Good humor makes all things possible.
-Charles Schultz-

With mirth and laughter let old wrinkles come.
-Shakespeare-The Merchant of Venice-

Saturday, April 20, 2013


My pots always look the prettiest about a month after I plant them--the flowers have started to grow and bloom, but they're not raggedy or snail-chewed yet.  I love my yard in spring.

This is the tall wall in my entryway (one corner of my living room--you can see down the hall in this shot).  I've had a few things hanging there during the decade since we built it but aside from one mirror or another, nothing I sincerely loved looking at from the couches across the room.  Here's what's up there, clockwise from my old clock (har!): two framed pieces of pink coral or seaweed or some weird fungus, found at Goodwill. I'm debating painting the frames yellow or gray.  Next is a painting (by Lillian) of bubbles rising in deep water; a page from an old medical reference book (larger, below); an old photo of my mother Ruth and her sister Julianna skating at their home in Yosemite as young girls (larger, below); a calendar page by a local artist; my favorite dancing skeleton; an old print of California poppies; a painting (by Lillian) made from an anonymous vintage slide (I like to think it represents either my mother and aunt, or else me and my best friend Dr L); and a Goodwill mirror which is just a placeholder for some African safari photos which will eventually appear here (and there) when we finally get them printed.  The mirror in the center is from Ross--my mother-in-law's lovely antique one shifted to Lillian's room.

Here's the anatomical drawing I cut out of an old medical encyclopedia given to me by a doctor I once worked for.  There are so many cool images, it was hard to pick my favorite.  I love how graceful this one is; I imagine a serene woman gazing out her window at the horizon.  What did she think about all those decades, closed up in a book?

This is a tighter view of Mom and her sister, about 1932. Mom had polio as a little girl and had to learn to walk again; so it is neat to see her skating.  My great-grandfather went to work for the National Parks after WWI and the Topp family lived for a few years in Yosemite.  I love this picture. 

Here's another one I put together from a painted oak Goodwill frame.  It's headed for Lillian's room.  This page shows a "roentgenogram" (an X-ray for you twenty-first century types) of a hand overlaid with the American Sign Language symbol for love.  It's atypically the left hand because Lillian is a lefty (she signs.)  I borrowed the idea from this blog, but I had been tossing around the notion for a while.  I have a few other pages bookmarked to frame, too.

This one is in Lillian's room. For forty years I've saved this little scrap of kitty print wrapping paper from  Cost Plus, but it's old frame kept falling apart.  I stuck it in a free frame Sam found.  I stained the frame and spray painted the old mat white.    

Carson had to spend some time sitting in the naughty corner
because he tried too hard to help me and broke something.  Again.

We went out to dinner recently to celebrate Lillian's boyfriend's promotion and I wanted to prove that I do occasionally paint my face and wear street clothes like a productive member of society.  It's rare these days, but I can do it.

And this is why this post is titled "Waiting."  Poor old Chase, who one week ago had a very debilitating stroke, is still alive.  We seriously believed he would die within hours, or maybe days, but he hasn't succumbed yet.  After much soul-searching we elected to feed and water him with a syringe because he can't eat, but he can stretch, purr, and lift his head just a bit. We laid Chase in the warm sun coming in the window this morning.  Lottie seems to know he is not normal and won't lick or cuddle with him.  Dr L said that some cats surprisingly recover from strokes, even ones who are at death's door as he was, and by nourishing him we buy some time to see if he may do just that.  The real heartache is, of course, that if time passes and he never regains use of his body, we're again faced with the difficult decision to put him down. And we will do it.  There is a grave ready outside, but filling it back in felt like a jinx.    On top of all this,  it's been an gruesome week nationally, with the unbelievable Boston marathon bombings and subsequent death of one and capture of the other killer, and the terrible fertilizer plant explosion in Texas.  I admit I wish Chase had passed peacefully away last weekend so I didn't have to make the decision, but here we are.  

Also today we went to the farmers market and bought snap peas, artichoke and sun dried tomato dip, and heavenly fried samosas. At about forty carbs for each golden morsel --I only get fifty per day on this damn carb-restricting eating plan--  I only ate one, but it was the best thing I ever tasted in my life.  (The sugar is for tea; we stopped at the flour mill. This will last a long time.)

All things considered, I hope your weekend is shaping up to be a nice one.  

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Saint Peter waits for the cat

Chase, last week.  

Our old cat Chase is seventeen and pretty creaky.  He seems to be mostly blind and deaf, and is very thin, but has remained his essentially cheerful and healthy self since we brought him home from a friend's barn all those long years ago.  Last night though, I think he had a stroke.  He had been cuddled near me on the couch until I got up to go to bed, and when he jumped off the couch he just crumpled to the floor, unable to walk.  His front legs didn't work and he couldn't hold up his head.

And I thought, well, I guess we're here.

I made him a little nest on my bed with several towels (because when animals die they usually pee, which I learned after having several sick pets euthanized.)  I was ready for him to die during the night.

Chase and Lottie, last night

But he didn't die.  I woke up in the wee hours to find him cuddled with his other half, Lottie.  He hadn't really moved much.  I couldn't go back to sleep so I got the laptop and browsed away the night.

Chase loves Sam best
My son Sam is in town from Chicago to be in a friend's wedding, and Lillie is attending another friend's wedding as well.  I tried to think of a way to keep from telling them, but I couldn't.

He's very frugal and watches the sales

All day, Chase has lain in his towel nest, his bony chest imperceptibly rising and falling.  I keep warming up his little rice sock and tucking it under his frail, useless legs.  He doesn't open his eyes now; he just stretches his back legs and squirms a little, and then subsides again.  He's peed a bit.

A year or two ago

Once Sam had a hamster that died on my watch while they were all out of town for Christmas with their dad (good job, Punkin), but I can't remember any other pet dying at home.  My first childhood cat, Scrapper, excused herself, at about eighteen years old,  to politely die alone somewhere; and one or two pets disappeared or were hit by cars. (This was in the olden days when all pets wandered at will.) My poor mom got to usher an old dog to heaven while I was away at college.

He actually likes this

I have had four cats euthanized because they were too sick to go on living.  (Those seem like pretty terrible odds but we're talking about half a century of well loved family pets, most of which had long happy lives.) It's undeniably hard, but it's different this time.  Chase is dying of old age.  He will not recover.  It's sort of creepy, but I have a different opinion about dying these days.  Our pets will ultimately die; whether we are prepared or not, whether we do everything in our power to prevent it, or nothing at all.  We are all definitely going to die.

Carson is fascinated by Chase's faucet skills.  

So yes, it's kind of scary.  Death looks terrifying because we are afraid of it, but in reality, most of the time it looks a lot like life.   Except quieter, and more peaceful.  Unlike dead people, dead cats appear to be sleeping.  They don't turn color, or at least not so you'd notice.

Owning the afghan

I made a plan for when Chase finally stops breathing.  I told Lillie we could bury him in the yard, if we could manage to dig a deep enough hole in the hard dirt.  I set the hose to drip on a pretty spot between some nice shady trees.  I picked out an old towel to wrap him in.  I think about Lottie and wonder if she will look for her old friend.  I hope she and Carson (whom she currently loathes) will make peace.


And I wonder how much longer he will float, like a wispy little cloud, between this world and the next.

Almost  famous.  He thought for sure cat-breading would take off.

Lottie as hospice nurse