Tuesday, February 27, 2007

A death in the family: Unfortunately Slim the Cat did NOT have nine lives

This is a love-letter to all the people who sent me advice regarding how to deal with my old, sick, ailing feral cat. Thank you Joe, Neal, Leona, JoAnne, Barbara, John, Wendy, Maggie, Hanna, Ilmi, Julia, Chica, Michael, Mike, Nancylee, Lisa, Toni, Chris and everyone else I might have forgotten to mention and even Greg who called me a moron.

Some people advised me to let Slim live out his last days in peace. Some people said to put him out of his misery. I wasn't sure what to do. I was torn.

But today was my father's birthday. He would have been -- Rats! Where's my calculator! -- 95 years old today had he lived. My pop was a giant of a man. He built an entire log cabin all by himself when he was 72 years old. He was larger than life. But then, in the year that he turned 85 years old, he had a heart attack and his health quickly went downhill after that. Three months before his 86th birthday, he was an emaciated shell of his former self, a whole foot shorter and only weighing about 90 pounds.

On December 2, 1998, Pop was in the ICU at Summit Medical Center, all hooked up to wires, tubes and machines. "This is no way to live!" he stated to me. Then he waited until visiting hours were over and calmy and systematically pulled out all his wires and tubes. He was dead within the hour. We RAN to the hospital, screeching into the ER parking lot in a Tokyo drift. But it was too late. Pop was gone. My youngest daughter drew hearts on his arm so that when Pop got to Heaven, the angels would know he had been loved here on earth.

My father chose to die. And today was his birthday. So I chose to let Slim die in peace on this day too. I called up the City of Berkeley animal shelter and described Slim-the-Cat's condition. "His nose is all rotted out and his ears are all shredded and abscessed."

"Is he a white cat?"


"That explains it. White cats get skin cancer and that's what happens to them. You are making the right decision. I'll send someone out."

An angel in a blue uniform arrived on my doorstep an hour later, carrying cat food, a trap, a cage, a net and a sheet. "We try to make this as painless as possible," said Marcy. "I understand that this is not easy for you so let's make it as painless as possible." She did. I did. Slim-the-Cat enjoyed his last meal, entered the cage without a struggle and Marcy took him off in her truck.

I walked Slim and Marcy to the van. Slim and I said goodbye. And I walked back into my house, tears in my eyes. So. What to do now? I know! I'll drive over and visit my father's grave! It was a brilliant idea. Pop was buried at Skylawn Cemetery, up in the mountains on the way to Half-Moon Bay. It was pouring down rain. Pop's grave was not easy to find. I found my mother's grave first. I could tell. This was going to be one of those days! I just couldn't stop crying.

"Mom," I cried. "You and I never really got along while you were alive. And now I don't get along with my children either, but Lord knows I tried. You must have tried too. Too bad it never worked out. For any of us. But now that's water over the bridge. And what I really want from you now doesn't have anything to do with parent-child foul-ups. Or even Slim-the-Cat. PLEEZE, Mother. Please. Use your influence in Heaven to bring this poor benighted planet world peace!" Sorry, Mom. I know you taught me to be polite and make small-talk first, but I'm going straight for the hard stuff.

Soaking wet and pathetic, I found Pop's grave next. "Hi, Pop. I miss you. Watch out over Slim?" Then I stole some daffodils off the grave next to his and prayed for my father, for the poor sod in the grave next to him, for all the souls in the graveyard and for WORLD PEACE.

When I got back home, Slim-the-Cat was not waiting for me up on the roof like he usually does when I drive up.