I sit in the new living room, in my wheelchair, the only chair in the apartment, looking out across the balcony at the new view—sidewalk, pink crepe myrtle, grass, trees, and a stone.
The stone is massive. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a sword hilt sticking out the top. In fact, I would be delighted to see a sword hilt sticking out the top.
A closer look—with the camera’s zoom—suggests the stone might be hollow. Removing a sword would be easier if the stone were hollow.
Just off the patio stands a tree. At first, I thought the trunk was split, like the tomb of an ancient magician who had broken free.
Closer examination of the photo suggests it might be three small trees, three trunks, no split.
So much for whimsy.
After we’ve moved, and when it’s stopped raining, I’ll get out from behind the camera and see what’s really out there.
I’ve been concerned about the view. Our old living room looks out across a broad swath of green and shade. During our seventeen months in quarantine, it’s provided entertainment: bushy-tailed squirrels gathering acorns, residents walking dogs, Amazon and FedEx employees delivering boxes. The window has been like a great big TV screen. I was afraid the new place wouldn’t afford the same quality of programming.
But not to worry. We’re only yards from the swimming pool. In the hour or so I sat here yesterday while David hung shower curtains and found fire extinguishers, a multitude of bikinis, beach towels, and flipflops passed. Not as entertaining as squirrels, but they’ll do.
We’re not really moving moving—just to a larger apartment, about three inches away. But we have to pack as if we were moving thirty miles. Sigh.
David deposited me here and went back to meet the movers. He incarcerated the cats in a bathroom. Yesterday I prepped it. Cats don’t usually need puppy pads, but Ernest throws litter all over the place. Still, I might have overdone it.
William is yowling. He’s usually the calm one. Ernest is saying nothing. He’s probably crouching behind the commode. He’s the fight-or-flight cat. David administered calming spray but still had to hunt him down and then chase him to get him into the carrier.
Oh dear. There is a new sound coming from the bathroom. It’s either Ernest trying to demolish the litter box or Ernest trying to tear through the wall. We’ll find out later. Maybe we should have put them in the larger bathroom.
Packing. David is a minimalist. He packed his stuff in fifteen minutes.
I’m a keeper, and the descendant of keepers. I have boxes and boxes of Waller pictures and other memorabilia going back generations. When I packed two years ago—my knees had decided they didn’t like the stairs in our previous apartment—I intended to organize and scan and do whatever else that should be done with old family photographs.
We’d hardly gotten settled, however, when the rest of my body and part of my brain joined my knees in revolt. I unpacked what had to be unpacked and then sat down and stayed there. Most of the family history is still in the boxes and bins it arrived in.
I felt bad about that. On the other hand, when it came time to pack for this move, a goodly portion of my job was already done.
This temporary solitude will probably be the high point of my day. Soon there will be men carrying in boxes and wanting to know where to put them. I didn’t sleep last night and frankly, my dear, I don’t give a you-know-what about where they put them.
I am tired and irritable and want a cup of hot tea and a bed. I feel like crawling inside that hollowed-out stone and staying there until Labor Day.
I should stop complaining. I should be grateful I’m not stuck over there watching strangers who might or might not be wearing masks box up the contents of the china cabinet because my wife said she’d been there, done that, and it was worth the money to pay someone else to do it. I should be grateful I’m not lugging boxes in the rain.
Well. William has stopped protesting. I don’t know whether he’s come to his senses and given up or what. Maybe he’s fallen ill. Maybe Ernest had as much as he could take and went mad and walloped him. I feel I should check to make sure they’re okay.
But opening the bathroom door could mean disaster. I guess I’ll just sit here and listen to the ceiling fan creak. And I mean CREAK. We didn’t turn it on yesterday and so the creak didn’t make it onto the Condition form. We’ll have to email the office and add it.
The creak makes William’s and my caterwauling sound almost pleasant.
I wrote this immediately after reading mydangblog’s “Prone to Being Prone,” and expected to post the same day. But I had to stop to do something else and didn’t get back, and then forgot, and so here I am, over a month later, finally getting it out there. Not that it’s time-sensitive or anything.
Warning: Blog posts are supposed to be 300-500 words long, and this is a lot longer than that, so if you’re not in the mood for that, I recommending reading “Prone to Being Prone” and leaving this one alone.
Before moving on, I’d like to thank everyone who reads any of my posts. That really is going beyond the call of duty.
I intended to work on my slowly budding novel today, but I don’t feel well and the brain isn’t working. Once I start, writing fiction can be fun (relatively speaking), but when the brain sulls, the process is misery.
It’s easier to slap down a blog post. Readers are more forgiving than editors and critique partners, and since I frequently write about my most embarrassing moments, I have plenty of material: for example, there’s cooking Thanksgiving dinner a day late and vowing to never again bring raw poultry into my kitchen, and buying and not assembling my new recumbent exercise bike, and getting through eight (then nine; now ten) months of strict isolation, and my default topic—the cats.
But after reading mydangblog. I decided to write about chairs.
There’s nothing embarrassing about chairs, but I have enough to say about them for several posts. However, I’m going to stuff it all into this one.
Once upon a time, I had a recliner. It had been my mom’s, and it was a good one, and comfortable, but as it aged, it began to deteriorate. Hyperfocusing elsewhere, I was oblivious until I noticed the fabric on the footrest had separated and was about to fall off. In addition, the chair’s chassis had become rickety.
For a long time, I’d coveted a chair I’d seen at IKEA. I’d never sat in it, but I knew it was comfortable because the design displayed excellent lumbar support. My back cried out for lumbar support. I declined to drive David’s new car because the seats lacked lumbar support; the seats in my older Chevy Cavalier allowed my lower back to drive in comfort.
So we went to IKEA and I sat in the chair and wanted to stay there forever but stood and took it and its hassock home. And I just enjoyed the heck out of that chair.
The cats were wider than the armrests, so we put a stool on one side and a piano bench on the other. One armrest made a perfect mousepad.
It wasn’t beautiful or fancy, but my back loved it. Problem solved.
Until the chair started to list to the right. That’s because I listed to the right. I’ve never been into sitting up straight. In fact, until a certain age, I wasn’t into chairs at all. My preferred positions were either lying down—which is how I got the idea for this topic from mydangblog—or sitting in sort of a yoga position, except with my legs folded up more compactly, and the rest of me slumped over. My family used to marvel at my ability to fold up like that, and my ability to think at the same time: most of my algebra homework was done while I was sitting in that position on the floor in front of the television. Unfortunately, the best I can do now is slump.
Anyway, I didn’t fold up in the IKEA chair, but I curled up a bit. To be accurate, I sat crooked. When my right shoulder went wonky, and I knew it wasn’t another torn rotator cuff because I hadn’t been to water aerobics for years (water aerobics is where I get two rotator cuff injuries, same shoulder), David said it must be the chair. After I wailed long and loudly enough about my poor arm, he said I must have a new chair. He wanted to buy a recliner at Walmart.
I said a Walmart chair would fall apart pronto, and I needed something sturdier. He said he would go to Walmart and buy a chair. I said I would need to try the chair before buying it, but I didn’t feel like shopping around. I’d recently begun chemo and didn’t have much energy. I repeated that a Walmart chair would fall apart. He said he would go to Walmart and buy a chair. I said it would fall apart. He said I needed a new chair NOW: He would buy a cheap chair and I could buy an expensive one when the cheap one fell apart.
But I insisted on approving the purchase, so I summoned the gumption to accompany him to Walmart, where I sat in a recliner. It was too big. I swamped around in it, and there was a handle on the side that lowered the footrest. My sore shoulder didn’t like the handle. I sat in another. It was a bit smaller, and it didn’t have a handle. It took leg power to lower the footrest. My legs didn’t always want to push that hard. It also had armrests that raised to show convenient storage compartments where I could stash things, such as my Kindle, and forget where I’d put them.
Those were the only recliners available.
Full disclosure: I didn’t play nice during the shopping trip. When I muttered “fall apart” for the fourth time, David remarked the chair had the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval, which meant quality. I muttered something I hope was unintelligible. David puts up with a lot.
The store ordered the chair and had it delivered to us. David opened the box. It was the wrong chair, the big one with the handle. Again, I wasn’t in the mood to play nice. I pouted. I think I cried.
David said we would get the correct chair, but he wasn’t going to box up the wrong one and send it back, so he would go to Walmart, buy the other chair, have it delivered, and sit in the wrong one himself.
Up to that point, he’d been sitting on his old futon, the first embarrassing element, which I’d been lobbying to replace since he’d brought it to our marriage twelve years before. It had no lumbar support, but he can sit anywhere. He’s tall and lanky and can fold himself up more compactly than I ever dreamed of doing.
My new chair arrived, along with its Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval. I sat. It worked.
So we sat along and sat along, until, a couple of years later, my arms began to itch. A lot. When the oncologist sent me to a dermatologist for another matter, she glanced at my arm and said, “How long have you had eczema?” I didn’t know I had eczema. She said no more about it, so I guess I still have eczema, and that’s the reason my arms itch now and then. I should have asked for a prescription for the drug they advertise on TV.
The point is, my chair’s fabric had begun to irritate my arms. David suggested we exchange chairs. Wrong chair’s upholstery was smooth. It wasn’t leather, of course; it wasn’t even Naugahyde. But it didn’t make me itch.
So the sitting in the wrong chair solved that problem. David extended the handle with a piece of PVC pipe so I could use it without pain (and complaint). Since the chair was larger, there was room for two, almost. Ernest sat on the right armrest-mousepad, pulled on my sleeve, oozed over, draped himself across the keyboard, and sent emails prematurely. To type, I scooted the computer to the left armrest.
Suddenly another problem arose, and this time I mean problem. (I just counted, and that was the fourth time I used the word problem. Now I’ve used it five times. Sorry, but it’s the only word that applies.)
One morning in a senior citizen (old people) memoir class, my hip went out. And I mean out. David had to help me from the classroom to the car, and from the car to the apartment, and everyone within a quarter of a mile heard me yelping with every step. I didn’t care.
At home I collapsed into wrong chair and called my massage therapist, who is part genius, part angel. The next day, she ran her thumbs down my spine and said, “When you work on your laptop, what’s right in front of you? The laptop?” I said the cat. She said, “I thought so.”
She fixed my back, which fixed my hip. I stopped sitting crooked and kept the laptop in front of me. I taught Ernest not to sit on my lap while I typed. If you’ve ever convinced a cat to do something he doesn’t want to do, you know that wasn’t fun for either of us. But he finally got the message. He continues to sit on the armrest, almost, and lay his head on the keypad, and sometimes he hits the Enter key and sends an unfinished email, or scrolls down down down, but the laptop stays directly in front of me, and so far my hip has stayed in place.
David uses the other recliner, just as he did my wrong one, and as he did the late unlamented futon, sitting upright with his feet flat on the floor. I don’t know why anyone would do that than when he could practically lie down. When Ernest sits on the floor or the window sill and gazes at him, David sets the laptop aside and gives the cat his full attention. David’s hip and back are fine. Ernest is happy.
We’ve had these Walmart chairs for nearly five years, and neither has collapsed. But my original reservations are proving at least partially justified.
I think I just reached the totally embarrassing part.
Several weeks ago, I found a brown speck of something on my neck. The next day some brown specks fell from my hair onto my shoulders. By the end of the week, I’d decided the shower of specks might be something worth identifying.
Then I looked at the pictures of the tiara (see “Pearls and Teeth and Abject Mortification,” 11/5/2020) and saw the source of said specks. My upholstery is shedding. As I suspected, the fabric is not Naugahyde. The hyde of the Nauga does not decompose.
Decomposition is not a deal-breaker. I could put a slip cover over it, if I cared enough. So far, I don’t. David and I are the only ones who see it. If predictions of medical experts are correct, and I believe they are, we’re the only ones who’ll see it until at least January 2022. So unless the brown faux-Nauga-dandruff becomes intolerable, I’ll leave things alone.
Then another complication arose. My knees. A couple of months ago, almost overnight, they stopped wanting to bend overmuch. As in when I stand up. I attributed the change to having fallen on the left one in 1990 and again in 1991 (and again in 2020, although I count that as being knocked down by a box I was trying to open); plus, I have loose joints; plus, let’s face it, they’re getting on up there. In fact, I think they’re older than the rest of me. Maybe I folded them up too often.
But last week the doctor—bless his heart, and I mean that sincerely—said one of my meds might be making them stiff. I’ll keep the injury excuse for one knee, but I now blame the rest on pills instead of on age.
Where this impacts the chair thing: I have to push myself up. Wrong recliner is soft and squashy, and so am I, and when I sit, it depresses. It’s difficult to rise from a dining room chair at a 90-degree angle, mainly after I’ve sat too long, but from the recliner there are several more degrees to negotiate.
David wants to help, but he can’t pull me up. It just doesn’t work that way. I have to push. He can only make sure that once I’m up, I don’t go back down again.
So I’ve developed a method: rocking. I rock back and forth, building up speed and force, and when the time is right, or seems like it, I push myself onto my feet, stand jackknifed for a few seconds to make sure I’m stable, and then slowly progress to full upright stance. I’ve become so good at it that David doesn’t [always] hold his breath, watching, ready to jump to my aid.
There’s a toll, however. Last night I was rocking fiercely back and forth, gaining momentum, almost ready to attempt an ascent, when I glanced to my right and saw Ernest, eyes wide, ears back, clinging for dear life to the armrest. I usually warn him of what’s coming, but he’d been so still and quiet that I’d forgotten he was there.
I felt just terrible. Terrible for scaring him, and terrible for laughing at his distress. And terrible that I had to stop and start all over. Standing up really isn’t the jolliest part of my day. I like to get it over asap.
And David has another suggestion pending: a chair lift. More specifically, since wrong recliner is desquamating at an increasingly rapid pace, he suggests a chair that stands up and dumps me out.
I didn’t want one. I’m only fifteen years old. I want to stand up by myself. I’m not ready to give up. I’ll ride that stationary bike to El Paso and back and get myself in shape. If I’m going to stand up, I’ll stand up under my own steam, thank you very much.
Then I thought about my uncle’s mother-in-law, Mrs. C. She was a lot older than fifteen, a lot older than my birth certificate says I am, and her knees were in worse shape than mine are. She hobbled around the house, but that was the extent of her mobility. She was essentially housebound. My aunt proposed the obvious solution:
“Mother, we should get you a wheelchair.”
—”NO. They say, once you start using a wheelchair, you never stop.”
“But with a wheelchair, you could get out of the house.”
—”NO. They say, once you sit down in one of those things, you never get up.”
“But, Mother, you wouldn’t use it every day. Just when we go out. We could go shopping. We could go to the grocery store. We could go to the fabric store. We could go to restaurants. We could stay out all day if we wanted.”
—”NO. I’m not riding around in any chair. I’d never walk again.”
I didn’t want a wheelchair either, but attending a film festival in a mostly empty mall in which we had to walk practically to Florida to get to the theater, I was ready for the change. If fact, David was so ready that he found the office and borrowed a wheelchair. At home, we rented, then bought, one.
Then the doctor asked if I wanted a prescription for a rolling walker. David said, “Yes!” It works better than a cane, since you have to learn to use a cane–to establish a rhythm–and I stagger around instead. I am making peace with having to use the rolling walker. I don’t usually use it the house.
I used it when we got our first COVID vaccination last Thursday. I shouldn’t have. I walked fine, and sat once or twice, which was helpful, but I’d been told not to take ibuprofin beforehand, and by the time I got home, my knees were a wreck. Along with the rest of me. Walking for exercise is not an option. David didn’t tell me I could take ibuprofin after the shot, so I waited about forty-eight hours. A wreck.
Yesterday David purchased a lightweight wheelchair. Walmart. I said nothing about falling apart. He said nothing about the Good Housekeeping seal. It’s lighter than the plain one and easier to get into the car–I didn’t know he had trouble with the other one. I can’t use wheels to maneuver it myself, but the one time I tried that with the other chair, in Home Depot, I ended up where I hadn’t planned, so I don’t care. If I have a problem, I’ll stand up and walk. Ibuprofin helps.
That is my story about chairs.
It’s too long, and it’s boring, and it needs to be edited, but that’s a lot of trouble. So there.
Re: the chair that dumps you out. We agreed the kind that fits in the recliner looks uncomfortable, and I might need the kind that stands up and dumps you out. After hearing from a former student who had a rising-up chair, however, that a recent power failure left her chair immobile, and her stuck lying down, I’m wondering. Lying down until the electricity returns might be more difficult that standing up. I doubt I could roll out.
THE END, FINALLY
Image of IKEA-type chair by Kari Shea from Pixabay
Image of giraffe by blende 12 from Pixabay
Image of leather chair OpenClipArt-Vectors from Pixabay
Image by Gerhard G. from Pixabay
Image of ginger cat by Films42 from Pixabay
An hour ago, Ernest had his monthly dose of anti-flea medication.
Process: David sprayed calming spray and gave it time to take effect, then dragged Ernest out from under the china cabinet, put him on my lap, and held him steady while I squeezed the little droplets onto the back of his neck.
Afterward, David retreated to the bedroom to dose William, who is perpetually calm.
Ernest has been sitting beside me, in the same position, staring down the hallway, ever since David left. I think he would like to crawl back under the china cabinet, but he’s too calm to move.
But he is vigilant. Ever vigilant. He never knows when an enemy agent might assault him with essential oils and pheremones.
And what then? The possibilities are too terrible to imagine.
Ernest wanted a share of the chili I had for dinner. I was not into sharing.
He’s never had people food and thus has no concept of tummy ache. He also has no concept of, “It would burn your mouth.” Or, “You wouldn’t eat it. After you get one sniff, you’ll walk away.”
Or, “I don’t eat your food, so you’re not going to eat mine.”
Truth to tell, I wasn’t crazy about it myself. It came from a can. Thinking canned chili appropriate for sheltering in place, which I assumed would be like spending several years in an underground bomb shelter, I bought two cans. After a month inside I gave in and opened one.
When I say I wasn’t crazy about it, I mean it it’s okay, but it doesn’t measure up to my mother’s. Well, what does?
She didn’t use as much chili powder as the factory does. She sautéd onions, browned ground meat, and added Chili Quick. She might have used a little chili powder, but not much. Chili Quick did the job. No catsup, no tomatoes, no jalapeños. Sometimes we spooned chili over rice, but the two were never combined at the stove. Like rice, pinto beans were served on the side.
She usually delighted my father by making it for the first cold snap.
“Oh, I can’t cook,” she often said. When I disputed that, she said she didn’t cook exotic or complicated dishes. I told her she was a plain cook. For the most part, she made what my father liked, which meant she cooked what his grandmother had (for example, fried chicken unencumbered with layers of crust, homemade peach ice cream, meringue pies). There was one exception: She served only one kind of meat dish per meal. The Waller women put three meats on the table (for example, roast beef, ham, fried steak); his aunts apologized if they served only two.
My father ate everything my mom cooked, even fried liver, which he hated, but he never complained. When he wasn’t home, she cooked creamed chicken on toast. Home from World War II, he had banned creamed everything, Irish potatoes, and Spam. He got over the Irish potato phobia but not the other. My first week in second grade at a new school, I reported that the cafeteria offered a choice of ham or something else that was flat and sort of pinkish. I’d never heard of Spam.
I understand I’m not the only Baby Boomer unfamiliar with that delicacy.
Having been stationed for several months in Scotland and England, my dad also banned mutton. For a while after the war, mutton was the only meat my mom could get. She pretended it was beef.
Casseroles were not a favorite so we didn’t often have them. Once, when I was in high school—a good twenty years after D-Day—my mom came home from work with a new recipe for tuna casserole and said she liked it and was going to make it, so there. It was terrible. We ate peanut butter sandwiches and gave the casserole Desiree, our Collie. Desiree looked at it and walked away. Randy, the enormous yellow dog who lived next door, came over and finished it off. How he managed to gobble up every scrap, even soupy white sauce, and leave the asparagus I don’t know. I guess it’s a dog thing.
Back to Ernest. He was interested in the chili but ignored the green beans. Also canned. I sympathized. I love fresh green beans. The green pintos that came from my great-uncle’s Maurice’s garden on the farm were delicious. So were the mature pintos.
I’ve picked rows and rows of those, then sat at home in the air conditioning, shelling same. Most went into the freezer, as did black-eyed peas. Cream peas, rarely planted, we’re exquisite.
Uncle Maurice was generous with his produce, but gathering it could be hazardous. Once when a group of women were picking beans and peas for a Methodist Church dinner, one of them came upon a rattlesnake. The story goes that she ran but her shoes stayed put.
One year, Dick Ward, of nickel ice cream fame, stopped my father outside the ice cream parlor, then went back inside and brought out a paper sack of dried cream peas and asked my dad to plant them on his farm, where Dick had once lived. At the end of the season, my dad delivered to Dick the entire crop—one pea. The seeds were either old or passive aggressive.
Back to Ernest again. As I said, he wouldn’t have eaten the chili. But he would have snuffled it, and eating chili that’s been cat snuffled is almost as bad as eating chili that’s been cat licked. I’ve caught him licking cream cheese off English muffins I’ve carelessly set on the table beside my recliner and walked away from. I can’t be sure he won’t branch out, and that would be a certain recipe for tummy ache.
And, most important of all, I’m Ernest’s mother. I should do as well by him as mine did by me.
Today we saw the first sign that spring is upon us.
It wasn’t a robin. It wasn’t a bluebonnet.
It was a chameleon, the first one I’ve seen in years. Once, a zillion lived in my yard in Fentress, crawled across window screens, sneaked into a bedroom and blended into the leaf-patterned draperies, causing minor panic when discovered.
Then Ms, my Siamese cat, went on a lizard binge, causing more havoc. If you think it’s unsettling to see, without prior notice, a lizard running across the bedroom floor, try opening the door and finding one lying belly up, dead, often minus the skin of his soft underbelly, right where you were planning to plant your foot. I appreciated Ms’s thought, but the gift, not so much.
Anyway—maybe because the chameleon population had been decimated, maybe because survivors got wise and relocated—by the early ’80s, they were gone.
They didn’t frequent our former apartment, either. But now that one has appeared outside the window at our new place, more will surely follow. I hope.
Ernest hopes so, too. He saw the visitor before I did, jumped onto the window sill, stood, and batted. Stood down, stood up, and batted. Again and again.
Watching a beloved pet hunt and not gather is heartrending, up to a point. Mostly it’s a grab-the-camera-and-holler-at-David-to-come-see moment. We focused on the scene as closely as Ernest focused on his prey.
The hunt ended when the lizard scooted eighteen inches to the right. Ernest lost him. He lay down and stared out the window. David tapped on the window and pointed but failed to catch his attention.
A few minutes later, we abandoned him and headed downtown to the Violet Crown Theater for CatVideoFest—”a compilation reel of the best cat videos culled from countless hours of unique submissions and sourced animations, music videos, and, of course, classic internet powerhouses.”
Most were short-shorts, amateur cats being cats, filmed by their owners. A few were scripted. I’ve included links to two of those—”An Engineer’s Guide to Cats 2.0—The Sequel” and “Henri 2—Paw de Deux.” Cat lovers—crazy or not—have likely seen them online. Crazies might think they’re worth watching again.
Here’s a link to a list of theaters (nationwide) where you can view the movie. Today’s showing was the last in Austin, but if you’re elsewhere and interested, you can look it up.
CatVideoFest raises funds for “cats in need.” Part of the proceeds from the three Austin showings will go toAustin Pets Alive, an animal rescue and advocacy organization that fosters homeless animals and finds them forever homes.
Years ago, I closed my first blog, Whiskertips, because it had, against my will, become catcentric. The title was the only one I could think of that wasn’t already in use, and I’d just acquired William and Ernest (from APA) and so had cats on the brain. I suppose the name constituted a self-fulfilling prophecy.
I’ve vowed this blog will not fall into feline paws, but lately I’ve been walking a very fine line.
Ernest felt fine when he woke this morning, but then he was unceremoniously hauled down to the vet’s for labs, blood draw, glucose and fructosamine, all that, and now he feels exposed, defenseless, in need of laptime. So that’s what he’s getting.
I didn’t want to work anyway.
Ernest having abandoned the keyboard for more interesting pursuits, I type unhindered.
I planned a brief statement about a cat and a keyboard, nothing else, but as Wednesday appears to have rolled around while my back was turned, I’ll add the #ROW80 report.
The goalI stated Sunday was to add 4,000 words to my WIP by March 26. Roughly 1,000 words per week—written and submitted to my critique group—would answer.
At five o’clock Monday morning, however, my body told my brain that I wasn’t going to add 1,000 words to anything, and my brain said my body was oh, so right about that.
On Tuesday, my body said I could add some words if I wanted, but my brain said Monday’s meltdown had been so demoralizing that it had no intention of contributing one independent thought, thank you very much.
In other words, I’m where I was on Sunday.
Except I’m really a little further back than that, because I just realized the post I prepared to link to my #ROW80 announcement—which I’d put up on the group blog Ink-Stained Wretches—was never posted here at all. I didn’t click Publish. It’s been sitting here in draft form for three days, just sitting, waiting for something to happen that never happened.
A lot like that proposed 1,000 words.
Well. Four more days in this week. Twenty-nine more days in the month.
Ernest arrived at the veterinarian’sunder the influence–that calming spray is magic–and was immediately ushered into the cat lounge, a small room with four comfortable chairs for humans and just enough space in the middle for a carrier.
Wall pheremones were plugged into an electrical socket, and music filled the air: the albumMusic for Cats.David Teies, a soloist with the National Symphony Orchestra, worked with animal scientists to develop music designed to help cats de-stress.
Eleanor Stanford, reviewing Teies’ CD for the New York Times, describes it as, “a series of whirring, lilting and at times squeaky musical tracks designed for cats’ brains and ears.”
In some tracks, sounds similar to the chirps of birds are overlaid with hurried streams of staccato for an energizing effect; in others, crescendos of purring and suckling sounds are designed to relax.
“To a human ear,” she says, “the sounds are otherworldly and at times soporific.”
Regarding cats,Charles Snowden, professor emeritus of psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who worked on the project, reports,
My cat, Pocket, could do with some music-induced relaxation. She was found wandering the streets of the Bronx, and when we took her from the New York City Animal Care and Control shelter to her new home in Brooklyn, she developed a nervous habit of running full speed down the hallway, smacking her head against doors along the way.
Listening to the track “Cozmo’s Air,” built upon soothing vibrato sounds, she sat still. By the end of the four and a half minutes, she had curled herself around the speakers, purring.
A link to one of the tracks, “Katey Moss Catwalk,” appears on Youtube. A link is below.
Ernest huddled in his carrier the entire time we were in the lounge, and I didn’t have a good view of him, so I couldn’t gauge his response, but he remained calm, even, the technician reported, during some unpleasant tests. So who knows?
Anyway, if he didn’t care for “Music for Cats,” I did. It is truly soporific.
Having recently been plagued by insomnia, I may buy a copy for myself.
For anyone who hasn’t run across the word before–and I mean no disrespect, since the first time I heard it, I had to look it up, and I was working on a master’s degree in English at the time–soporificmeans, “causing or tending to cause sleep; tending to dull awareness or alertness.”
It is said that the effect of eating too much lettuce is “soporific.”
I have never felt sleepy after eating lettuces; but then I am not a rabbit.
They certainly had a very soporific effect upon the Flopsy Bunnies!
From this we may infer than young children can learn big words and will learn them if they’re used and explained in the proper context. It is wrong to underestimate the abilities of children. They don’t have to be graduate students to add grown-up words to their personal lexicons.
On impulse, I include Rossini’s “Cat Duet,” sung by Felicity Lott and Ann Murray, also on Youtube.
One comment: “The perfect response to everyone who thinks classical music is dead serious, dull and boring.”
Another: “My cat just left the room.”
And a third: “Dear God I cannot believe two grown women actually did this.”
Ernest listened and appreciated it.
(Note: The comments above refer to a performance by Kiri Te Kanawa and Norma Burrows. But this one is funnier.)
There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance; pray, love, remember; and there is pansies, that’s for thoughts; . . . there’s rue for you, and here’s some for me. . . . O, you must wear your rue with a difference.
~ William Shakespeare, Hamlet
The Davis tree went up on December 2. I love it.
I always shoot for early December, but I’m calendar-challenged; some years, Christmas arrives almost before the tree.
This time, David said if I didn’t have the gumption to get up out of my chair and into the car, he would choose a tree himself. Not in so many words, of course, but the subtext was unmistakable.
Christmas trees have always been problematic. When we were first married, we had a tree tree. Six-month-old Chloe walked it like a spiral staircase and perched among the branches. We had to close her up in the bedroom so we could decorate. In fact, we had to close her up in the bedroom so we could get it into the stand.
She left off climbing—I don’t know why, certainly not because I told her to—but for the rest of the season, she and Christabel lay on the bunched up sheet (snow) beneath. They were picturesque. Then we discovered them eating needles.
We took the hint (potential surgery) and responded with an artificial tree with lights already installed and an electrical cord for easy twinkling. On a dining room chair, and after only one blip, it attracted minimal attention. Ernest did not chew the cord.
This year David had a brainstorm: Put the tree atop the china closet.
So we went next door to Home Depot, passed up fir, and brought home a small rosemary tree. Nontraditional, but that’s us. One of our most repeated sentences is, “I wonder how normal people do this.”
We also bought a string of 100 lights, some of which now hang down the side of the china cabinet. They add to the the quirky charm. Unless Ernest notices, chews the cord, gets 110 volts, and must again be rushed to the ER.
We found snow (a length of fabric from the Walmart sewing aisle) to keep the pot from scratching the wood where we would never see scratches, but still. Folded, it doesn’t look too bad, and it was cheaper than a lovely felt tree skirt. I think our old sheet-snow was lost in the move.
I insisted on some tiny ornaments. David said there wasn’t room. There wasn’t.
Back at home, I googled rosemary and learned it’s not toxic to cats, and that due to the strong odor, they probably won’t eat it, and, if they, do, they’ll stop at one bite. But the insecticide is toxic. Jolly. If eaten, rosemary can cause gastric distress. The label says the plant should be watered weekly; I’ll be sure to do that, since I don’t want any dropped leaves. We’ve had enough gastric distress to last well into 2020.
The label also says the tree needs natural light, which it ain’t going to get in its current location. David says not much light penetrates our window screens, anyway, so it’ll have to make do with lamps. I might put it outside for a few hours each day. No one is likely to walk off with it.
With any luck, it will last till Epiphany.
So there we have it: Rosemary for remembrance—and we will remember; and a prayer that, although we display our tree with a difference, David and I will get those cats through Christmas without our having to wear rue.
Shakespeare has a line for everything if you’re willing to think hard enough. That’s where the pansies come in.
“Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people’s hats off—then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can. — Herman Melville
When it’s November, I give thanks summer is over and 100-degree weather temporarily behind us.
This November I gave thanks for the veterinarian.
While was in Dallas at a writing conference, David noticed symptoms of diabetes and took Ernest in for confirmation and treatment. I asked how he got the cat into the carrier. “With great difficulty,” he said.
After I returned home, we took him back to the doctor for gastric problems related to his new dietary regimen. The next day, he seemed to be in worse shape, so we took him back. Because he doesn’t like injections any more than he likes the carrier, we hadn’t been able to give him insulin, so that afternoon, before releasing him, the vet gave him a shot.
That night about midnight, in the dark, I stepped on a furry mass beside the bed and turned on the light. Guess who. Ernest. That was a surprise, since he usually sleeps under the bed. When I picked him up, another miracle occurred—he tolerated it. He doesn’t like to be picked up and held either. He felt like a rag doll. David rubbed honey on his gums, and we headed for the animal ER/hospital (where he went several years ago after eating thread).
By the time we arrived, his blood sugar was 25, so he stayed for an IV and monitoring. At dawn–6:00 a.m., but it felt like dawn—we took him back to our vet for further monitoring. At 5:00 p.m, on the vet’s advice, we delivered him to the hospital for 24 to 36 hours of monitoring. The vet who had given him the insulin was amazed his glucose plummeted like that. The next afternoon, we picked him up.
Over the next two days, I functioned as a lap.
He’s doing well now. We hoped his diabetes could be controlled by diet, but he’s taking injections from David as if they’re no big deal. We watch him for hypoglycemia.
I don’t know whether I could inject him. He and David have always been buds. David is calm, so in David’s sphere, Ernest is calm. I energize him, so he marches around on me and sits on the arm of the chair and pulls on my sleeve. To give him his due, he’s learned to “liiiiiieeeeeeee dowwwwwwwwwwwn” after hearing me plead not too many times. But he has no intention of learning, “Stop pulling on my sleeve.”
On the topic of energy, since retiring, I’ve realized I energized my students, too, more’s the pity. They didn’t need energizing.
Anyway, November, to me, will always be The Month of the Hypoglycemic Cat.
And on a less alarming note, the The Month It Is Cooler, and in 2019, Damp and Drizzly, and Sometimes Even Rainy, Which is Nice.
I shouldn’t say this, lest it embarrass him, but in the hospital, Ernest’s legs were shaved so veins could be accessed, and now he looks like a 1950s lady wearing a fur coat with three-quarter sleeves and gauntlet gloves.