A brisk few days in Dallas with my work team. Pretty rare for a job-related trip to be rounded out so well with actual true fun. Most of this is due to working with genuinely wonderful people, but we actually managed to get out and do actual entertaining city-specific things as well. Dinner at Tillman’s, drinks at the Belmont, a picnic and concert at the Arboretum. And I stayed at the Adolphus, which was magnificent.
We ran into unexpected bad weather on the flight home and were within minutes of diverting to Dulles for the night before we snagged the all-clear to land in Baltimore. Since I hadn’t told my grandma I was traveling — she honestly does not want to know until after the fact because it worries her so much, so I have a free pass for selective truths in this area — I spent the span of time when we thought we’d divert wracking my brain with a strategy to magically zap myself from Dulles to BWI for my car in time to make her regularly scheduled grocery run this morning. If she knew I was traveling, and then that dangerous weather had altered my plans, she would have been beside herself. I wasn’t coming up with much of a plan, so I was doubly relieved when it all worked out. (And she was happy to hear I’d had such a nice trip, and thanked me a million times for keeping her in the dark about it.)
Haggis was the only cat who was happy to see me when I straggled in, lugging my bags, road-weary and travel-grimy. He jumped into my arms and purred, and if you’ve learned anything about Haggis, you know that it would have been equally strange for him to don tiny tap shoes and perform a little song-and-dance number to welcome me home. He’s going soft in his older age, I suppose, not that I’m complaining. He was back to yelling at me for breakfast a few hours later!
Mention to the cat-rescuer friend that you think you need some girl-cat energy around boy-cat town, and the universe will oblige. This little thing waltzed out of nowhere, up to my friend, in a parking lot, a few hours after our words. No cat can ever replace the magnificent, omniscient Louisa, but having two boys, an old man and a young galoot, made crazy-cat-lady-land all the nutsier. After a little time acclimating with my friend, it was clear that Penelope would fit in well.
I’m not sure why she’s German, she simply is. She’s hilarious, an odd mix of darling and daring, knowing no fear — a 6 pound kitten who will relentlessly tackle and grapple with her beastly 14-pound brother, who, despite this happening routinely, is flabbergasted every time. And she literally falls all over me, sweetly purring and snuggling, so happy to be home.
My grandma says I have a heart of gold, because I bring her Girl Scout Cookies when they aren’t on her shopping list, and carry change in my pocket for the Salvation Army kettle and for the soft-eyed teenagers with pet-rescue collection buckets at intersections on Saturdays. I don’t feel very gold-hearted much of the time, though I do try, I suppose.
I’ve actively resisted coming here for nearly two months, since the last couple posts were so raw, so painful. I still ache for my dear little Louisa, I miss her weight on my back in the middle of the night, the way she’d sleep bolstered against me without fail. It’s grief that’s stirred into the anniversary of my dad’s death, an anniversary that knocked me around in unexpected ways. He would have been on the phone after Hurricane Sandy, making sure I was okay, that grandma was okay. And oh my God, how he would have fucking loved all the fuss around The Hobbit. When I see the movie, I will bring a bit of his ashes with me and try to feel the massive joy he would have felt for the whole thing.
So anyway, what the hell? I say that I avoided my dear old website because the last posts were such a fucking bummer, right? And the first thing I do is dip right on back into the morbid goonery. Chin up, Kit. Things aren’t really all that bad, all things considered.
I celebrated my birthday with a weekend away. A little road trip, a writer’s retreat, and a couple of contemplative days in a quiet bed and breakfast, working on my novel. The change of scene shook me up in a good way, rattled some pesky plot points into place, gave me some good ideas that magically help resolve some of the nebulous things that bothered me about my story. The novel has grown from a NaNoWriMo lark to a kinda-epic Gen X bildungsroman, and there’s just this… thing… that happens when I’m living in that world. It’s scary and satisfying in a way that nothing else is.
A lot of my writing energy goes into that place, but it feels good to be here too. How about I check back in a few days and say hello again. Push the weeping-wound posts back a bit further into history, hm? It’s a deal.
When I really get going, I go so far beyond the Ugly Cry Face that it’s something truly fearful to behold. Tentacles of snot, geysers of hot tears so destructive to mere Kleenex that I end up with an old T-shirt to swab the swampy decks of my face. I have drowned myself time and time again in my own salt water and mucus, flailing on my bed as though I was pinned to it and wriggling helplessly. None of this made me feel any better, but if I learned anything at all from my father’s death last year, it’s that sometimes nothing will make you feel better and you just have to muddle through.
I’ve been doing a fuck-ton of muddling lately.
The harshest rawness of it all has softened and given way, at any rate, as it does, to a simpler sort of sadness. That gaping hole will always be there. Another lesson I learned from my dad. If you fill it with love, the empty ache will ease up a bit, so get to it.
I spent the past week or so making what amounts to a fort, a writing cave, a magical little dim and cozy cavern where I can hide with my computer and write, or stare at a wall and think about what I’m going to write. I was calling it The Office and then The Computer Nook, and then I took a step back and was like… this thing I’ve made is a single draped bedsheet away from the most glorious fort you could have dreamed up as a kid, and so I dub thee The Fort. And how great a word is fort, anyway? Pretty great.
She very nearly did not come to be with me, as it happens. Someone else adopted her first, and made the hilarious mistake of introducing her to a pet bird. Louisa mistook this for being an introduction to a snack, and found herself back on her foster mother’s porch, dumped, a few minutes later. And so she came to be with me. She was scrawny and suspicious, with her bum ear and a bad tangle-removing haircut that grew into a fluffy, luxurious calico coat, the vestiges of which will continue to swirl and tumble underneath my furniture for all time, no matter how many times the robot vacuum may pass. She was very good at shedding. She had me wrapped around her littlest claw from the first minute.
Dear Louisa, you had a good eight years with me, didn’t you? You were loved and you knew it. You purred so loud! You ate well, and charmed many more treats out of me than you should have. You slept whenever and wherever you wanted, often somehow taking up an entire queen-sized bed. I didn’t mind sleeping around you. You gave me baths so thorough that if I didn’t distract you, I would end up with abrasions. You loved your catnip toys, and showed no mercy to flying roosters and stuffed tiger tails. Thank you for letting me love you, for snuggling with me when you knew I needed it, for never biting me despite the noxiousness of the medicines I had to give you in the last year.
Thank you for letting me know it was time to let you go, for letting me know you well enough to understand that the course of action necessary to keep you with me for even a little while longer was going to kill your spirit and rob you of your imperious dignity.
You are blissfully kneading on an endless sheepskin rug, napping when you feel like it, curled into a sleepy furry ball in a sunbeam, purring loud enough for me to hear you in my dreams.
I took a week off of work — my longest vacation in years — and am a bit heartsick over this being the last day. I’m hiding on the balcony, where the weather is finally not overly reminiscent of an armpit, drinking my coffee, getting a bit of sun to fend off rickets. (My vitamin D level was the only ding on my annual bloodwork. Does it seem pitiful that I was so excited to look at my lab results that I ran up the stairs and tore into that letter like it was a Wonka bar containing the golden ticket? I want to embroider it onto a shirt and point at it whenever anyone rolls their eyes at me for being vegetarian. My cholesterol levels always shut ‘em up, as they should.)
Louisa is still sick. A bit better, maybe, but only a little bit, though it does still only seem to be a very bad sinus infection. We gave her some anti-nausea meds and took two days off of the antibiotics to see if that helped with her appetite and, in hindsight, that was a mistake. By the next day her nose was in full-gore mode once again. And yet, she still jumps up into bed with me, still bumps her head against my hand, and, if encouraged with much gentle cheering and ear-scritches, will lick at a saucer of mostly-cat-food-gravy. I pity anyone who might overhear me during these meals with her, as I say things that no human should say. Oh, Louisa, this smells so good! Like fishy garbage that has been sitting in the sun for three days! Mm delicious nom nom I think I will eat some if you don’t!
I spent last weekend in New York, a family reunion of sorts, also sort of an extended Irish wake. There were a lot of tears, but also so much love and laughter. I hadn’t seen some of these cousins since I was a kid, and the visit turned a bit into something like the trips we made to New York when I was a kid. The uncles and aunts in one corner, and all the cousins (and now the cousins’ kids!) in another, talking about video games and planning great escapes. My sister was able to be there as well, and being able to literally chase my nephew (thank you, Couch to 5k!) and play hybrid badminton/volleyball/soccer with him, was a victory.
After I got home, Jay and I spent a day in West Virginia following the history of some of his ancestors, and it was a beautiful drive and we saw some wonderful things, but I was struggling against the after-effects of a tetanus booster shot. My arm still hurts, five days later, but the first couple days were the worst. I suppose it’s better than lockjaw, I said, though I am still dubious and annoyed that it put a damper on my week off of work. I felt battered and exhausted and took way too many naps, and yeah, that’s not what I wanted to be doing on my vacation. But all’s well that ends well, and now I am free to trod upon any rusty nails that come my way.