The Dead Cat on the Mantle

Peanut being Peanut and very much alive...
Peanut being Peanut and very much alive…

Chekhov (no, not the guy from Star Trek!) once said that if there is a loaded gun on the mantle in the first act of the play, then it should be fired in a later act.  But I’m not sure the same is true about cat’s ashes.

I know – I’ve started this out (trying to be) funny, but this isn’t really that funny a topic, unless you define funny as awkward and sad instead of humorous.

I’m not new to the world of pets.  As long as I can remember, we’ve had pets.  Goldfish.  Koi.  Hermit crabs.  A short-lived gerbil.  Cats.  Dogs.  And as long as I’ve had pets, I’ve had pets that died.  Often, we’d go to extraordinary measures to save them and keep them alive as long as possible, like our goldfish Melody, named after the character from Josie and the Pussycats, which, looking back on it, it does seem a bit ironic to name a fish after a pussycat, but I was only six or seven.  Anyway.  Melody the goldfish had surgery performed on her by my father.  We netted her and removed something from her side – and she lived!  At least, as long as goldfish ever live.  Then there have been unexpected deaths, like my dog Scrungy who went to the vet for routine surgery for kidney stones, a surgery she’d had at least half a dozen times, and she died during recovery while we were on the way to pick her up.  (Want to feel bad for someone?  Feel bad for the vet who had two little girls in hysterics in his waiting room when they found out their dog was dead.)

I don’t know what happened to my pets when they died when I was a child.  Sure, we flushed the fish.  And, yeah, we buried the gerbil in the backyard.  But the cats and dogs just disappeared after they died.

Since I’ve been an adult and on my own, though, we’ve only had two other animals die – our dogs Teddy and Cecily.  With Teddy, we got his ashes in a plain plastic box and scattered them at a little place we’d know he’d have liked to run, and it just seemed right and appropriate.  (And it taught us to not be downwind when we opened a box of ashes…)  With Cecily, it was far more of a shock because she began having seizures and couldn’t stop.  In that case, we let the body go for mass cremation because I don’t think we were able to think of anything else.

But this time, it was our cat Peanut.  We knew he had problems because a few years ago he’d suffered a stroke and came back from it.  But since then, he’d had at least one other one that we knew about, but possibly more.  It was still an unpleasant surprise when he had another one right before Christmas and didn’t recover.  He kept getting worse until he couldn’t stand or move properly, and by the time we got him to the emergency clinic, his temperature had fallen and he had no control of or feeling in his hind legs.  Whatever it was that had been causing the strokes and other problems had obviously been progressing, and no one had been able to figure it out or stop it.

Peanut in a box on the mantle...
Peanut in a box on the mantle…

A few weeks later, we picked up his ashes.  Unlike Teddy’s ashes, though, Peanut’s were in a very nice wooden box, engraved and, well, pretty.  And I realized – what were we going to do with his ashes?

Peanut never really left the house.  His favorite place was on top of the couch, and I can’t think that’s a good place to scatter his ashes.  And the box is nice and seems almost strangely appropriate for keeping his ashes in.  It’s orange-ish.  And it just kind of hangs out.  Very cat-like things to do and be.

So what do we do?  Is it wrong to keep his ashes in the box?  Do we keep the cat on the mantle?  Because we have a few other cats, and I’m afraid it might get both crowded and creepy if we keep this up.


Why I Hate Florida, The January 2013 Version

Time to Leave Florida!
Time to Leave Florida!
  • I have a mosquito bite on my hand.  It hurts.  It’s January!
  • The bed is so low that I smacked below my knee on the wooden edge, and even though I was wearing jeans, I have not only a big old bruise but also scraped the skin. 
  • And then the next day I did it again, but on the other side of the leg. 
  • And it still hurts.
  • The printer in the “office” at the apartment declared it had no paper, regardless of the number of times I turned it off and on again, removed and put back the paper, and even photocopied blank paper.  It didn’t work.  Ever.
  • The lines at Starbucks are crazy long, the parking lot looks like it was designed by M.C. Escher, and someone cut me off and stole my spot, making me sit in the drive through for ten minutes for a simple cup of coffee.
  • The Mexican food.  Really, who serves Mexican food in Florida?  There wasn’t enough sour cream to make edible.
  • I have no time! No time! (But I don’t suppose that is actually the fault of Florida…)

Everyday Heroes

Lil' Spidey high-fiving Deadpool, Big Apple Con, Saturday October 17, 2009. New York City.
Lil’ Spidey high-fiving Deadpool, Big Apple Con, Saturday October 17, 2009. New York City. Photo by Princess Mérida, CC-BY, via Wikimedia Commons.

So late last year, CNN published their list of 10 People Changing the World – the CNN Heroes of the Year

I’m not going to say that any of these people aren’t heroes.  And I’m not going to say that they aren’t changing the world.  I do not want to, in any way, make it sound like I’m denigrating their contributions to society or the hard work that they so willingly undertake.

But what about the rest of us?  Maybe we’re not all precious snowflakes, but what about all the people leading lives of quiet desperation who are just trying to make it through and don’t have the chance or ability to step up?

In reading through these heroes, though I’m reminded of a song – Easy to be Hard by Three Dog Night.  Just to share a few lyrics…

“especially people
Who care about strangers
Who care about evil
And social injustice
Do you only
Care about the bleeding crowd?
How about a needing friend?”

It just makes me wonder, how do these people do what they do without ignoring or somehow abandoning their own families?  Do they have families?  Do they have friends that they never see?  Never help?  Never get to enjoy?  What about the little people who have enough problems getting through the day?

And somehow that segues nicely into another song that comes to mind when I read these hero profiles…Nobody’s Hero by RUSH

“But he’s nobody’s hero
Saves a drowning child
Cures a wasting disease
Hero…lands the crippled airplane
Solves great mysteries
Hero…not the handsome actor
Who plays a hero’s role
Hero…not the glamour girl
Who’d love to sell her soul
If anybody’s buying
Nobody’s hero”

Many of the Top 10 CNN Heroes of those nominated work with children.  Couldn’t we say that many of those children are heroes?  What about all the children Pushpa Basnet helps?  We know that they are the children of people who are in prison in Nepal.  Why were their parents put in prison?  Are they political prisoners?  Are they suffering for their beliefs?  I can’t help but think that, regardless of what they did, they are suffering because they have their children away from them.  Another hero, Connie Siskowski, runs a group that helps children who may have to drop out of high school because they are caring for ill, disabled, or aging family members.  Aren’t those children heroes?  They are willing – were willing – may still be willing – to give up on their own needs to help family members.  Why do we idolize her over them?

Again, I’m not trying to say these people aren’t heroes, but what I’m trying to say is that perhaps there are more heroes than we are willing to see.  Just like everyone has their own private idea of hell, they also have their own private struggles and problems.  We all probably know heroes, even if we don’t acknowledge them as such.  We may even be heroes ourselves.


Misinformation 101

Calm! by Pennywise http://morguefile.com/archive/display/178142
Calm! by Pennywise

Reading through the paper, I came across an article that I just had to take issue with.  My issue is that it spends the first three paragraphs seeming to imply that those with mental disorders or disabilities (including such “diagnoses” as being “socially awkward” and having anxiety”) are more likely to snap and go on a school shooting spree.

The title is that there is “no simple formula to identify dangerous people,” but then the first three paragraphs review three people and incidents.  Scary! Scary! “Those” people are dangerous!

Except…except that in the fifth paragraph, the article says – for those who have bothered reading that far – that “attempts at profiling run the risk of misidentifying individuals who may only be suffering from depression or a behavioral disorder.”  In fact, the article went on to say, “only a third of the attackers had received a mental health evaluation” and “most of the shooters – whose ages ranged from 11 to 21 – came from two-parent families, socialized with mainstream students, had no history of violent or criminal behavior, and had never or rarely been in trouble at school.”  Basically, there is no way to predict that those people would commit those atrocities.

So why the seeming subterfuge?  Why spend the beginning – the part that’s most likely to be read – giving the idea that there is something “at fault” with these people?

Well, I hate to keep harping on it (no, I don’t), but once again, it’s that need to separate ourselves.  The need to make sure that anyone capable of such acts isn’t “one of us.”  As was repeated over and over in an episode of Life:  “There’s us.  And there’s them.  Us.  Them.  Us.  Them.”

We like that division.  But it isn’t real.

I remember one evening about 20 years ago, around 6 p.m., my at-the-time-boyfriend-and-now-husband and I were going out on a date.  We were driving down the main drag of my town, over by the train station that everyone commuting to New York rode out of and into daily, and this guy, carrying a briefcase and wearing a suit, was walking down the road, obviously one of the previously mentioned commuters.  Then, he stumbled a little and started to jog.  Then run. All the while pulling at his tie, shedding his jacket, and first muttering then yelling, “I just can’t take it anymore!”

And it scared me.  Because it hit me: we’re all on that edge of not taking it anymore.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying that I feel myself on that edge now.  I don’t think I’m going to run down the street, stripping off my clothes and screaming.  It’s just that I accept that it could happen.  And for some people, it does happen.  And we should know that and accept that and be less judgmental of those who seek help to fix their problems and try to find help for those who need help and don’t know it.