Monday, August 15, 2016

Choosing Kindness

I didn’t realize how affected I was by hatred and anger until I stopped following the election so closely and started watching the Olympics. Suddenly, instead of knotting up with anger, I was bursting with pride. I was shedding tears of joy, and I was watching opposing athletes show incredible class, congratulating each other, acknowledging the others’ skills, and celebrating. There was so much celebrating!

It reminded me of something important. I knew this, of course, but I appreciated the timely reminder. I can choose what I want to feel, and I can decide how I want to behave. And as simple as this is, I feel it’s important to say it. I am choosing kindness.

As I’ve mentioned before, a huge part of my childhood was spent with my best friends, Jackie and Janet. Their house was my safe place. I always felt welcome. I knew I was loved unconditionally. And their house was a place of joy and respect and laughter and kindness. A lot of the good in me came from all the time I spent there. This awkward kid with zero self worth became better because of their family’s kindness, not just to me, but to everyone.

I have realized over the years that the people who inspire me the most are the people who are kind. They can be friends who are lovingly raising stepchildren, ex-husbands (yes, that’s what she said) who were kind and patient with their children and the teams they coached, mamas like the one I was lucky enough to have, preschool teachers who still call my girls every year on their birthdays, volunteer firefighters who are out in the middle of the night racing to help people while I’m snug in my bed, a boss who knows you learned from your screw-up and doesn’t feel the need to chew you out, caregivers and medical professionals who give of themselves to help others who are hurting and scared…

How nice is it that I could think of so many kind people in the space of a few minutes? That says a lot for my world, a world I need to always remember to appreciate.

Recently someone I know wrote something cruel and insensitive on Facebook. I questioned her because I was so stunned. She got back in my virtual face, and then as I was “leaving” I said something snarky that I regretted not long afterward. It wasn’t terrible, she certainly was deserving, and I am still horrified by what she wrote, but I didn’t need to get caught up in her anger. She has the anger issue, and I have the freedom and the ability to walk away. I can choose kindness.

Dee Brown, the former Illinois basketball player who, in my opinion, is one of the greatest athletes of all time, demonstrated kindness at every turn. He was an incredible point guard, the “one-man fast break,” but the thing I truly loved about him was the way he always picked up a player he had collided with. It was the way he showed class and respect and yes, kindness, that put him above the rest.

My friend, Mindy, who fought against a very aggressive leukemia, was always kind. Even after her diagnosis, she was always kind……and funny……but always polite and kind. And my inspiration, Ashley, who is fighting breast cancer, demonstrates every day that she has kindness and gratitude in her heart. You know there have to be times when she feels kicked and beaten down, but she never lets it take over. She chooses kindness and joy, so she can give her daughter the best life possible, because that’s what matters.

With Ashley setting such an amazing example, how can I get pissy over silly things? How can I react to being offended by a comment that doesn’t really matter? I have had a good reminder recently as I celebrate Team USA, that the small stuff is just small stuff, and I can walk away.

So I will continue to say please and thank you, to hold doors for others, to wave other drivers ahead of me. As my mama liked to say, “Take a piece of the world and make it shine.” I don’t have to move mountains or break a world record. I can, in my own small way, make my piece of the world shine.

This doesn't mean I will be a doormat. I will always stand up for what is right. But I will do it while being kind. That is something I control, and I’ll do my bit to make the world nicer.

I am choosing kindness.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

I'm In! Well, Sort of....

Ohhh, so much to do in my new house! My office is full of boxes, papers, more boxes and files, and that’s just the top level. Two side tables just arrived, and I need to put them together. And I can’t even get through all the address changes, new bill pays, new everything! So, because I’m Andee, I’ll write a blog post instead!

I am seriously shaking my head at myself as I write this. But here’s the thing. I was so focused on moving out of my Mahomet house. I downsized so much … furniture to ReStore, smaller things to Goodwill, trash in a rented dumpster and things recycled when I could. I loaded up tubs … ok, this is even putting me to sleep. My point is I really worked hard to get ready for my move. I totally forgot that once I did move, I’d have to actually move in. All of a sudden the movers were gone, and I had boxes EVERYWHERE. And I swear they multiply when I’m sleeping!

So I’ll tell you about my new neighborhood. As was pointed out to me after my last post, I didn’t actually say where I was moving. I knew where it was, so I figured everyone did. Or I just forgot. It could have been that. Anyway, I am in Huntley, Illinois, in a Del Webb community, which is a development built specifically for people over 55 (yes, I was carded). It has 5500 homes, two pools, gym facilities, an indoor track and outdoor trails, a golf course, a restaurant, clubs for every interest and then some, day trips, classes, recreation and exercise activities … I could go on. Let’s just say I’m going to do some serious damage to my bucket list … just as soon as I finish unpacking.

I’ve met some neighbors, and more importantly, I’ve liked them. One of the first nights I was here, I was actually unpacking, when my doorbell rang. It was a neighbor telling me I needed to stop working and come over to the bi-weekly neighborhood happy hour. I said I would go to the next one, but he was not going to accept that. So what was I to do? I made a cocktail and walked across the street to meet my new neighbors. I apologized for being gross and sweaty, and the arm-twister who had invited me said, “We’re all retired. We don’t give a rat’s ass what you look like!” And I knew I was home.

Not long after that, my next door neighbor came over to introduce herself, and she brought me a box of Frango Mints. Cue happy music. One of the great moments of any trip to Marshall Field’s in Chicago was a bite into a Frango Mint. It was as if she knew me! I think we’ll be good neighbors, and not just because of my sweet tooth. We actually had a fair amount in common.

This is my biggest move since our move from Springfield to Champaign almost 30 years ago. This is definitely a happier one. I am just down the road from my grandbabies, and it also helps to not be suffering from depression. One of these days I’ll post about that, but not today. Today the sun is shining, and I’m happy and full of energy. And now that I’ve said that, seriously, I really need to go unpack.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

I'm Moving!

I’m moving! I’m actually moving very soon – 10 days-ish – and I should be getting things organized, getting rid of things, etc, etc. So I’m doing what is so typical for me – anything but what I should be doing. This morning my mind said, “I know! I’ll write a blog post! I haven’t posted in more than two months, so I will do it today!” Does anyone wonder why I was the queen of the all-nighter in getting through school?

I always thought one day I would be more prepared, plan appropriately and follow through accordingly. One of my college roommates would study for a few hours every evening, then smoke a bong (it was the 70s), then watch Johnny Carson’s monologue, and then go to bed. Every night. She was so organized, and I was so in awe. I knew one day I would be just like her.

I’m almost 60 now. I’m beginning to think my behavior can’t be changed. But I’m still holding out some hope…..

Here’s the story. I’ve mentioned this before. For a very long time, I’ve wanted to someday move closer to my children, and especially to my grandchildren. Everyone else has flown the coop. Leah is in Elgin. Lindsay is currently in New Orleans after moving from New York City and about to move back to Baltimore, but most importantly, she’s not in Mahomet. Even Dave and Cindy left town! This was not part of my plan! They’re in Washington DC. So, I’m the last of our Chestnut family in Champaign County. And with Mom now gone, I don’t have a reason to live near Peoria. Soooo…..

It was easy to say that someday I’d be closer to my babies. It’s a bit harder to actually make it happen. I’m mostly excited, but not completely. I have good friends here. I love my little house here. I’ve spent almost 30 years of my life here. I’ve loved living in a major university community, where I’ve bled orange and blue and always will (some years have been bloodier than others). I loved most of the 20 years I worked for the Champaign County Forest Preserve District and will always love most of my coworkers (you know who you are, and just a few know why you aren’t). I’ve always lived south of I-80 and really think of myself as a downstate girl. I’ve loved deliveries from Filippo’s on more nights than I care to admit. Ok, when I start on the food, I know I need to move it along…..

Twenty-nine years ago, when Dave said, “I really want to take that job in Champaign,” I knew we needed to go because when I said, “I really want to be with my babies and not go back to teaching,” he had agreed to that. It was a very painful move for me. I loved Springfield…….LOVED Springfield. It was the first place I had felt like a real person. I had felt successful as a teacher. I had made many fabulous friends. I had the Barrel Head, where everyone really did know my name. And I was finishing up a master’s degree in Governmental Public Relations in the state capital where jobs were just waiting for me to apply for them! (It’s possible the jobs part was just in my head.)

So, I moved AWAY from the state capital! Excellent career move! We had a four-year-old, and we also had a two-week old colicky baby, AND I was in the midst of some pretty horrible post-partum depression, which then developed into some paralyzing panic attacks. Sure, moving to a new city sounds good! Let’s do it!

I told myself we were only going for a couple of years, and then we’d move back, although I knew in my heart that wouldn’t be the case. It did help me avoid many goodbyes though, so I went with it. Turns out I suck at goodbyes. Still do. Fortunately, now the world is much smaller, and I have learned that the friends I’m meant to keep, I will keep, no matter where they are, or how far away from them I am. At the time, though, it helped me a lot to think and say it wasn’t a permanent move.

Every time I drove back to Springfield, which was a lot because of the always-growing number of Chestnuts who still live there, I’d see the capitol dome and get a stomach ache because I missed living where I had been so happy. Then one day, after about two years, I realized I felt like a visitor to Springfield, that Champaign County was my home, and I actually was happy.

So, I know I can do this. I will make friends, and I’m not worried about that anyway, because I already have incredible friends. I will find new doctors, new restaurants, new shortcuts, new parks, new stores, other fun places to go, blah, blah. I can do it! And I have the added benefit of my grandsons (and their parents) being just 20 minutes away. No more three-hour drives. I’ll be 20 minutes down the road. AND I’ll be 50-ish minutes to an airplane that can take me to whichever city Lindsay happens to reside in on whatever day.

Love you, Champaign County, and especially Mahomet. I really do. You were good to us all. I will have fond memories of you, just as I do of Springfield, but I know it’s time. So, here’s to the next adventure….

Friday, April 1, 2016

The Woman in the Airport

A few weeks ago, I went to pick Lindsay up at O’Hare. I took Matt with me and told him I had to pick up a special package. It was great fun anticipating his joy when he would see it was actually Aunt Boo.

While we were waiting, we wandered around to try to find some planes to watch, which we soon learned was not possible from our location. I was remembering all the times plane-watching at an airport was a fun, and low-cost, activity back in the day, and although I understand the need for security in this new age, I am sad for all the kids who won’t get that experience anymore.

So we got some food and decided to sit on a bench in baggage claim to wait for our special delivery. A woman sat down next to us after a while. We chit-chatted as waiting people tend to do, nothing I can really remember, just small talk. She was quite taken with Matt, thought he was adorable, and talked with him also. He, being Matt, had plenty of things to tell her as well. After a bit, she asked me to watch her things while she went to the food kiosk. I said it would be no problem. As she walked away, in the back of my mind, I was thinking I didn’t really know her and I probably shouldn’t be so trusting, so I watched her. Sure enough, she did go to the food kiosk and came back with a fruity yogurt thing.

We continued to chat, and she told me the woman behind her at the kiosk asked if she was hungry, and she said she was. She went on to say the woman told her to pick whatever she wanted, and she would buy it for her.

While we were both saying how nice that was, I was realizing with shock (that I hopefully kept to myself), this very nice woman sitting with me must be homeless. I was trying to work all this out in my head. Why would a homeless woman be at the airport? Isn’t everyone at the airport either traveling or waiting for someone traveling? I scolded myself for being so comfortable in my world that this was all so surprising to me.

Her name was Linda. I let her in on the secret special delivery, and she was completely tickled by it. She told me about her three grown children. They check on her often, calling her on the phone they have provided for her. They want her to live with one of them, but she said, “Why should I impose on other people when I’m the one who has made such a mess of my life?”

She said she came in to get warm for a while. I asked her where she would sleep. She pointed to the bench we were on, but she said “they” have to wait until later when there aren’t as many people in the airport. I was surprised they were allowed to sleep there at all, and she said the police were actually very nice to them. That was good to hear because I have seen some not-so-nice authorities at that particular airport (another post for another time).

Back to Linda, she said around midnight the foot traffic really slowed down, and she could go to sleep. Then, she said, around five in the morning, the police would come around, shake them gently to wake them, and tell them it was time to get moving. She said one morning, she woke up with a $20 bill in her hand. I was very touched by all this, still scolding myself for living in my comfy little world where I’ve never worried about where to sleep or if I would get to eat that day.

She asked me if she could sit with us until Aunt Boo got there so she could watch the surprise. I said of course she could. She told Matt how she would often sit there waiting for packages also.

We talked about the latest political campaigns. She was well spoken and clearly knew what was happening in the world. We talked more about our children. There was no question she had been involved in raising hers, and they loved her very much. She said one of her daughters was in charge of her money. I’m sure there was some mental illness keeping her out on the streets, but I also saw this was a good person with a kind heart.

Then Lindsay arrived. I pointed to the “special delivery” so Matt would see her (he didn’t). She was finally standing right in front of him, saying, “I hear someone here is waiting for a special package.” It still took him a few seconds before he shouted, “Aunt Boo!!!” and jumped into her arms. Linda shared in our joy and was especially touched by Matt’s reaction because instead of asking if Lindsay had brought him anything, he asked how many days she would be there.

I introduced Lindsay to our new friend, and Lindsay responded warmly to Linda’s big hug. (I love that my girls are so kind.) And then it was time to go. I gave Linda the other half of my sandwich and a little bit of money. I didn’t want to be insulting to her, but she was happy to have it.

Then we hugged like old friends, and I knew this was a woman I would long remember with fondness. Little did I know the surprise that day would be on me.

Friday, March 4, 2016

57 Years of Stuff

Since Mom died, we have been attempting to clean out our parents’ house. We knew this time would come, and we knew it would be a challenge. We were correct.

Our parents were always packrats, which I’ve learned is very typical of people who lived through the Depression. That, along with the hoarding behaviors that often accompany Alzheimer’s, left us with, for lack of better words, a hell of a lot of stuff (3,000+ VHS tapes, 1000+ books, papers from the 1960s…….you get the picture).

When Dad passed away in 2012, my sister and I started on his things. His office was the worst. We couldn’t even walk into the room. Things were piled on piles upon piles. We removed bags of papers and other “stuff,” and it didn’t make a dent. Seriously. No one else would have known anyone had even touched that room, so we had to celebrate our small victories between each other, just so we could keep going.

Shortly into this process, we realized this was taking us away from precious Mom time, which we already knew was somewhat limited. So we stopped. We closed the door to the office, and we spent whatever quality time we could with Mom, knowing the stuff would not go away. Again we were correct. Now that Mom is gone, we are so grateful we grabbed that time with her. And the stuff didn’t go away. We joked sometimes that it actually multiplied when we weren’t looking.

I’ve learned a few things along the way – some from people who have been through this and some as we have been going through it ourselves. For what it’s worth, I hope this may help someone else.

I should note that I think an estate sale is a very good option, but Mom had always said, even before the Alzheimer’s, that the idea of people picking through her things was unbearable to her. I think this had something to do with her fears as a child as she watched families and their things being put out on the street. I’m not completely sure, but because she was so horrified by the idea, we didn’t go that route.

The first thing we did was make sure the important things went to the family members who wanted them. When I say “important things,” I’m talking about things valuable to us individually, not necessarily things worth any money. We all had different memories, so fortunately, we didn’t have a problem dividing things. Some items were important to all of us, but more in the sense that they needed to stay with someone in the family. I didn’t really need a chair, but we agreed Mom’s favorite chair needed to stay among us, so I’m keeping that. My sister, the family historian, is keeping all the photo albums and scrapbooks and important papers.

The kids decided the blocks, dolls and other toys they (and then the great grandsons) had played with, should still be toys at grandma’s house, so they wanted them to go to my place. I liked that idea also, especially that those memories were special to them and would continue, and I loved that they thought of it.

Over the years, Mom would ask us what we wanted. We would try to change the subject, but she really did want to know. So we did discuss it sometimes. I always wanted the Shalom needlepoint she worked on for practically ever. I also wanted the needlework given to her as a gift from her best friend, Pam, who had taught me to stitch, which created for me a lifelong hobby.

Leah wanted the pan with the broken handle, which always confused Grandma Rose. “Why in the world would you want a broken pan?!?” she would say with amazement. Leah explained to her that this was the pan Grandpa always used to make matzo brei (our favorite dish and his specialty). It’s true. You cannot look at that pan without hearing, “Who’s ready for matzo brei???”

Lindsay told me she wanted the kitchen table. I was really surprised. It’s just a table. It’s not even a particularly nice table. I remember giving her a funny look as I said, “Really?” She didn’t hesitate as she said, “That’s where we sat to do all our projects.” As I write this, I can picture Mom with the girls at the kitchen table, their heads bent over as they all busily worked on the next special creation.

Those were the things that mattered – the things that triggered good memories. I know for myself, every time I walk by the needlepoints, now in my house, they make me smile. Those things actually made us feel good, so we focused on them.

I should add, it took several visits to feel comfortable taking something. We were fortunate we had the time to ease into it. I can’t say it became easy, but the more we were in the house without our parents there, the less difficult it became. I was having trouble removing Mom’s needlepoint, and Lindsay suggested perhaps if we moved everything from that wall, it wouldn’t look so much like there was something missing. That was a great idea and immensely helpful.

After the important things were removed or set aside, we got back to the stuff – items to pitch, items to recycle, items to donate, and items we put in an “I don’t know” or “I can’t go there yet” area. We had to stay on task or we’d never get anywhere, so if something might be difficult, we set it aside for later. That allowed us to continue to move forward.

I drove to Peoria every couple of weeks so I could chip away at the house, taking numerous trips to the recycle drop, bagging up trash, donating books to the used book store, clothes and other items to Goodwill, going again to the recycle drop, donating more books, going back to Goodwill, and then rewarding myself with Avanti’s. Advil and Dan Fogelberg were necessities for my physical and mental well being. And naps. As I had been advised, taking care of myself was necessary also (took me years to learn that). And then up I’d go, to start it all again. Everything that left the house was one less thing to deal with later. That was pretty good motivation, but there was still SO MUCH STUFF.

Enter Lindsay. She had some time so she offered to come up and help. I believe my exact and immediate response was, “Oh, hell yes!” And boy, did she help! We spent five days there together, and I learned some more things. The younger generation is strong and has energy, and I should have tapped into that resource sooner. I also happen to like her a lot, so five days with her was fun. Five days with the wrong person could be a nightmare, and I would avoid that at all costs.

Time with Lindsay reminded me of another important thing, one I actually wrote about earlier - Always Find the Funny.

We laughed a lot. Every time one of us would climb up on something, the other would channel Grandma Rose in a panic worrying about someone getting hurt. I can still hear Mom’s voice from when I hung the curtains in the kitchen. “Anndeeeeee!” followed by my exasperated, “Mom! You have to stop that!”

When we’d go to bed, someone would say, “Ok, Roo (the cat). It’s time for bed? Let’s go then.” He was her alarm clock, and it was always a cute moment.

Lindsay and I were carrying a mattress out. In the middle of saying, “Ooh, I need a break” I dropped my end and nearly pulled Lindsay down with it. We were both doubled over laughing as she said, “Uh, do you think you could give me a little more notice next time?” We continued to laugh, and when I could speak again, I said, “I’m sorry. It came on me like the shits.” More hysterical laughter. Yep, still funny now.

Moving on……by the time Lindsay had left, two rooms were completely empty. Completely empty! And one of those was Dad’s office. Done! This was huge. There is still a long, long way to go, but this was HUGE.

And the very best thing…..Lindsay said she’d come back if I wanted. That got the same “Hell, yes!” again from me. I do believe with another visit from her, we can almost finish everything. I don’t want to set us up to fail, but I think we can do it because again, the hard part is going through the emotional triggers, and for the most part, we’ve faced those.

The most important thing I have learned? Stuff is just stuff, and I will get rid of things if I no longer need them. I am not going to do this to my children. I have promised them this, and I will stick to it. I will say it again. I am not going to do this to my children.

Friday, December 11, 2015

The Next Chapter

And so it begins. A lot of my life over the last five years involved helping to care for my parents. Dad died in 2012, and Mom died this past July. Four days of every week during that time, I was focused almost completely on their needs. I visited Peoria for two days most weeks. The day before was always my “knot in stomach” day as I anticipated all the things that could happen during my two-day “date with Alzheimer’s,” as I called it. Then the first day after I returned home was just pure exhaustion, mostly brain drain, as I recovered from my visit. The visits were often fine, but the anticipation was difficult. And the “being on” all the time was exhausting. It reminded me a lot of when I was first teaching, and I would come home, drop everything and collapse on the couch.

I feel good about the time I spent with my folks. As I’ve said, Dad was always more of a challenge because he had never lived by anyone else’s rules, but we got through it. Mom’s decline was challenging, but her sweet and funny self stayed with her to the end, for which my sister and I will be forever grateful.

So what now? First let me say with absolute sincerity, I would take Mom back in a heartbeat, Alzheimer’s and all. Spending time with her the past three years, even on our worst day, was always a joy and a gift, and if I could turn the clock back, I would do it.

But we all know the rules. I will have to wait to see her again. In the meantime…..

I’m going to appreciate every day I’m given, and I’m going to live my life in the best way I can – enjoying everything possible, being kind and trying to make a difference, spending time with the people who matter, and laughing until I pee (which doesn’t take nearly as long to achieve these days).

To Move or Not to Move?
For a long time now, I have considered moving closer to my children. Ok, since the day I became a grandma, I have considered moving closer to my grandchildren. Being three hours away is tough, and in my opinion, it’s about 2-1/2 hours too far.

Having said that, let me also say, I do not want to raise my grandchildren. Obviously I would step in if needed in those horrible situations I won’t even think about. Assuming all is reasonably normal though, let me say it again. I do not want to raise my grandchildren. I want to play with them, laugh with them, love them to pieces, snuggle with them, spoil them, enjoy every second with them, and then happily give them back to their parents so I can go home and enjoy the quiet. Being Gaya is the best gig I have ever had, and I do not want that to change.

But I can help more. I have the time, and it pains me sometimes that I could help if I were a little bit closer. As I’ve said before, my son-in-law, Scott, has to travel a lot for work. So Leah often has her hands full with those two very active little guys, in addition to her full-time teaching job. Sometimes just having another set of hands is helpful; and if one of the kids is sick, I can step in so she can work, or even better, sleep. Also, I can see the concerts, the soccer games, the ball games, swimming lessons, all those things that I could just pop over and see or do if I weren't so far away.

Actually, I’ve already got my eye on an area. It’s a Del Webb community for seniors in Huntley, Illinois. They have a restaurant, gym, walking track, two pools, trails, all kinds of things to do if I’m interested, including trips into the city to see shows, and get this…..they mow your yard and plow your snow. What is not to love about that deal?? And, I’d actually be one of the youngest in the crowd for a change! That hasn’t happened for a very long time!

Also, north of I-80, there’s Portillo’s, Giordano’s, Woodfield Mall, IKEA, and my favorite two words, yes, let’s say it together………Super. Target. Hallelujah!!

Of course, I will miss my beloved Avanti’s, Filippo’s, Peking House, Los Zarapes, and not just restaurants, but a few friends as well. But I also have friends north of I-80, and the world is smaller now. As I’ve demonstrated recently, I can fly to see one dear friend in Oregon, and then catch up with another great one in Florida. Granted, in hindsight, it probably was not the best planning on my part, but the point is I can get places.

And, I’m not leaving Lindsay out of this plan. I will be 45 minutes down the road from a major hub airport, so depending on where she is living in any given year (no bets here), I can fly to see her! Same if the kids should move away from Elgin. And of course, there's always a beach calling my name.

I don’t mean this to sound doomy and gloomy, but I have learned the hard lesson along the way, that tomorrow is not guaranteed, and I don’t know if and when Alzheimer’s will arrive, but I expect it will show up at some point. Mom always called it the family curse, and I think she may be right about that. So I’m not going to fear it. I’m going to live my life while I can, whether it’s flying to Ireland or snuggling up with a good book all day. Every day will matter.

So, bring on the bucket list and give me a planner. This girl’s got some stuff to do….

Monday, November 16, 2015

Rose and Roo – Together Again

I have been preparing for this day for a long time. “My” kitty, Roo, is 18 years old. I know it’s time. I know we’ve been on borrowed time. And I know what I need to do. But it’s ok (I tell myself). He needs to go be with his Rose.

When my Parker doggy died in 2007, I was heartbroken. I didn’t want another dog if I couldn’t have Parker, so I thought I’d just be by myself for a while. A couple of days after he left me, I noticed as I got in my car that I didn’t have my phone. I went back into the house, and said, “It’s just me…..” and I realized ….. I was speaking ….. to no one.

I thought that day that perhaps I did need another four-legged family member, not a dog, but maybe a cat. I made the mistake of mentioning this to my friend, Tonya, the animal whisperer, and she was very happy to encourage me. She smiled with a bit of delight, and said, “Wanna visit the shelter? It’s still opennnn......” I should have known better, but I agreed.

Fast forward to meeting one of the original grumpy cats. He didn’t want to snuggle. He didn’t even want to come out of his cage. He was nine years old, kind of an old fart, but there was a sweetness that drew me to him, and I had a feeling most people wouldn’t even notice him. Most people, I figured, would want the cute little, baby kitties. So I went with the least obvious choice, and after visiting again the next day, I told the staff I wanted to adopt Roo. I could hear the collective sigh of relief as I’m sure they all thought this guy was going to live his days out at the shelter. Nope. I decided we would rescue each other.

As I said, there was something sweet about him. He had been adopted from the shelter at four years old and brought back to the shelter five years later. Don’t even get me started on that. I feel my blood start to boil every time I think about someone doing that to this sweet boy. Who gives a sweet kitty back to the shelter after five years for no legitimate reason?? Well huh, I guess I got myself started, didn’t I?

Ok, taking a breath….I was told he was afraid of men and children. That turned out not to be true. He liked everybody. I suspected he had been locked in a room for a considerable amount of time because he hated closed doors. Seriously, if you felt the need to be bitched out by a cat, just close a door.

So the doors stayed open. And I gave him his space. And we were there for each other. And all was well.

When Dad died in 2012, Mom talked a lot about getting a dog. The idea of companionship was one we liked, but we were worried about all the care a dog would need, and we were afraid she could trip over the dog and fall. As my sister and I were discussing how we might possibly make this work, I had to go on two weeklong trips, and I mentioned that my neighbor would be taking care of Roo. Mom suggested I bring Roo to her, and she would take care of him. So we all thought, “Why not?”

And that begins the love story of Rose and Roo. When Roo and I arrived in Peoria, about 1-1/2 hours from my house (translates as 1-1/2 hours of Roo chewing me out – not a fan of car rides either), I put him down just inside the door, and suddenly I felt like the third wheel. (Cue harp music.) Mom quickly fell in love with Roo, and the grumpy old man fell fast in love with her. I thought at the time that I might not get this cat back. And I was correct.

The next time I was at Mom’s house, it was clear Roo needed to stay there. She was spoiling him rotten, and he was sucking up to her like nothing I’d ever seen. There had always been rules about animals not being on the furniture. Suddenly those rules didn’t exist. Mom first had said she didn’t want him on her bed. Then she said he could be on the bed, but not under the covers. By the time I returned, he was sleeping on the pillow next to her head. He was shameless.

She’d sit at the kitchen table, and he’d come in the kitchen and sit by her chair. That, to her, was the universal sign for “Poor kitty is starving and needs a treat.” I tried to tell her she shouldn’t feed him that much. Have you ever tried to tell a Jewish mother that she shouldn’t feed anyone too much? If so, you’re laughing right now.

The cutest thing, though, was when it was time for bed. In the evening, she would be sitting in her favorite living room chair, and Roo would come out from the bedroom and jump up on the arm of the chair and meow. A lot. And she would look at him and say, “Hi, Roo, is it time for bed?” He would meow, and off they’d go, because Roo had declared it so.

I realized at some point that he was meant to come to me that day in 2007, but only because I was meant to connect him with Mom. He ended up staying with her for 3-1/2 more years. Sometimes I’d whisper to him, “Don’t go anywhere yet. You need to stick around for her” because I couldn’t bear the thought of him going first. She was his constant companion, and he was hers.

So when Mom passed away, I figured Roo wouldn’t be far behind. It’s been a little over four months now, and I know it’s time. I’m really ok with it. I’m not happy about saying goodbye to him, but I do believe his calling was to care for Mom. And he did his job well.

I know he’s going to the rainbow bridge, and I have a feeling a certain great friend of his will be waiting for him. Probably with food. Just guessing.

Have fun, you two.