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.

Friday, November 6, 2015


I’ve been thinking about moms a lot lately. Obviously, I think about my own mama. I also spend time with my girl, Leah, and I’m in awe of her ability to take care of her two young boys while teaching full-time and often having to do it all while Scott travels for work. Although she would say sometimes she’s barely staying afloat, the truth is she is incredible, and even on a bad day, she’s still good.

I’ve also had reason to think even more about my friend, Mindy, whom I’ve written about before. She died in 2001 when her daughter, Rachel, was just 12 years old. Well, her beautiful Rachel got married a few weeks ago. Rachel has spent a lot of years living without her mama’s physical presence, and I know it’s been terribly rough for her, but she’s become this amazing young woman who makes me so proud. And I couldn’t have designed a better man to be her husband. John is the real deal, and I knew that the first time I met him.

So there was much to celebrate. And I was not going to be sad on Rachel’s wedding day. It would not have been fair to Rachel, and I know without question that I would have been letting her mama down if I was. So I geared up. Sometimes you just have to be stronger than you feel. On the actual wedding day, as I was getting ready, I was giving myself the same pep talk that this would be a happy day, and I would not be sad. (I repeated that to myself a lot.) As I was doing this, I happened to catch sight of my mouse tattoo in the mirror. Mindy had become known as our Mindy Mouse (funny story that I can’t relay here), so I got a tattoo on my shoulder so she would always be with me. I don’t always notice it’s there, but I thought seeing it that day was a sign – that she was present, and it would be a happy day.

And it was. Rachel was a beautiful, beautiful bride. There was a great amount of joy and laughter the whole day, and Rachel’s daddy threw an excellent party. I only had one moment – when the mothers were being walked in – and I thought, “Dammit, I did not prepare myself for this part!” But I took a breath and continued to be happy. I owed it to Rachel, and I owed it to Mindy.

Not long ago, in talking with the hospice social worker, I told her that I felt guilty grieving for my mom, because Rachel had lost her mother when she was so young, and my mom had had a long, happy life, and I’d had so much more time with her. She told me that age has nothing to do with grief. She said she had a client who was in her 80s and lost her mother who was 103 years old, and it was as painful for her as it is for anyone else. Before Mom died, I would have thought differently. I get it now. It hurts at any age.

I have to tell you this story about my mom and her mother. Our grandma lived with us for a couple of years when I was young. My mom’s sister told Mom to let her know when it got to be too hard, and she would come from New York to get her. Things got tougher, and Mom called her sister, who did come to get our grandma, and she took her back to New York and put her in a nursing home. (You can only imagine what the nursing home was like back then.) My mom was traumatized the rest of her life. She said she had no idea that her sister would do that, and if she had known, she would have put our grandma in a nursing home in Peoria so she could still visit her. The idea of her mother – who had dementia and didn’t speak English – feeling scared and abandoned stayed with our mother even after she had dementia herself.

My sister and I knew of this, and our fear was always that we would have to place Mom in a nursing home, which was Mom’s biggest fear, or that she would be alone and scared when she passed, which was the other thing she dreaded.

Fast forward to her stay in Lutheran Hillside, where she was surrounded with kindness, compassion, respect and love. We couldn’t have asked for a better place for her to leave us. And although saying goodbye to someone so incredibly vital and dear to us, well, you know it wasn’t easy, but while my sister and I were with her, with us each holding a hand, our mom said, “I see my mother.” My sister and I looked at each other, and I asked Mom if that made her happy, and without missing a beat, she said, “Yes.” I kid you not. If I saw this in a movie, I think I would have been a bit cynical, but my sister was there too. We both knew then, that it was time. She finally got to be with her mother, and we needed to let go of ours.

So the good news is, and I believed this before, but I know it for sure now, I will see my mama again. I’m not at all in any hurry to go, mind you, but when it’s time, I know it'll be ok.

(Still not gonna tell her about the tattoo though.)