Life as an Uhdult Pt. 2: Cat and Time Eulogies

Life is aware of me at this point. It is eating and growing bigger around me. It is the elephant in my room. I have always tried to avoid it in earnest but lately it has been the shadow touching my feet every time I try to step away. Big things loom in grand spectacle but they lurk in minutia of human spirit. I am watching my baby daughter transcend terms of months of age into years. I am hearing her learn her own laughter and take advantage of others through tears. I have had several friends give birth to their children all within a few days and my aunt passed away as well. This past weekend some of my wife and I’s best friends got married. My wife had been there nearly every step of the planning process onto implementation. This past weekend, the day we went to travel to their wedding, I had to put down my cat. The shadow of life hit my feet while running.

It’s funny with these big things stomping around shaking my personal earth and it’s my cat’s mortality that truly had me shook. I watched his eyes close in front of me while my shaky hand failed to comfort him when the ill friend was administered his shot. He was the cat that I had chosen for our family. We were newly married and my wife wanted a cat to replace hers that had passed. I was not terribly familiar, let alone fond of her cat. It was a perfectly good cat, it just didn’t matter all that much to me. This cat, the cat that I picked out did matter.
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I originally went to get a cat for my wife who was on a stretch of sadness. She had lost her cat the previous year at the ripe old age of 17 which means it grew with her since early childhood. Now she had finally started talking about getting a cat again. While I am not a cat person perse, my wife had suggested that I should pick this one out so I would have more of a bond than I had with hers. After some uninformed and naive Craigslist searches, I ended up at a sweet, albeit crazy, cat lady’s house. She would adopt any cat that was about to be put down which meant she had a little over 30. She said something like 10 per level. The next thing I knew, I was there playing with a very young, spry cat aptly named Thumbelina because she had 6 toes on each paw. She played, rolled on her back and clawed drawing me in, but I was there for what she had listed as “the perfect apartment cat” named Ted so I asked for him. She said he was a basement cat and went to bring him up. When she did, she was bleeding and reassured me that he just doesn’t like waking up from a nap. The blood on her arm gave me justifiable pause. Then she placed him, one of only 3 males out of her 30+ cats on the floor, and the females hissed and swatted him in the face. He was adapted, unfazed and just slowly walked the gauntlet of slaps and claws to sit next to me and wait. No kitten tricks would top that show of bravado and cavalier attitude in the face of such tumult.

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The cat exemplified this attitude throughout his 10 years with me. I always thought he was merely reasonably feisty and I respected that tremendously. He never bit or clawed anyone that wasn’t just trying to be the person that messes with cats. He had no tolerance for that. What he did have tolerance for was the upper echelon human relationships in my life. True to feline form, he slept the majority of the day, but he came to check out everyone that would come over. He come out impressively slow and judge with extreme prejudice. If he didn’t like the cut of your jib, he would leave. If he saw something in you, a couple rubs on the leg was about it and perhaps lay in the room we were in because he was comfortable with you.

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This was meant to be in passing; the brief thoughts on a cat that crossed my path that mattered. My goal is not to prove his status as the exemplary cat that I believe he was. Maybe it’s simply a eulogy. Perhaps Ted deserved to be eulogized, but more likely is that this is a eulogy for many things lost. I, as we all are, am growing up. I, as we all are, am getting older. I may not be impetuous enough to run to get a cat to fill a hole in mine or my wife’s heart on a whim again. I am not eulogizing the want to be so youthful and impetuous, but rather that things like this remind me who I was and that part of me is gone. It’s ok that it’s gone, but it’s gone the way of Ted and I am only so aware because of what a benchmark he has been for a perfectly round 10 years. These 10 years started the year of my marriage to the year after my baby was born. I have few keepsakes. I don’t craft or stow away trinkets. I have my love for those around me reflected back at me. Ted wasn’t so much that love, but an honesty about love. He bit me when I deserved it and was never afraid to leave me alone. We had a respect and understanding that I’m not sure I will have any desire or need to try to replicate. It’s just exactly what it needed to be. Unfortunately, my guy needed to die. He was my bookends of age 25 to 35 and he entered my life being swatted by female cats and left me where he started. He left me with my female dog, Belle, my wife and my daughter. And I’m still trying to walk through the swats with the gallant, confident ease that he once showed in more stressful times.

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Refugees in Belgrade

Last week I went down to the refugee center by the main bus depot in Belgrade. I spent 5 hours sorting through clothing donations, folding, tidying, and helping people find what they were looking for. I helped a boy find a jacket for a younger brother, and apologized when I realized the backpack I had found him – one of the very last that we had in stock – was ripped. I helped a little girl find a pair of leggings and a new headscarf. A man cluelessly searched for underwear for his 3 children – all under 5. Many people asked for socks and belts. We didn’t have any left.

There was a heat wave in Serbia last week. Many of the people passing through on their way into the EU were looking specifically for shorts and t-shirts. I found pant legs on the ground where people had just taken scissors to full-length jeans and couldn’t contain my bafflement. Don’t they realize winter is just around the corner? I asked another volunteer helplessly. These people are trying to make their way to Austria? To Sweden? In shorts?

I don’t think I’ll ever really know how dire the situation is for some of these people. Traveling a dangerous path for months, cut off from family and support, unable to speak the language, living in a tent in a park. One man overhead some volunteers talking about the situation at the border in Hungary. He didn’t speak any English, but he interrupted, repeating Hungary over and over desperately. The volunteers told him “No Hungary. Croatia. Go to Croatia.”

Croatia then closed off its borders as well. They reopened yesterday, but the temperature has been dropping steadily with the promise of true autumn on the wind. Whether they’re called ‘refugees’ or ‘migrants’ these people are all anyone is Europe is talking about these days. I suppose this is what history is made of – crises with unimaginable endgames. What will happen to these people? How many more will come? Will the borders with their walls and their guards buckle under the sheer number of asylum seekers or will the masses finally turn back, defeated and depleted, to pass the cold season right here?

My Scarlet A

I have something that has precluded me from writing. It actually precludes me from much more than that. It’s a knot in the pit of the heart of my soul’s stomach. It’s the ever-tied christmas light rope that only tightens with each tug in efforts designed for release. It is anxiety. It is depression.

This will be brief, for I am in the throws of questioning every menial decision in my entire life while simultaneously attempting to sweep in under the rug. I have both anxiety and depression. I have a friend that is a skilled pediatrician who also deals with depression, but when I spoke of my mix with anxiety is when his eyes widened. Many understand depression to certain degree. It comes and goes, but the anxiety is omni-present. This anxiety can wash over when I look at check out lines in Target. I wait and analyze. I finally dive in and choose a line only to be convinced that it was the worst choice possible. While this is a standard refrain for a stand-up comedian, it’s something far more sinister for me. Everything drips with butterfly effect. Every decision could be the thing that takes me down the wrong path in life. It’s that huge, but essentially that simple and it keeps me up most nights.

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What if I wear the wrong shoes and I need to run to save my own life or another’s? What If I choose the wrong outfit and a job that would finally bring me an unknown level of professional happiness slips through my unknowing fingers? What if I cut someone off on the road and it’s their final straw before they do something awful or cause a wreck? I hate even talking about it. I honestly feel judged by the unknown. But it’s fine. So it goes, right?

I am audibly sighing and grunting while I finish this. It’s in the universe now. It had to come out at some point. Maybe it shouldn’t have been here. Maybe this is the only place for it, but it will at least be out of my hands once published and I can go on worrying about other things.

A Taste of Things to Come

Eating is how I become familiar with a city. I live on my own and find cooking for myself daunting. Eating out, even though it’s solo, offers me a welcome break from the tiring routine of taking care of myself. I love the dim sum, sweet little nibbles coming to you in bamboo containers, thrown at you by waitresses whose brusqueness is part of the experience. I’ve tasted chicken feet before but back then it felt more like a dare. This time those posed toes didn’t last long on the plate. I love the taste of it all though it does start to blend together, the delicacies of the flavores and textures overruled by your desire to scarf it down like the locals around you. I’ve eaten nothing too “strange” and hesitate using that word as it implies that I am a tourist to this place that is now my home. I feel excluded by many of the restaurants around me, only displaying their food in long vertical strands and not including pictures to help me out.

Eating is a communal experience but food is solitarily consumed. You buy your food from food counters and eat amongst throngs of people coming on going. When you eat sitting at a round table with a lazy Susan in the middle you bend over the bowl to ensure you can slurp it all up.

The taste in Hong Kong runs sweet. Bakeries sell sweet breads and the chips at the 7/11s display honey proudly embracing that sweet and salty pairing.

Ive developed a taste for the variety offered to me though I crave the specificities of my previous posts. The sweet condensed milk tea in Madagascar. The white cheese in my tortillas in Mexico. The avocado slices over pizza slices in South Africa. Polish pierogies with caramelized onions dripping in grease. Sweet soy sauce over everything from Indonesia. Now to my list I can add char boa sui. I can add the fresh Vietnamese foods I get on my way home. I can add the sweet and sour pork that satisfies that American Chinese food desire.

I can’t wait for more things to come

Spiders

Empty houses attract spiders
sometimes there aren’t enough cups
to trap them all
floors become minefields
of imprisoned arachnids
how long can they click their spiny legs
against the glass?

We’re in for the long haul now, spiders.
Skulk in the penumbra
of my vision and I’ll imagine you to be a stain
on the carpet.

Come into full view
and I may have to destroy you