I Look Into The Abyss… And It Can Bite Me

It’s a good thing that leap years come only every four years.  Judging from the month I’ve had, I wouldn’t survive it.

Oh jeez, I hear somebody say, what could possibly be so bad?  You get to surf the net, eat bonbons, and watch “Tiny Toons” all day in the comfort of your own home.

Odds are that the folks who keep up on my little rantings already know.  Well, some of the info might be new to somebody, so be patient while the dorks in the back catch up with the rest of the class.

There’ve been a few family emergencies.  My father has Alzheimer’s.  Jamie and I made a point to drive a few hundred miles to visit him over Christmas.  We said hello.  He led us around the house in his walking frame (my God, he needs a walker now) giving us candies and tangerines and words of wisdom that occasionally made their points clear.

He’s so frail now.  He’d had a bad fall months ago, and his growing dependence on others depresses him.  One minute he curses everybody for hovering over him.  In quieter moments, when they’re not around, he calls them a blessing…and cries.  And yes, his thoughts wander.  He rambles.  But he did that even at the height of his powers.

One thing that’s definitely new:  He’s like a kid, getting into mischief.  Months ago, he had an ongoing battle with a KFC near his house, badgering them about their lousy service, forcing the manager to placate him with a fistful of gift certificates.  This morning, my sister e-mailed me that he’d just eaten a whole box of tangerines and gotten himself sick.

I’m gonna lose him.  Seeing him deteriorate, seeing the difference in just six months, shook me harder than any storm.  It made an abstract certainty real.  He was a well-intentioned brute when I was a kid.  I’d always felt like Bilbo Baggins facing Smaug in his lair whenever he called me to his room.  Every fourth Saturday, he spanked me with a belt.  He once tore my shirt, balled up his fist, and tried to deck me.  When I was eighteen, he threw me out of the house because I hadn’t taken the garbage out, first thing in the morning.  But all the grudges seem pointless when he’s so fragile.  Now he’s like chipped, faded china.  I’m…gonna lose him.

Yeah, I know.  Old people go mental and die all the time.  Newsflash, it’s always different when it’s yours.  And you’re never ready.

Another case in point.  My second best friend is dying.  It’s just a cat, so who cares, right?  I mean, ten to fifteen years is a good run for a cat.  I knew that when we first took her in.  Ten years ago.

Her name is Lilith (for the mythological character, not the one on “Cheers,” so for God’s sake, world, please stop asking.)  She’s a black domestic shorthair, a classic Halloween cat.  She chose me.  I’d chosen several cats as pets over the years.  This one chose me.  I didn’t know cats ever did that.  She ran up my body, planted herself on my chest, where she did that kneading, “making biscuits” thing.

She has lymphoma, deep in her left nostril.  It’s growing well beyond it.  For a while, it was so bad that she held her head up, her dark face coated in snot, gulping down air, struggling to breathe.  We took her to a specialist who performed a rhinoscopy, taking some of the tissue out for analysis.

The preliminary results.  The preponderance of evidence.  The how fucking burned out I am, watching Lilith sleep longer and longer, knowing I could look forward to weeks of watching her fade away.

The rhinoscopy has actually helped her. I hoped it would, but didn’t expect this.  Her nose bled a little, but she could breathe.  She’s relaxed, become more energetic.  Last week, when the early results were in, I slept sitting up because Lilith wanted to sleep between my feet for the first time in weeks.  At first I couldn’t sleep at all.  I figured I should savor it while we both had the strength.  I stayed up.  Cried a few times.  Quietly, so I wouldn’t wake her or Jamie up.

I get on with my day.  I want to do something more productive than feel wounded, angry, or powerless.  Look at me.  I’m so productive.

Oh, and that e-mail from my sister.  Something else she told me:  My uncle Fred died yesterday.

My father is down to two tangerines a day.

Lilith sleeps.

I’m tired.  Haven’t been sleeping well.

Other than that, everything’s fine here, situation normal.  No, really, everything’s perfectly all right now, we’re fine, we’re all fine here now, thank you… how are you?