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Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Left Behind Girls

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      We like to think as a good citizen, making the right choice is easy. We believe making the decision for the better is black and white, simple. So why do we ask ourselves sometimes, “did I do the right thing” and if so, “why don’t I feel good”.




     Cali came to be when the family in the house in front of ours adopted her a few years back. I met her as I pulled in the long driveway and was stopped by their son. Excitedly he asked if I wanted to meet their new kitten. I parked, walked around to the front and met a cute lovable little kitten.



     Everything was fine for a month or two then the yelling started. I didn’t think anything of it at first. Yelling at an animal once in awhile is normal: “Don’t eat that bug!”, “Who missed the cat box?!”, “My leg is NOT a scratching post!!!” Unfortunately, the yelling at the cat became a daily thing and it all came from one person, the mom. She didn’t like cats and she made it known to Cali (and the neighbors within a two block radius). Her solution, the cat goes outside and stays outside. The yelling stopped.



     At first, I’d see her in the yard or the driveway and I would call her name and try to pet her to no avail. Gradually, she’d come up and let me pet her but never pick her up. Then, one day as I finished petting her, she swiped my ankle (no claws) upset that I had stopped. I looked down into those innocent kitty eyes of hers and sternly said “NO” and started to walk away. She followed. Another swipe, a little poke by the claw this time. I yelped. I walked faster. So did she. I ran! She was right behind me! She was determined to get petted even if it meant taking me down. I flew in the door and slammed it shut, me on the inside, Cali on the outside. Breathless, I leaned up against the door. “What’s the matter” I was asked. “I’m not sure” I replied, “but I think I just got mugged by a cat”. I was laughed at.



     This went on for two years. I would go outside and she would come up to me to get petted. Sometimes she would come directly up to me, others, she would banzai me from the bushes or a dark corner. Eventually we had an understanding, I would pet her until she rolled over on her back, that way I could make a run for it before she got to her feet.



     The month of April came along and the family moved away. The day after, I walked outside and Cali came running up to me to get petted. Ok, I thought, they aren’t all moved out yet. I found her cat bowls empty with no food or water and I filled them up for her. A week went by, no family. Two weeks went by, no family. Cali was left behind.



     I couldn’t bring her inside, I have three cats of my own and Cali wanted nothing to do with them. She already slept in our garage so I knew she was safe from the elements, I just wished I could give her more attention and love but I wasn’t ready to move out to the garage. I made sure she was fed everyday, as well as the raccoons and possums that would come along at night and eat everything she left. For four months, Cali and the overweight wild life lived in my yard, happy.



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     A very sad day occurred in July, my Father-In-Law passed away leaving behind a wife he was married to for 50 years. I can understand the pain she felt from loosing someone but I could not and can not comprehend the pain of being alone for the first time in 50 years.



     I’m very proud of my Mother-in-Law. She is a strong and smart woman but you could hear the pain of loneliness in her voice when you talk with her. She lives 75 miles away from us through some of the worst traffic in the country. It’s about a two hour, and on occasions four hour, drive to go see her which limits our visits.



     At the beginning of September she had some business she needed to take care of in our neck of the woods and found someone to drive her. She stopped by our place but we were both at work. As she walked up our driveway she was met by Cali. We had told her the story of the cat being abandoned and she knew right off who she was petting and instantly fell in love.



     That night my phone rang. “My mom met Cali and fell in love with her, wants to know if she can have her?” What could I say? My mind made the decision for me. A wonderful lonely woman left behind and cat that needed more attention and love than I could give, left behind. I replied yes.



     At the end of the week, I cleaned out the cat carrier, put a blanket in it, stuck it outside and Cali walked right in. We loaded Cali into the car and there she sat, quietly. I started the engine and began to drive. As the car rolled down the drive way, it was as if Cali was being slowly wound up and doing her best impersonation of a bad siren. We proceeded down the street to the stop sign. I stopped, so did the cat. I was relieved. I accelerated, the cat began to cry again. So did I. We hit the freeway and sped up to the speed limit. The cat got louder. My head hurt and it had only been five minutes.

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     Twenty minutes into the drive and fifty aspirin later, we hit traffic…stopped traffic. The cat quieted. Traffic began to move slowly. The cat began to cry softly. Traffic stopped, so did the cat. For the first time in my life I said “thank you Jesus for traffic!” This went on for two hours. Stop. Silence. Start. Meow.



     Finally we made it, the cat hoarse and me O.D’d on aspirin. We took the cat inside of her new home and opened the cat carrier. Straight to the couch and under she went. Who didn’t see that coming?



     After visiting, we came home. That evening I went outside and for the first time in very long time, I was not greeted by Cali. I was surprised by a little wetness on my cheek and quickly wiped it away with my finger. Another tear fell and soon I was quietly crying. Had I grown attached to Cali? I hadn’t realized how much I had grown to love that cat. It was so slow and gradual over the years that I hadn’t even noticed. I felt my heart break at that moment. What had I done? Was it the right thing? Had I torn the cat from the only home she knew and abandoned her myself?



     The next day the phone rang. We were told Cali came out from under the couch that night and actually slept on the foot of her bed. Subsequent days and subsequent phone calls we heard stories of Cali this and Cali that, all good. I was happy the cat was adjusting and so quickly but most important I was happy to hear the change in the voice I was speaking too. The underlying loneliness was still there but not near as strong as it had been. There seemed a little light came back into her life and each day I heard it get brighter and brighter.



     I see Cali on visits and truth be told, I’ve never seen her happier. She’s fatter, shinier and all around healthier. She’s living the good life. Not because of the food or the toys but because she’s finally, after all these years getting the attention she craved and needed. It’s a two way street, although my Mother-in-Law most definitely is NOT fatter or shinier, she seems happier and no longer totally alone in a big empty house. I no longer stay awake every night worrying if she is going to be alright.

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     Yes, making the right choice is not always easy. You don’t always feel good. Sometimes it down right hurts and is crushing. But we make them because we our good people and we know it’s the right thing to do. Would I make the same choice again knowing how hard this has been on me and how much it hurt? In a heartbeat.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Funny, I Don’t Recall Eating That: or How to Get a Good Workout While Eating




    Being sneaky is not easy. It takes a lot of training and practice to become the master of sneakiness. Some have a natural talent and can adapt to the art fast, others like me have squeaky shoes with no hopes of ever pulling off a fast one. A true master can pull off a dastardly deed and be out of the crime zone before the poor schmuck even knows he's been victimized. Sometimes, the master of sneakiness is so good, the squeaky shoes sit there in shock and awe, admiring the handy work so much it's hard to get mad at the fact we just got duped.


    It's quite difficult to eat a meal at my house. The workout you get from protecting your dinner on multiple fronts is downright exhausting. Fork in one hand, knife in the other and leg splayed straight out with a foot in the cats' face all the while saying "my food, no, no, you are not getting any, no". The response I get back, a sad muffled meow emanating from the bottom of my foot, followed by the big round sad cow eyes and the sucking in of the furry little cheeks as if the overweight cretin is food deprived. I sit there and stare at the sad pathetic picture of a cat that is so lazy, he actually rolls down the stairs half the time.


    As I deal with the overweight food deprived cretin, the thin but well fed 7 pound contortionist slides in behind me, attempting to push me off my seat. I quickly stuff my cheeks full of food in the few chances I get. With a paw pushing in my back and my cheeks stuffed like a hamster I berate the thin but well fed 7 pound contortionist while holding back the overweight food deprived cretin with my foot. Tiny bits of food splay from my foaming mouth as I fight back with stinging words of threats they know I'll never keep. The paw pushes harder, the eyes grow wider. I put the fork and knife down and turn around to remove the ever pushing paw out of my back and give him the "give it up, you're not getting any" look while still holding back the cretin with my foot.


    As I turn back to my meal, I see ninja kitty flying up the stairs four at a time. Cretin and Contortionist take off after her presumably to see what the ruckus is all about. Joy overcomes me. I rub my hands together, take a deep breath and let it all out. A smile forms on my hamster cheeked face as I think aloud, "into the mouth and over the tongue, look at stomach, here it…" I glance down and notice my juicy, tender leg and thigh combo piece is missing. I stare at the grease smudged spot on my plate and think to myself, funny, I don't recall eating that. Did I shove that in my mouth during one of my frantic get as much food in as possible moments? Why am I still famished?


   The reality of the moment flooded me like gravy on mashed potatoes. I ran up the stairs like a starving dog drooling for lost food. As I reach the top, holding my chest and gasping for air, all I could do was stare at the horrifying scene played out in front of me. My chicken, all gnarled and chewed, was on the floor divvied up three ways.


Yes, I was played. The pure talent they showed in this coup d'├ętat demanded respect. How could I be mad? Being sneaky is not easy. So, with that, I picked up the chicken and headed back down the stairs, the cat parade closely following. I opened the back door and threw the chicken out. Mad? No, but if I can't have it, no one can.