to figure out what I’m going to do about the printer.

I gave up my art table, but that wasn’t a big sacrifice, as I’d used the kitchen table for years.

Funny, I was able to keep the blog on schedule while I was packing and purging, but just couldn’t get to it the last couple of days. I think the stress of the last month has finally gotten to me.

I want to thank my kids, for all their assistance and their cooperation. I know packing and doing the move all at once would have been easier for them, and less of a demand on their time, but I needed to do it slowly, as I had the energy.

So, here I am, sitting on my sofa with my feet up, my cup of tea at hand, writing my blog and looking out my window at a bright and sunny day.

I need to get back to some serious work now, like finishing the edit on my NaNo novel and doing the prep to publish my second murder story.

And I’m determined to use up all that fabric and yarn the kids are storing for me. I see a rag quilt in everyone’s future.

My Dad used to say that it took three weeks for a change to feel normal. The weeks I took sorting through my belongings seemed ‘normal’ like that was my life, packing, making decisions and never actually going anywhere.

But it was only an interim, this is the real change. I have to laugh, my daughter helped me unpack the kitchen and had everything neat and tidy, and the counters clear when she left. There’s not much space there now, but I’ll get it clear again. I have to, for at some point I may want to cook myself a meal.

It fell to my son, by virtue of his being the adult male in the family, to ‘tote that barge/ lift that bale’.  What, you’re thinking, does that mean?

The origin is long before my time, but I always liked the rhythm of it, and have used it on occasion. It comes from the song ‘Ol Man River’, from the 1927 musical ShowBoat. The song was sung by dockworkers and contrasts the hardships of working on the docks with the endless, and carefree, flow of the Mississippi River.

My son did a lot of toting and lifting, and I’m sure there were times he thought he’d never see the end of it.

I always used that phrase as encouragement, come on, tote that barge, lift that bale, let’s get this job done. And now, the job is almost done. I have unpacking and some decorating to do, but that’s the fun part.

I feel content, I feel a freedom from the burden of what I’d let myself collect, and I feel…at home.

And isn’t that what we all want, a sense of home and belonging.

 

 

 

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

The Crazy Lady With the Cats


            When I was younger I aspired to be that crazy old lady in the neighbourhood, the one who lived all alone with her house full of cats. This goal came to me after a time, after I started acquiring cats as household pets.

             In my earlier life I was a dog person, and for most of that time had one, if not more, dogs in the house. It was after my divorce, from the husband and, unfortunately, from the dogs, that I was given my first cat. The children were used to having a pet, and as I was working full time, a cat seemed easier than a dog. We obtained the cat, one of a four kitten litter, from a friend of my daughter. 
            There were three male kittens in that litter that the owner had named Thomas, Magnum and PI. That should tell you I got my cat when Tom Selleck was on TV, running around the beaches of Hawaii in his shorts, to the approval of a grateful, female viewing audience. Thomas was our cat, affectionately called Tommy within the family.
            A long haired white cat, Tommy had soft camel coloured spots, one on each foot and one on his back with a matching coloured tail. He was a good cat in spite of the fact that he ruined all the corners on my sofa. When he was left alone during the day all the furniture had to be covered, for its own protection. No matter what scratchy toys I bought him, Tommy still loved the corners of the furniture the best.
            Even though he was an indoor cat I refrained from getting Tommy declawed, on the very insistent advice of the vet. Apparently it's not a nice procedure and leaves the cat defenseless. Tommy was affectionate and well adjusted...well, except for the couch thing, but he didn't like change. Unfortunately change is a fact of life and the kids and I had to move when I took a job in another town. I was working even longer hours and the kids were older, busier, and the house was often empty for hours on end. As it seemed to be my inclination, to remain single, I decided to get another cat, for companionship...for Tommy.  
            We found a cat shelter and picked out a young tabby cat that we named Guido. Let me be clearer, that the kids named Guido. 
            That was when I started my aspiration to be that old lady with all the cats. My plan was to get another cat each time I entered another decade of my life. My two cats and I could live happily, for another few years, before we cast another 'boy' into the mix.
            Cats, like any living creature, can be prone to health issues. Poor Tommy was plagued with recurrent bladder problems which eventually led to chronic renal failure, a progressive disease for which there is no cure. We watched our fat Tom cat lose weight and become less and less active. He was watched over by his younger friend but there was no saving him. Shortly after I lost my beloved Tommy and lost heart with the idea of adding a new cat for the new decade.
            Guido became the king of the castle and took over the time honoured responsibility for destroying my furniture. He also didn't respond well to change and didn't like the new house, didn't like being the 'only' cat and started escaping from the house for days on end. One time he was gone for such a long time I had almost given him up for dead. I was calling the animal shelter frequently but they had no cat like our Guido. When I stopped in at the shelter, after weeks and weeks of looking, we finally got our Guido back. He'd been found in another neighbourhood, so far from ours that I couldn't believe he’d traveled such a distance and remained safe. He had disappeared in winter and was picked up when he'd taken shelter, for days on end, in a basement window. 
            He was thin, very skittish and was never, ever, the same. His health deteriorated, he never regained the weight and he, too, fell victim to chronic renal failure. 
            For twenty years I had had the companionship of my cats and now, within a few short years, instead of adding a third cat, I had lost both of my 'boys'. The down side of having cats; the maintenance of the kitty litter, the destruction of the furniture and the constant shedding was never too much for me as the positives outweighed the negatives. These cats had been true friends.
            Both Tommy and Guido had been able to pick up on my moods, usually better than anyone else. I could never sit and have a cry without a cat pressing into my side to remind me I was not alone. They were always close by, closer when I needed, but otherwise a companion, a living thing to talk to, a reason to come home to an otherwise empty house.
            I hadn't realized how much I missed my cats until recently, when I entered yet another decade. If all had gone according to plan I should have been out looking for another cat, instead I'm reminiscing about the ones who have come and gone. Tommy and Guido were invaluable friends, at a time I needed such friends and I will always remember them.
            And what about all those aspirations to be that crazy old lady with the cats?  Well, it doesn't take cats for people to think you're crazy, if that's what you want. Maybe in this phase of my life I want to be known for something else, something more positive. Maybe I'll start with something easy...like the lady in the poem, 'When I'm an old lady I'll wear purple.....”