And for this, I am grapeful.
A year or so ago we found ourselves with a tiny newborn kitten that my mom found in the Walmart parking lot. He was so eensy that he looked like a bobble head, and we had to feed him from a bottle. It was the cutest thing…until we realized that he was also too little to pee and poop on his own.
Oh, you didn’t know that was a thing? Well it is. The mamma cat has to, uh…help them if you know what I mean and I think you do (it’s enough to make you thankful you’re a human mom and not feline mom, let’s just say). So, several times a day we had to get a wet paper towel and kind of go to town on the kitten’s more delicate areas. And it isn’t just like you can attend to this task half-heartedly. There’s a certain way it has to be done to get any sort of result, and I might even go so far as to say it’s sort of an art form. A sad, sad art form that leaves you feeling a little weird about yourself, but I digress.
As it happened, we had a beach vacation planned right in the middle of this kitten fostering and so we had to pack this eensy little guy up in a shoebox and head to Florida with him nestled in the back seat. We stopped in the parking lot of a Zaxby’s on the way and the girls were arguing over who had the last kitten bathroom duty and I snapped, y’all, and out of my mouth flew the following sentence:
”ANNA CATHARINE, TAKE THAT KITTEN AND GO POOP IT RIGHT NOW, DO YOU UNDERSTAND ME?”
As soon as it left my lips we all stopped and stared at each other for about five beats of silence and then cracked up simultaneously.
To date that had held the title of The Weirdest Thing I’d Ever Said. Until now.
Jolene the foster cat has ringworm. I think. Either ringworm or cat leprosy, which I don’t think is a thing but can’t be sure. And look, I’m all about giving this hussy a temporary home until she has her babies and all, but I’m not super down with taking her to the vet and incurring expensive vet bills if I can help it (Before you judge me, remind yourself that I’m housing a stray pregnant cat with ringworm. Give a girl a break). I did a little Googling and vinegar is good for treating ringworm so twice a day I say the following as if it’s the most normal thing ever:
“Has anybody vinegared the cat today?”
This is what it’s come to, people.
Also, I just realized we’ve turned “vinegar” into a verb. Somebody call Webster’s.
I’m not, like, a qualified candidate for Animal Hoarders or anything but aside from the giant 150 pound mastiff, the neurotic shepherd/spaniel mutt, the obese/overly affectionate creeper of a house cat and the tiny brown flighty feline who spends the majority of her time outdoors we at any given point may have a stray or injured something-or-another living temporarily in our very modest-sized house with us. Lost or wounded animals of all kind just end up here. It’s kind of not normal.
The last few days I’ve had people ask me how Seth takes to this, and to those people I say Do not be fooled. That guy is almost as bad as I am. He came into the living room this morning holding this bloated, miserable momma cat like a baby with a big grin on his face. Last Thanksgiving he was the one wearing gloves and patiently bathing the wild, razor-blades-for-claws, flea infested kitten in the bathroom sink before the holiday meal. Friday night as we pulled out of the driveway for a date, he stopped and quickly pulled the car back into the driveway in a huff. I thought he was going to gripe because I’d left the hose out (but seriously you guys, putting up the hose is a pain in the ass, am I right?) but instead he got out of the car, scooped a tiny green praying mantis off the windshield and deposited it carefully into the flowerbed. I watched and melted, because duh.
…You know what? He’d probably rather me not tell you that last one. Pretend you don’t know.
Anyway, right now I’ve got a pregnant cat hanging out here whom we have named Jolene (because obviously she’s a hussy). I couldn’t let her go to the pound, so here she is.
This tendency of mine is kind of a problem, for reasons that include but are not limited to:
1. The girls get attached. I rationalize this process by telling myself that this teaches them that life is full of little losses and that it’s good not to shelter them from it. I’m either teaching them to do good works even if you have to let go and let your heart hurt a little in the end…or I’m beating all of the feeling out of them with every kitten, leaving them bitter and emotionally dead inside. I guess we’ll see how that plays out.
2. The previously aforementioned modest-sized house is at times overcrowded and requires constant vacuuming of animal fur. I’ve considered having every animal we own shaved down to their spoiled pink skin on occasion and at one desperate point I stood in the aisle of CVS eyeballing their largest bottle of Nair. Don’t worry, PETA weirdos, I didn’t do it, gosh.
3. People know my weakness and they bring me their unwanted or found animals. I’MTALKINGTOYOURAYWOMACK. It’s ok. I don’t blame you. I’m currently wracking my brain for anyone who is a bigger sucker than I am so I can do the same to them. I’m, uh…coming up blank.
4. A pregnant cat, y’all. Do you know how hard it is to give away a cat? Now I have to find a half dozen people to take a half dozen cats. This particular problematic point is compounded by the fact that I’ve already supplied all of the willing cat-takers I know with cats over the last couple of years. I’ve run out of cat-takers, people! Gah!
5. People who don’t really like animals that much look at me like I’m the stupidest person on the planet. This one isn’t really that big of a deal to me, though, because who cares what people who don’t really like animals that much think anyway? They’re obviously dumb and can suck it.
Anyway, I figure we probably have another couple of weeks until we have a littler of kittens keeping the girls busy. Eight weeks or so after that I’ll be looking for people to take them (and that hussy Jolene) and give them good homes.
So, I’ll be in touch.
And for God’s sake, go ahead and start saving up to get them fixed. I can only do so much, people.
This morning my Uncle Stanley died.
He had been in poor health for some time, and even before that he struggled with many other matters as well. He was no doubt weary, and his body was no longer serving him well. He had been on life support more times than I can remember and had managed to fight back again and again. I remember joking with my dad after one of those touch-and-go instances that he may have been part cat. Nine lives and then some.
My earliest memory of him is when he came to stay a weekend with us when I was still young and pudgy and bossy (some days I guess I may still be the latter two of those things, anyway). He was in the next room as I was matter-of-factly bossing my big sister around and I remember his chuckle as he told my dad what he’d overheard me say.
When that big sister of mine called me crying this morning, I remembered that for some reason, that Johnny Cash voice and the crinkles around his eyes when he was happy and smiling and doing well, and then I shed my tears too.
The sadness and the mourning are a completely natural response. But after sitting with that for a moment, I started to think of what he must be seeing now, and the immeasurable peace and joy that must come with moving from a broken body in this mud puddle of a world on to the beautiful seashore of the afterlife, for we truly are
“like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”-C.S Lewis
We cling to this life, not being able to fully grasp that we are offered something that is
when it’s over. We can’t comprehend the magnificence of what we have not yet experienced, so we try desperately to stay in our insufficient little shells in this broken little place because the beautiful parts of it, which are really only mere shadows-whispers-of the glory to come, are all we know by which to measure. And maybe that’s the only way it can be.
It’s natural to mourn the loss, but Stanley knew where he was going and I believe he was ready. My aunt says his favorite song says, “When I get to where I’m going there will be only happy tears. I will shed the sins And sorrows I have carried all these years.” How lovely that is. So even though we will mourn, right now my Uncle Stanley is having the time of his afterlife at the Seashore, and so I mourn and rejoice simultaneously.
So let me rephrase that opening sentence for more detail and accuracy:
This morning, after coming near death at least a dozen times over the past several years, my Uncle Stanley with the Johnny Cash voice who struggled with the health of both his body and his spirit for a great portion of his life slipped out of the wearisome burden of his earthly body and went running into the open arms of his heavenly Father.
Yes. That’s so much better.
When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true:
“Death has been swallowed up in victory.
Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”
1 Corinthians 15:54-56