Rest In Peace Little One

The end of 2001 was a tough time.  The country was, of course, still raw from 9/11.  Husband had recently been, quite literally, nearly lost at sea when his research vessel capsized and he nearly died.  I was sick with what we now know was a flare of endometriosis and rheumatoid arthritis, although at the time we didn’t know what was wrong with me and were ruling out truly scary diagnoses such as ovarian cancer.  In the midst of all of this gloom and chaos Husband and I decided to add some joy to our lives by adding a new member to our little family.  We had adopted a feral kitten back in college, and Husband, formerly an exclusive “dog person” had fallen hard for the spunky feline.  It didn’t take much cajoling to convince him that a second cat was just what we needed.

We ventured to an adoption event at the local Petco.  There, a local cat rescue organization, had a bank of cages filled with cats of various ages.  I spied a playful looking cat and took out one of my shoelaces to play with him or her; the cat wasn’t particularly interested but a skinny kitten in an adjoining cage saw the shoelace and began reaching her paw through the the cage, batting at it with enthusiasm.  She was a tiny “dilute” calico with a head that seemed a bit too small for her body and long slender legs. The tag on her enclosure read “Patches”; a fitting, but sadly generic name for such a lovely little girl.  She cocked her head to the side as she played; giving her a perpetually curious look.  We were hooked and submitted an application that day.

She came home to us not long after and we christened her Cossette.  She was still full of innocent spunk but also full of some serious germs.  The cute little head tilt we had seen at the adoption fair was actually the result of a massive ear infection which caused her to turn her head so that she was able to hear out of her good ear.  In her first weeks with us Husband was taking care of two sick girls; little Cossette and me.  I had surgery and Husband brought me handfuls of pain medications and then after wrapped up our little kitten in a towel and fed her a cocktail of antibiotics, anti-virals, and immune boosters.  Cossette had been abandoned or lost her mother very early in her life and had never really “attached” to anyone.  Husband and Cossette bonded and she became his cat.  For the past 15 years their nightly ritual was for Cossette to wait patiently, but insistently, for Husband to lay on his back so she could climb onto his chest; kneading and purring.

Cossette was an anxious little soul; skittish and shy.  Many people didn’t even realize we had a second cat.  She loved to be loved but always very much on her own terms.  I would often find her curled up on top of my head in the middle of the night.  If she really liked you she would try to groom you.  She was quite a chatty little cat and had the loudest purr per pound of any cat I’ve ever known.

She was initially timid with the kids, just as she was with anyone new but she developed a regular habit of napping with them on our bed; particularly Middle and Baby. I break out in a grin when I remember the sequels of delight that the girls would let out when they woke up next to Cossette. Her shyness taught the children to be kind and gentle with animals.

Over the past couple of years she had her ups and downs with health; expected for a senior cat I suppose. We worried about how she would handle the move to our new home but she was completely nonplussed; becoming even more cuddly and friendly. She would often curl up in our bed with the five of us while we read stories to the kids. She would lie in Middle’s bed when she was sad or falling asleep. She would sleep between Husband and I, right between our pillows, nuzzling me and purring when my alarm went off for early mornings at the hospital. When Husband or I were up late working or grading Cossette would be curled by our sides, a calm comforting presence in the darkest hours of the night. Every morning when I made our bed she would grudgingly and delicately walk around my movements of sheets and pillows to end up sitting as queen of her fluffy domain.  Whenever I got to the top of the stairs I saw her curled up on our bed; the picture of feline contentment.  I had come to think that I would always see her there.

A few weeks ago she seemed somehow older than usual; slow and indifferent to food. Hundreds of dollars of tests and medications later we didn’t have a definitive answer.  A little over a week ago she stopped eating entirely.  We went to a different veterinarian and on Friday received a diagnosis of terminal kidney disease.  The veterinarian said that with fluids and supportive medications she might be made comfortable for  some time longer.  I left for work on Saturday morning, heart heavy, but hopeful for more time.  Husband was planning to take Cossette into the doctor’s office so that he could learn how to admisnter fluids.  But it was not to be.  Cossette declined rapidly that morning.  She was clearly uncomfortable and struggling.  I came home just in time.  It was time to help her go.  A local veterinarian who made house calls came that afternoon and surrounded by her family, in her favorite spot in the world, we put Cossette to sleep.

It was as peaceful of a death as one could possibility hope for (feline or human) but it is still a death with the same result that she is well and truly gone.  Older cried longer and harder than he had since he was a colicky newborn.  Middle has alternated between fascination at the process, denial, and deep sadness.  Baby is doing the best of all of us; she’s too young to feel it as deeply which is something of a blessing for her and for us.

We had just finished planting a rose garden in our front yard that day and buried Cossette in a tiny plot next where the beautiful flowers will bloom.  We will make a petite headstone, fitting for her, place a bench or a tree stump nearby to sit remember her.  I feel more off balance from her death than I would have expected.  I think it is missing her but also that we got her just a few months after we were married.  She was with us through most of our adult lives, the birth of our children, and all three of the homes we have had together.  Her death is yet another marker of the end of this era of our lives.  I will miss her greatly.  Rest in peace little one.

 

 

 

2016 Year in Review

I enjoy these sorts of posts from everyone else and as I get older it’s sadly more difficult to recall the events of the year after they have passed so I am writing 2016 down for posterity.

1. What did you do in 2016 that you’d never done before?

*Quit a job.  I’ve had a position end, been laid off, and settled a discrimination claim but I had never outright quit a job before.  It was one of the best decisions I made all year.

2. Did you keep your New Year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

*I didn’t make any last year; which is odd for me.  We had just pulled out of escrow on a house and I was feeling pretty low about it.  Not knowing where we would be living in a year made it difficult for me to resolve anything.

*I am still finalizing this years resolutions.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

*Yes, my next door neighbor (at our old house).  We gave many of our baby things to her including the crib that all the kids used.  But we didn’t give everything away…just in case.

4. Did anyone close to you die?

*No.

5. What countries did you visit? Where did you travel this year?

*Ha ha ha. Countries. Counties would be more accurate.  Although I did make it farther this past year than I have in a long time.  I traveled to Florida to give a talk on how to respectfully incorporate transgender people in a healthcare setting.  I also traveled to Vegas for a girls weekend.  And our immediate family took an amazing road trip around the central California coast this past summer.

6. What would you like to have in 2017 that you lacked in 2016?

*Peace about our school decisions for the kids.

*Health:  my rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia have flared and I need to get them back under control.

7. What dates or moments from 2016 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

*The last time I nursed Baby.  I had wanted to let her self wean and through late 2015 and early 2016 she nursed less and less on her own until finally she didn’t nurse for several weeks.  I thought that was the gentle end of it.  Then while rocking her to sleep she asked to nurse.  At that point there really wasn’t much, if any, milk left and I don’t enjoy long drawn out transitions so I told her that the milk had gone away and we weren’t going to nurse anymore.  I held her as she cried the deepest most profound tears of her life.  I cried along with her.  I think she knew as well as I did that this was the end of an era for us.  I just held her and told her how much I loved her and how special she was to me.  After pouring out all of her tears she looked up at me and said “But we can always eat chocolate together, right?”   I laughed and told her “Yes!” and we resolved to be little old ladies together someday eating chocolate together.  Then she mused that she wasn’t really done nursing as one day she would nurse her own babies.  And then, of course, I cried some more at that thought.  She never asked again after that night to nurse but she talks about it fairly often and will occasionally ask for a piece of chocolate and snuggle.

*Sitting in the pantry of our old house and full on ugly crying as we did the final packing and cleaning.  I never lived in a house longer than 2.5 years growing up.  We lived in that first house we bought together for nearly 14 years.  We didn’t really want to leave but felt we needed more space for the kids and a safer neighborhood.  We moved for the kids and it was the right thing to do, but husband and I deeply miss our old house.

*Election night.  Older sobbing and falling asleep on the floor because he couldn’t bear to go up alone to his room while we were still watching.  All the kids were devastated with the results right along with us.

*Baby telling me “My favorite days are Tuesdays and Christmas”.  Tuesdays because I didn’t work on that day – ever – and picked her up at lunchtime every Tuesday.  It really cemented for me how much she and I both needed me to be around more.

Gee, this list makes 2016 sound like kind of a downer!  OK a good one:

*Sitting at the Ghiradelli ice cream shop in Monterey Bay on the last day of our summer vacation watching the kids share a gigantic banana split while in the booth thinking about how grateful I was for all of them and our time together.  Behind them a baby – perhaps eight months old or so – smiled and giggled on her parent’s lap and I thought about how fast our kids had grown up and I just wanted to freeze them right then and there.

Damn, now that story ended rather melancholy too.  I’m hopeless!

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

*Painting the entire inside of my house (except the kitchen and dining room which we are still deciding what to do with) within the first three months of our owning it.

*Finding a new job that worked for me and my family.

9. What was your biggest failure?

*Taking the job at Unhappy Hospital.

*Putting Baby in school full-time so that I could work at the above job.  It hasn’t been a good match for her.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

*I severely sprained my ankle on our summer vacation in August.  It has taken months to heal and still isn’t 100%.

11. What was the best thing you bought?

*Our new house.

*An artificial Christmas tree.  I was very against artificial trees but I really like to put the tree up right after Thanksgiving and leave it up until January so a real tree looks pretty terrible by that point.  Couple that with Older’s and Husband’s allergies and Husband convinced me to try a fake tree.  We got a very nice, pre-lit one and I have to say I am a convert.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?

*All the kids when we were on our summer vacation.  It was amazing how well behaved they were.  They almost never complained through about 20 total hours of driving.  They all slept beautifully too.

*My mom and dad: the volunteered to fly down here, get a hotel room, and take our kids to “live” at said hotel room for 3 days straight so we could move without the children.  It was one of the nicest and most helpful things anyone has ever done for me.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?

*The president-elect.  Enough said.

14. Where did most of your money go?

*House
*School
*Food (The kids are really eating now! I am somewhat frightened of the idea of three teenagers in the house someday).
*Gymnastics
*Amazon prime
*Target

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?

*Our girls weekend in Las Vegas.  My mother turned 64 last year and she said something along the lines of “who knows how long I will last?” and in a VERY uncharacteristic move her per paid for my sister, my sister’s girlfriend, me, my aunt, my cousin, and my sister-in-law to have a girls weekend in Vegas. IT WAS AMAZING.   There was an odd number of us so I got my own ridiculous decadent 700 square foot hotel room.  My mom was worried I might be lonely in the room all by myself.  Let me tell you, I WAS NOT LONELY.  My mom pulled out all the stops including giving us gambling money.  I spent it on a 90 minute massage instead.  Heaven on earth!

16. Compared to this time last year, are you:

a) happier or sadder? About the same

b) thinner or fatter? About 5 pounds heavier.  I would be more bummed about it except I am rather proud of myself for only gaining 5 lbs given all of the stress of this year.

c) richer or poorer? About the same.  Less money in the bank but more of it in the house.

17. What do you wish you’d done more of?

*Just relaxing

*Hiking as a family

18. What do you wish you’d done less of?

*Facebook.  I am not terribly active on Facebook but it is a time suck and I am thinking one of my 2016 resolutions is going to be a month without Facebook.

19. How did you spend Christmas?

*At home.  My sister and her girlfriend, my mom and dad, my in-laws, and Husband’s brother, sister-in-law, and nephew came to visit.  It was more chaotic and filled with more material gifts than I would have liked but it was a good day overall.

20. What was your favorite TV program?

*Once Upon a Time.  I recently introduced it to older and he is totally obsessed.  It’s fun that he is old enough to share that sort of thing with him.

21. What was the best book you read?

I cannot pick just one; I read quite a lot.  I read lots of great birthing and breastfeeding books such as Sheila Kitzinger’s “A Passion for Birth” and “Where’s the Mother: Stories from a Transgender Dad“.  I read some young adult dystopian fiction, including “The Giver” series, that I had never read as a kid.  I am also reading the Laura Ingalls Wilder books (we’re on Farmer Boy) to the girls which is something I always wanted to do with my kids.

22. What did you want and get?

*A new house with a bedroom for everyone and more than one bathroom.

*A new job.

*Older and Middle to be happy in school.

23. What did you want and not get?

*My garden to be ready for planting by January 1st.

*Feeling like my family is complete.  I’m not sure I will ever get to that point.  I will just get too old to have any more babies.

*A kitchen that I like (in the new house). Sigh.

24. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

*I was planning a small party but then Husband got sick but then we quickly converted to a girls night at a fancy restaurant which was even better because I didn’t have to clean up!

25. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

*Not being so damn tired.

26. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2016?

*Scrubs are ugly.  (Thankfully, my new job is business casual with a lab coat.)

32. What kept you sane?

*Not working on Tuesdays and taking Baby out of school that day early every week to spend one-on-one time with her.

*Lunchtime walks at work.

*Exercise.

*Husband buying me large quantities of See’s chocolates.

34. What political issue stirred you the most?

*LGBTQ Civil rights.

35. Who did you miss?

*My mom.  She and my dad are currently 400 miles away but are moving to 1 mile away from us (walking distance!) in 12 DAYS!

36. Who was the best new person you met?

One of the lactation consultants I worked with at Unhappy Hospital.  She was the best I’ve ever met at getting a baby to latch on, she was constantly encouraging me, and was very kind to everyone.  She reminded me of my mom.

37. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2016.

LISTEN TO YOUR GUT

(I had a VERY bad feeling about taking the job at Unhappy Hospital but I did it anyway and it was, not surprisingly, a disaster.  You would think at 38 years old I would know this by now – apparently not!)

 

 

Medicinal Laughter

There wasn’t much laughter in our house over the three months I was at my old job (yes, it’s now my old job – more on that at another time).  Although that job at Unhappy Medical Center was hard on all of us, Baby and I definitely took it the worst.  She had been displaying a number of behaviors that in an adult would have made me suspicious of depression; among them I couldn’t remember the last time I really heard her laugh.

Tonight I was putting Baby to bed and she commented on the Nutcracker performance I took the girls to a couple of weeks ago.  “I can’t believe the music was made by alive people!” she exclaimed.  (Translation:  there was a live orchestra).  “I know”, I replied.  “I am so glad that you were able to see some of the best ballet dancers in the world with a live aquarium!”*  She burst out laughing “Aquarium?”  “I meant orchestra!” I quickly corrected.  Baby only laughed harder.  She finally caught her breath to ask me why I said aquarium and I responded without thinking “It was just a little brain fart”.  Now Baby has been around for five whole years, she’s heard some funny things, but the concept of a brain fart was clearly the most hilarious thing she had ever heard in her life.  Baby’s laughter rang out across the land destroying all hope of a reasonable bedtime.  Her eyes teared up and between laughing fits she gulped air and pleaded “Say it again!”  Of course, it only got better when she laughed even harder resulting in her letting loose a series of actual farts.

She didn’t end up falling asleep until 10:45 but it was totally worth it; we both needed a good laugh.  I think we’re going to be OK.

*A strange symptom of rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia (which I am doubly blessed with) is “brain fog”.  For me, this generally manifests itself in my retrieving the wrong word.  In this case, to Baby’s great amusement

Dagger to the Heart

Every night, for all of her nearly five years of life, one of us has helped Baby to sleep.  As the nursing and then formerly nursing parent, that someone is usually me.  I mind a bit and have no plans push Baby into falling asleep on her own.  I now miss how I used to do the same thing with Older and Middle.  Two nights ago I was snuggling Baby in her bed while she chattered.  She paused and then added contemplatively “You really like snuggling me at night…because you don’t see me much anymore.”

Damn. That hurts.