New Year, Death and Reminders

Posted at Feb 20, 2011 9:31 pm

A new year is always so full of hope and possibilities. Setting new resolutions, dreaming new dreams all seem to symbolize a fresh beginning. A person can shrug off anything negative that happened in the prior year and build on all the positives. Use those positives as a foundation to continue to grow and achieve in the next year.

I made the typical writing goals. Last year they were all about completing projects, this year they’re about querying. No use being a writer if the only people who see work are your critique group and contest judges. 2011 will be the year I hone the art of querying and revisions.

Two events last week brought me up short. And it’s taken me a while to post this blog.

Princess, my cat, which of course started out as the children’s cat and as they went off to college became mine, started losing weight in December. When a seven pound cat starts losing weight, you feel the bones of her spine and shoulders pretty quickly. Then Princess started fixating on water. She’d wander into the walk in shower. I was never sure if she was licking up the drips, or just listening to the pipes. Then she would stare for hours at her water dish. She’d always had weird habits when she ate, pulling each morsel of cat food out of the dish with her paw, and then eating them off the floor. But then she started to dip her paw into her water dish.

And of course she slept, nothing unusual for a twelve-year old cat. Typically, she would curl on my legs as I wrote with my laptop on my lap. She’d act disgusted when she couldn’t crawl up next to my face. But last month, she didn’t have the energy. Instead we’d find her curled in her cat bed on our heated floor. It had gotten cold, so that didn’t seem so strange. I like sitting in that warm and toasty sitting area too.

Then I found her peeing in my closet and under my vanity. Constant reminders to keep to the closet door closed didn’t seem to work for my husband, so I took to blocking off access and spraying with Febreeze and Lysol and cleaning with Windex.

But when my son brought his one-year old cat home from college for a visit, you could see the differences. Roybert, the invader, wanted to play. Princess wanted to be left alone. Off and during the last year these two cats have had to deal with each, Princess always being the alpha. Even as sick as she was, she was still the alpha, putting a cat three times her size into his place. His place? Under the Christmas tree.

Once all the children and Roybert had gone home I knew I had to call the vet. Fearing the worst, one of my daughters volunteered to go with me. And it was the worst.

Even though dogs barked in the background, Princess curled up and fell asleep on the exam table. This wasn’t my feisty cat, proud killer of rabbits, mice and birds. Gifts she left lovingly displayed on my front step mat. (Yuck)

The doctor talked through her symptoms with us, already suspecting renal failure. Then the nurse came back with an estimate of the costs tests. Based on recommendations, we started with the blood tests – $220.

Diabetes. And liver problems.

I’d already had a cat with diabetes. An overweight Russian blue who’s life’s work was to get people to feed him. While we treated his diabetes, Sampson dropped from 18 lbs to 9 lbs and his quality of life was miserable. I was the only one able to give him his twice daily shots. One of the children hled him so he wouldn’t bolt when he saw the syringe. Now we were seeing another cat with diabetes but she only weighed 4 pounds 13 ounces. This was not a disease that could be reversed.

The vet was incredible. He told me there were no right and wrong decisions. There was very little chance of reversing her disease, because it wasn’t caused by weight. If I wanted to take her home and think about whether we wanted to start treatment that was fine. The most traumatic parts of her treatment would be in the beginning as they tried to determine the right insulin dosage.

I remember leaving Sampson at the vets, all the K-9 shepards barking each time someone came back to the kennels. When we would visit, he wanted to come home. His ears flattened against his head as the dogs howled.

The cure was almost worse than the disease.

We didn’t spend the next $150 to determine if there was renal failure. I made the decision after conferring with my husband that we wouldn’t put her through the insult.

Two sad days later, my twins received a distribution from a trust set up from the proceeds of my brother’s life insurance policy after he committed suicide. A reminder, death doesn’t always happen to the old and infirm.

My brother will forever will be 38 in my mind. I picture him smiling, usually doing something physical. Swimming, playing with his 5-year old daughter, or laying on the beach. It is hard for me to understand his despair, his depression. He owned a Kirby distributorship and never let a negative word past the threshold of the door. Everything was positive, positive, positive.

So when I talked to him on the phone, I didn’t hear his pain.

He’d relocated to Mississippi, a long way from Minnesota or South Dakota where we grew up.
We learned a lot about depression after my brother died. My sister became actively involved in SA/VE – Suicide Awareness/Voices of Education becoming a Board Member and speaker in their school outreach program.

Depression is preventable. But it has to be diagnosed. I wish my brother had been closer to the family so we could see the changes wrought by this insidious disease. I wish his ex-wife and called someone in the family when he’d threatened to commit suicide previously. I wish he hadn’t been drinking on his last night.

But I can’t control the past. I can — and do — give generously to SA/VE — Suicide Awareness Voices of Education. My sister has set up a fund in my brother’s name, our brother, forever 38 and smiling in our hearts. I no longer attend the annual SA/VE remembrance ceremony put on by the organization. It is too hard to see all the pictures of lives lost.

May 2011 be a good year for all.

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