feral and free

I think maybe my heart has been in hiding, knowing this day was fast approaching, whether I wished for it to or not.  I owe that last bit of restraint to this new self (not one that I particularly like I might add), the pseudo-independent who hides all the questionable feelings inside and stays positively bright. Oprah would call me a smiler. 

I'm having a hard time reconciling with my decision. I have 36 hours to let it sink in, to make peace with my little boy. My rational mind may have thought having the choice would make it less painful but my emotional heart is shaking a finger and mouthing "I told you so."

I've made a decision and its with a heavy heart, and a heavy head. I want to cry, I can feel it building up inside the upper regions of my mind meets brain circling the lobes, focused on the one that logically pulled the trigger. And frankly am amazed that I haven't erupted into a tearful disaster; that my heart has not already broken into a million tiny pieces. 

The decision waits in the wings: to let my 18+ year companion go, so that he can find peace from discomfort and pain, and journey to a quiet place so that he can be wild and feral and free. 

when you believe

I am a mess, literally. From my apartment to my desk to my car. A big hot mess as my friends from the South might say. Not that there's anything to really be a mess about, for the most part life is good, my career is on the right track, I've new hobbies and interests that are stretching boundaries and allowing me to meet interesting people. And yet, I feel off, disconnected. Not quite right.

My emotional heart leans toward the mystery, the unknown but my rational mind knows the answer: The season tis the reason. The holiday season, that is, as opposed to say winter. There was once a time that I enjoyed the holy holly days, where I relished the light spirit and giving heart that would come to three-dimensional life in and out of every day. In recent years though, the season has lost its luster. I think it may have started after mom passed. She died three weeks into the new year, and that last six weeks of celebration were tainted with sadness. It's been nearly 13 years, and I had hoped (prayed even) that the sadness would fade, replaced by a sort of kind of happiness. Something I could subtly detect. But I find instead that the melancholy, which lies dormant all the other months, appears earlier and earlier each year.

I miss the magic of what Thanksgiving to Christmas to New Years represented. If my father were to read this post, he might suggest (or adamantly insist) that visitation to Sunday mass would fix that, the perfect cure. And he might be right, the power of spiritual prayer, believing in the unseen, can have profound affects on someone.

For me though it runs wider than that toward the simplicity of life... the early childhood education classes, the folly of ice skating parties and snowball fights, the echoes of laughter among a gathering of friends and family, the breaking of bread and sharing of food, sometimes across days. Toward the innocent joy of being young, wearing rose-colored glasses and believing, in Santa, in everyone and everything.  


give thanks

Middle island. Sand and refuse to my left to my right. The houses stand quiet, with doors and windows closed to outsiders. The sky is crystal blue, salted with puffy white clouds. A Sunday morning drive brought us here to a beach community devastated by Hurricane Sandy. 

There are seven of us in our group of volunteers with a mixmosh of people from around upper North America--Toronto to Indiana, to locals just like us.  Colleen is manning a 2-way radio, directing us to gather trash, excess seaweed and anything that's not quite bundled in heaps, as part of our debris cleanup. We each have 3-5 extra-large trash bags and although we have just started, they fill up quickly. Luckily Tariq the volunteer foreman who drove from Columbus, OH to help the effort, is in constant contact with headquarters, and before long a blue hatchback pulls up with more bags. The driver, a fireman is another volunteer also from Columbus. 

We are volunteering in Long Beach, NY at the Magnolia Senior Center with Humanity First, a nonprofit organization that specializes in serving victims of natural disaster worldwide. Their history is impressive with expansive efforts dating back to 1995. 

A surgeon from Syosset shares stories about working with communities in Haiti and Indonesia, some of which are disturbingly graphic. He talks about corpses and caring for casualties omnisciently. He is there with his son, what a great role model he is for his children. Another doctor, an economist, a recruiter, a writer, so many walks of life donating time and energy to give back to so many who have suffered loss. 

We work in teams of two and three. A fleet of minivans, white then blue, moms and kids doing their part, offering lunch: sandwiches, cookies, juice and crackers. Saying thank you. 


Never say goodbye

We ask for signs for directions to help us make the hard decisions -- and yet when we see them, when they unfold right before our eyes we often have trouble seeing.

Tigger has been sick for the better part of the year, but he has really taken a turn for the worse in the last few months. I know in my heart, in my head what has to be done; except I can't be moved to do the mature thing, to take that next step. I keep putting it off, trying to convince myself that he's not suffering that he's okay, that he's not ready to leave this world. I'm only fooling myself, I know that it's me who's not ready to let go.

Six months ago when we last visited the vet, I was strong, I was determined, I knew that I didn't want him to suffer through tests and ultrasounds, tubes and surgeries. An alley cat brought inside to a warm hearth 18 years ago, Tigger has had a very good life and I refused to allow his last days turned upside down by medicine. So even when Dr. Langston suggested surgery, I opted for my own home-grown hospice with a free-form diet, medication and steroids, a weekly B-12 shot. I switched him off his kidney-failure food, and supplemented it with his favorite organic raw and home-cooked meals. He's back to dry kibble like when he was a kitten. He can't even keep that down, in his body long enough for it to replenish his strength.

We had a weigh-in: Tigger is 9 lbs. This time last year he was almost double that in weight and girth. When I pick him up, he leans against me like a bike without a kickstand, and I can feel the notches of his spine, each vertebrae of his rib cage. He is dazed and confused--where he once used to nestle in the nook of my arm or squirm with the energy of a small child he now hangs limply. I don't think we're meant to comfort an animal in that state.

He and I have always had a love hate relationship with feeding times, Tigger has always been an early to rise and eat kind of cat. The perfect alarm cat during the weekdays, an unwelcome annoyance on the weekends. These days he cries out with no sense of timing whatsoever, and the wake-up calls have been replaced by convulsing pukes and poops at 3-hour intervals. Despite my best efforts at adding wee pads and extra litter boxes, Tigger has claimed many closet floors as his own private inside outhouse.

Tigger makes a beeline for the water dish, I watch him hesitate. His thirst is unquenchable--it's a symptom and side effect of KRF disease--and there are bowls in every corner of the apartment, guideposts to food, drink, litter. His body moves forward and he senses the placement of a water bowl right there in front of him but he can't seem to find it. A paw makes contact with the rim, and he nudges at it with his forehead, sometimes he does a manicure dip, occasionally he laps it up. Most days success is coming home to puddles of water on the floor, the bowls over turned. This night he drinks for a moment and then wobbles his way to the living room, like a drunk trying to remember the steps to Achy Break-y Heart.

Tonight we hit rock bottom--he walked over to the litter box and dipped his head, I thought to sniff but he licked the gravel instead. My heart lurched forward, and my stomach dropped. I feel numb thinking about what the next few days will bring.

It's almost time for sleeping; I lift Tigger for a close hug, he is complacent, silent, purrless. That makes me sad to not hear him. I settle him on the foot of the bed and he doesn't even last a minute. His body is unsettled and before I can comfort him, he is slowly sliding down the comforter to the floor. I can't help remembering how he was, even though he still is. I already miss the way he would snuggle up against the back of my knees or on my stomach. In my memories I see him younger finding the connected rhythm of our bedtime ritual where he would lay on my chest and knead his paws on my face, close enough for me to hear him breathing.


Sweet Potato Moon

Midnight, 11/2-11/3

Exhausted, dusty. We've just returned from a nighttime escapade, star-gazing in a field,  harvesting sweet potatoes. The most beautiful night sky filled with twinkling stars, the perfect backdrop for pointing out constellations: the Big Dipper, Little Dipper, Orion the hunter and the planet Jupiter. 

The perfect end to a girls day that started out with hiking along the Canal at Roanoke River and antiquing at the Riverside Mills in Weldon. We met the most lovely genuine and friendly people at Riverside Mills and although we had a late start it was a fun hunt and disovery amid the stalls in the antique mall. Claudia found baking supplies and I finally found a velvet lined box to store flatware. We had such a lovely time that we plan to return in the morning to finish our expedition. 

Suzy directed us to On the Square, a restaurant in Tarboro where we had a gourmet meal and a lovely syrah from the Andrew Murray winery in California. 


worried awakenings

4:55am Friday, November 2nd

wee hours in the morning. waking up at 4.55 am, i was having a nightmare. my subconscious worried about how we will make it home on Sunday. the news reports barely watched lest we go insane with worry, they have seeped in anyway...i see long lines of traffic, frustrated angry people, i envision empty supermarkets and streets. there are some areas like hoboken and jersey city that are devastated and without power, with strict curfews to curb looting. 

some of it is heresy, and some of it (this is where my street smart red alert kicks in) i know is true. there is an inherent evil in some to take advantage of others in moments of need. It is desperation of the worst kind. 

being so far, makes me pine for my city. one more day until we begin our journey north on the roadways home. 


Wednesday in Raleigh

11am, Thursday, November 1

Thursday morning, the sun is finally out in full force. It feels so good against my skin that I'm not even bothered by the yellow jackets circling my coffee. Last night was Bellamy Manor's annual Halloween party, and the town of Enfield and those from surrounding areas celebrated in style with the most creative costumes, truly embracing the spirit of Halloween. From Howard Stern to a Cinderella vignette of story characters come to life (fairy godmother, witch, Cinderella pre-ball), the dirty old man flasher to Mario & Luigi and an Italian gladiator, the gang was all there.  

Claudia and I dressed up as Mystics reading tea leaves and using technology to foresee the futue.We picked up Venetian masks and scarves (and did some early Christmas shopping too) at Cost Plus World Market in Raleigh after dropping George at the airport.  I had tried to coordinate time to meet up with a childhood friend and when that didn't work out, we found ourselves in downtown Raleigh looking for Artspace and the City Market (which turned out to be a restaurant only open on Sundays), so we stopped for lunch at The Busy Bee Cafe, a microbrewery on South Wilmington. We made it back to Enfield in time to take a short nap before joining the party downstairs, where we danced to the wee hours of the morning to a fantastic R&B band The Rhythm Express.