Tag Archives: cats

Lost.

Yesterday we lost one of the Fun Apartment’s most celebrated residents. My beloved cat has died of what my older son calls “kidnap failure.” My heart is heavy.

Gollum was eighteen years old. As a kitten, he was runty, scruffy, with his his face sort of squashed. He looked like a fruit bat. But he was my fruit bat.

He moved with me from the mean streets of Minneapolis to Brooklyn. In the moving van, he paced across the dashboard, eventually choosing to drape himself across the steering column. And in Brooklyn, we joined a crowd of other midwesterners and their cats. We called ourselves “Little Milwaukee.” I think in a way we were taking care of the cats as practice for adulthood, like those seventh grade health classes where you get a bag of flour and pretend it’s a baby. (To be fair, some of the others might actually have been proper adults. But I wasn’t.)

Gollum was more like a puppy than a cat. He greeted all visitors at the door. He had no manners, and knew how to assert himself. His relentless sense of playfulness was the stuff of legend. My sainted roommate was home more than I was and Gollum’s gleeful harassment drove her completely bonkers. Also, his neutering at an early age seemed to have no effect on his sexuality. Visitors knew not to wear long sleeve shirts if they wanted their forearms unmolested. And he did with such enthusiasm that those who were not chosen for a thorough forearm humping somehow felt slighted.

And let’s get something straight: This cat was a genius. A really stupid genius. He could solve amazingly complex toy-acqusition problems, but he could never remember that my roommate’s cat did not want to have sex with him. Her life with him was one long series of obscene proposals. His brain was on a short loop.

Happily, the Man of My Dreams was compatible with Gollum, or this whole Fun Apartmenty thing probably wouldn’t have happened. And, when the inevitable kids came, he took that on the chin as well. When you are pregnant, people talk in uncomfortable, hushed tones about what happens if your cat and your baby are not compatible. Happily, we didn’t face that situation. If we had, I know I probably would have made the right decision, but I would have thought long and hard about who was already potty-trained and who wasn’t. Initially terrified of our oldest son–a pixie-like newborn pinioned in his carseat, Gollum eventually assured me that he was totally cool with all the sitting on the couch we were doing, even if it involved the little guy. By the time our second son showed up, Gollum eagerly leapt to the old nursing spot on the couch, purring impatiently.

And he even came to love the Fun Apartment. It coincided with his later years and he has thoroughly carved out his turf. He made it clear that the spot underneath the head of our bed was totally off limits for storage. He was sociable enough and met the challenge of two pestering, curious boys with agreeable resignation. The older boy had just taught himself to pick up the cat. He came to me in the kitchen, grinning with triumph, with Gollum draped over his arm like a rope.

Gollum was also terribly serious about bedtime. When he thought it was time for me to retire, he was fairly insistent. He would lay on my chest purring each night. There are worse ways to fall asleep, people.

I think in some ways, this cat was me: enthusiastic, guileless and a little bit dim. And now, without him, I won’t know to go to bed. I won’t know how to let go of the day, petting his sleek, seal-like head. I hardly feel like myself without him.

But I still have to move through the day. There are all the usual minor miracles to perform. I was talking with a friend who had recently lost someone (a person, not a cat, but grief is grief) and we discussed how, despite the blackened insides, we have to carry the rainbows and spread the glitter. My boys were sad, but I can’t realistically expect a four and a six year old to be sad through playdates, potluck suppers, and preschool graduations. So I grieve in tiny moments to myself, before I pick up the rainbow again. (Also, if you are going to cry in the shower stall at the Y, you should use the accessibility stall with the bench in it.)

And, when I open the apartment door, I allow myself to pretend that Gollum’s just about to greet us.

I’ll let the ghost walk a little longer. I need the company.

*******

(Unprecedented! The Mister, who shuns all social media, except for lurking on my accounts, has also remarked on the lovableness and loss of our little panther.)

And to think, I had been drafting a post about how not much has been going on around here. My literary friends will recognize the  foreshadowing.

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A Guest Obituary

The Fun Apartment has just lost some of its fun-ness. About two pounds of handsome, black, furry fun. At age 18, our cat Gollum has reached the end of his life.

(This, by the way, is a post not from Laura but a guest post from the ‘Man of Her Dreams’.) I met Gollum shortly after meeting Laura, back when he was still quite young and frisky. Many of Laura’s friends thought of him as having a devilish streak. But I knew he was a sweetheart of a cat – albeit one very willing to engage others with his teeth and claws. From the get-go, Gollum and I got along. Good thing too. Who knows where we’d be today if I hadn’t earned his approval. In my experience, he rarely made for much of a ruckus unless provoked.

Like at the vet’s office. Laura recalled his first visit to the vet. Getting him neutered. She dropped him off in the morning to get picked up later on. When she called in midday to make sure all was well, the receptionist repeated his name: “Gollum? Gollum? Oh yes, the feisty one!” When Laura went to retrieve him, a first nurse and then a second nurse couldn’t get him out of his cage. Giving up, they invited Laura to the back to try. On the way toward the back, she heard a cat yowling like nothing before. When he saw her, he gave her a little meow as if to say, “O, thank god – let’s get out of here.”

That was Minneapolis. From there, he gamely made the trek to New York with Laura in the cab of a U-haul. Four years later, we took him in cat carrier on a Septa train bound for Philadelphia. Back in those quieter days of ours, Gollum was the center of our lives. And then life changed dramatically for all of us with the arrival of Big. The news struck Gollum the moment we returned from the hospital. I’m not sure if it was the sight or the smells, but it took him mere seconds to realize there was a new creature in the house – tiny like him. Gollum tore upstairs like a banshee, cautiously coming back down only hours later to start sniffing around. After that, he didn’t make too much fuss. As Laura would say, he was a beta cat – one who acceded readily enough to second place. And then third. It was mere months after Little was born that he drove back with us to New York where he has been an integral part of the Fun Apartment. And he earned new admiration from us with how he withstood a good deal of grief from a couple of toddlers.

Perhaps right after Big arrived, it seemed as if Gollum had instantly lost weight. And as our boys grew ever larger, he seemed ever lighter. By the end, he felt lighter than air. But it wasn’t just relative. In point of fact, he had thinned down considerably. He had been eating less. And drinking more and more. Although we had been pretty well oblivious, these were symptoms of his kidneys failing. And then in the last week or so, it went from General-Signs-of-Aging to Something-is-Really-Wrong. Bad enough that Laura opted to subject him to a vet for a first time in a dozen years.

Toward the end, Gollum had faded some on several fronts – not just the thinning out. Or that he had lost his strength and liveliness. In these last four years here at the Fun Apartment, he would hunker down underneath our bed for large swaths of the day. There, he could safely stay out of reach of our other little fellows romping about. But he would reliably come out at certain times. Like any good pet, he would come out to greet us when we got home. For much of our days here, if he hadn’t raced me to the bathroom in the morning, then he’d come trotting over at the sound of the tub faucet squeaking on. Jumping into the tub with the tap now running, he would slurp down as much fresh water as he could get. But his favorite part of the day was at night. Even before the kids came along and definitely afterwards, he relished the time that Laura would settle in for bedtime reading. With the boys sound asleep, Gollum would have us to himself. He would stand on her lap, or maybe between us, alternately stepping and ‘kneading’ with each paw. We thought of it as his ‘tucking us in.’ Purring away, he would demand some attention, and we would gladly give it. Especially when I think of the mere fur and bones he had wasted down to, I marvel at how such a little creature could be such a huge repository for love. He is sorely missed.

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Monkey See

Recently, the Fun Apartment had a population explosion. And I do mean explosion. Like in the millions. We are completely overrun.

You see, it all began at the Dino-Store. During our monthly pilgrimage to the New York’s most awesomest place of fun for little boys who love animals, science, and large open spaces, we saw a kit for growing sea monkeys.

Happily, curiously, miracle of miracles! I happened to have a kit for growing sea monkeys! Even more astonishing: I knew where it was!

(I wish this would work for my snow pants. Boy, are those suckers cleverly hidden somewhere around here. When I find them, I am going to hide all the Christmas presents there.)

(Also, of course I had a kit for growing sea monkeys just sitting around doing nothing. Doesn’t everyone? Where’s yours?)

So I rescued the sea monkey kit from its cold dark hiding place. And I wish I could convey the thrill that both boys felt over these creatures. We bought the bottled water. We purified. We poured. We added the eggs with bated breath. And we waited.

And waited.

And waited.

And waited.

This was not entirely wasted time. The boys used this time to plan an elaborate birthday party for the sea monkeys, 362 days hence.

We waited again. We added the food to the tank.

We waited. We fed.

We gave a sea monkey kit as a birthday present to an unsuspecting dear friend turning 6. (Sorry buddy! Great party, though!)

We waited. We fed.

The boys’ enthusiasm did not dim, but I finally began to suspect that we were feeding an empty tank. I began to read up on sea monkeys. At the university lecture, I learned that sea monkeys appear within 24 hours of meeting water. We were now at least a week past that. The sea monkeys were not coming.

But the boys did not notice! See, these are, after all, *my* children. They need no evidence to believe in the impossible, or even the unlikely! In fact, they can completely ignore evidence that runs contrary to their enthusiasm. They believe! They adore! They blithely ignore!

(I shall pause here to wipe away tears of pride.)

Eventually, the Mister and I broke the news to the faithful. They were not exactly heartbroken, especially because I assured them that we would remedy the sea monkey population situation as soon as the ridiculously archaic system would allow us.

And we are not without pets. We have an ancient yet understanding cat. He’s probably the most constant thing in my life. If anyone knows anything about cats who do not live to be 45 years old, keep it to yourself, please. Ironically, it was this feline fellow who offered the solution to the sea monkey problem. By throwing up. All over.

I’m not sure how many of you are familiar with the need to clean up cat vomit, but if you have ever done it, then you know about Nature’s Miracle. And it is a true miracle: you spray it on the vomit stain. And you walk away. And so does the stain. (Loaves and fishes, I tell you.)

But we had let our supply of this necessary tonic run perilously low before the most recent vomiting incident. So one day after school, we headed off to the pet store for . . . several hours. You see, pet stores are like fun houses. They are full of fish tanks, bunnies, lizards, turtles, and, of course, shipwrecks. Because if there is one thing we are really into here at the Fun Apartment, it is shipwrecks. In fact, if you ever find yourself, as I have, in desperate need of a shipwreck model, get thee to a pet store! There have more shipwreck models than pets! So, in between the many attempts to pry the boys away from the wrecks of sparkly pirate ships, I asked the clerk in an offhand way if they carried sea monkeys.

That clerk looked at me blankly, but another clerk behind her said “Yes, they’re right over here!”

Did you guys know you could buy sea monkey eggs at a pet store? Well, you can.

You can buy a lot of sea monkey eggs, as it turns out.

I've got the whole world in my hands. . . .

I’ve got the whole world in my hands. . . .

So we brought home our canister of life. The packaging assures me that our goldfish will never want for food again. Never mind, our fish (Happy, Healthy, Hopeful, and Thirsty) all departed the Fun Apartment long ago. Free range sea monkeys, I thought, in a vaguely Whole Foodsish way. None of those farm-raised captives waiting to be slaughtered for us! Those are for the fish whose mommies don’t love them.

So we tried again. I put what I thought was a conservative amount of sea monkey eggs into the tank.

We wai–

“Did you see that?? Look! They’re moving! Yay! Sea monkeys!”

That crytobiosis or whatever is powerful stuff, let me tell you. Soon we were in danger of being overrun by these little suckers. If they had banded together to vote, let’s just say it wouldn’t be the sea monkeys leaving the Fun Apartment.

There was much celebration. In fact, there was rather too much celebration, considering that sea monkey observation time happened just before bedtime. Whispered conversations about marine biology were heard long after lights out.

But maybe my conservative amount of eggs was too liberal. There was definite overpopulation in the tank (and believe me, we at the Fun Apartment know about overcrowding and density.)

We fed this new hungry crew, but that only seemed to make them sluggish. Perhaps brine shrimp eat their young and need no other sustenance?

Then, on Friday morning as we were getting ready for the day, I remembered we were having dinner guests. “Clean something!” I urged the Mister. “Like what?” he asked. “Anything,” I assured him.

So later that day I was mildly surprised to discover the sea monkey tank missing from the bathroom. Hmm. That’s a rather odd choice for cleaning up, but as I’ve noted before he’s not so great at prioritizing when guests are imminent. I assumed he had relocated the sea monkeys to some undisclosed location.

But as the weekend progressed, no sea monkeys made themselves apparent, nor did the man of my dreams know what I was asking about. “Perhaps they moved,” I thought. “Maybe they’ve got a bigger place in Queens. They’ve gone off to make all their little brine shrimpy ways in the world.”

But no. They were here, in the sea monkey graveyard / pile of washcloths that now all need laundering. They must have been knocked over in the morning’s excitement of . . . oh god knows what these boys get excited about, but it isn’t putting their shoes on, that’s for sure.

It was clean washcloths. Now its laundry.

It was clean washcloths. Now its laundry.

And so, we begin anew. The sea monkeys shall (hopefully) rise again. Maybe I can put them in charge of something. Like meal planning.

I hope they like their water salty.

I hope they like their water salty.

Hmm. I did not know I had more than one thousand words to share about sea monkeys. Motherhood changes one so.

 

 

 

 

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