Today was a day of great emotion - what I once heard someone call "another damn growth opportunity" - and to be open about it, I'm drained. Though I normally try to write with a point in mind, be warned: today I can't promise one. Points are for words of the mind; these are from my gut. If this reads like a reaching out for the patience of people who have been kind, well, maybe it is then.
We frequently hear how things happen in threes, and the coincidence factor of today's trifecta is high. It's the day my grandfather died back in 1970, my first experience at losing a loved one. It's my grandmother's yahrzeit, the date on the Hebrew calendar on which the anniversary of someone's death is observed. (In the solar-based English calendar, she died on September 2 in 1984. In the Hebrew calendar, the corresponding English date is different every year. Supposedly that's somehow because it's a lunar calendar, though I've always suspected it's really totally random dates picked out of a giant yarmulkah at some secret underground bunker in Tel Aviv.) And, closest to the surface, today was my father's unveiling, literally the ceremonial unveiling of someone's headstone or, in our case, plaque. My cousin's daughter, a rabbinical student whose grace and humility while accomplishing big things have her well on her way to following in her mother's footsteps as a truly magnificent human being, led the ceremony, making it even more personal and emotional. Look up in the sky tonight and find the brightest star you can. There's a good chance it's my dad smiling.
Knowing there'd be plenty of feelings to feel today, I figured I'd probably want to write tonight. What I didn't expect was that it would be something else, something unrelated, that has me at the keyboard, feeling slightly tenderized and looking for catharsis. Specifically, a trip to the emergency room - with my cat.
Readers may remember Skids, the small furry person who's kind enough to let me live in her home and sleep in her bed. This morning I took one look at her and knew something was really, really wrong - laying on the floor, still and in kind of an odd position, breathing heavily and crying out, especially when touched. When she struggled to take a couple of steps it was with the gait of an injured drunk. Hardest of all, damn it to hell, she was unable to give me any clue as to what happened and what was hurting. A phone call to a vet emergency room, describing what we knew and saw - they said maybe a stroke, a possibility with some of the other conditions she's experienced. Bring her in, pronto. Cat carrier? Forget it. The only thing she'd let us put her in, and that with a good bit of heart-wrenching yowling, was a cardboard filing box lined with a towel.
Drive to the vet, about 20 minutes, asking over and over for the serenity to accept what I can't change, the courage to change what I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. Not knowing what her thoughts through the pain might be, but feeling like a loving, merciful God would understand them as a prayer more pure than any clumsy words I could verbalize. Arrive at the vet. Physical exam, the doctor suspicious of the way Skids' spine was. X-rays might provide some guidance. Might not. I say do it. Some insights come out of it - a couple of disks, the pads between the vertebrae, blown out. Not sure how exactly, but if they're not in good shape (and Skids is nearly 16) a harsh movement like jumping off a table the wrong way could put them over the edge. And, love her though I do, Skids is not the most graceful cat ever created. Ok, what now? Morphine to relieve the current pain, and a prescription of prednisolone, the kind of stuff baseball players get in trouble for taking, to (hopefully) build up some strength where she needs it. Benefits, if they're going to happen, should come in a couple of days. If it doesn't take, I know I've got to put my love for her first and do what's best for her, and hope to God she understands somehow. In the meantime, keep the food, water and a shallow litter box (easier to step into) where she doesn't have to go far to get to them.
Tonight we saw she moved a little. She seems to have eaten a little and there are signs used the litter box. She lays, staring and motionless except for breathing, and didn't give me a hard time taking her medicine. Same with her hydration (kind of like an i.v. except it goes under the skin rather than into a vein) though I'd prefer she'd have given me her usual resistance. I wasn't sure how I was going to give it to her in her current state, but was more sure than I've ever been of anything in my life that I had to try.
I'm grudgingly coming to accept that it's not right to keep a suffering pet alive a little while longer out of our own sense of fear, and though that point may not be far away we're not quite there yet. In the meantime there's still fighting left to do.