Time and Loss


Guitar (Photo credit: mrwalker)


Death (Photo credit: tanakawho)

English: blood pressure measurement Deutsch: :...

English: blood pressure measurement Deutsch: :deBlutdruckmessung (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I once told a girl in her early twenties that the nicest thing about being that age is that you have no idea of how fucked you really are.

She laughed.  I guess she thought I was trying to be witty.  I wasn’t.  I was dead serious.  Just as well.  If she could really know it would ruin her life.  She asked me how old I was and wouldn’t tell her.  But I did say she’d probably find out what I meant when she was in her thirties so she should enjoy while she still could.

Life is a series of losses.  People you love die, pets you love die.  Society changes so fast you cant keep up.  And so on.  But it’s not these losses I’m talking about.  It’s about giving up childish things.  Some people think this is just another way of saying grow up but it’s not.  The loss of these things seems almost developmental, like getting pubic hair or cataracts.

It’s not a conscious decision.  It just happens.  By the time you hit twenty, some things that you cared about passionately when you were in high school you no longer have an interest in.   By the thirties the things you swore you’d always care about you no longer care about.  And so on.  You lose interest.  They just don’t seem interesting or important anymore.

At another blog I once wrote about this and mentioned music.  Listening to it and making it.  I started playing guitar twenty years ago.  I even wrote songs and lyrics.  One day a while back I was practicing scales when I just stopped.  I realized that not only did I not like what I was doing; I hated it.  And since I didn’t have to do it, why was I?  I put the guitar away and haven’t picked it up again and haven’t missed it.

It seemed to me then that a man older than thirty playing guitar was just pathetic, unless he was a professional musician.  Probably half or more of middle class households have a guitar and somebody who thinks they can play guitar because they know three chords.  But that’s probably post hoc rationalization.  It doesn’t matter.

At about the same time I stopped listening to music, new or old.  I’d heard it all before and it all sounds the same.  It’s just noise that gets on my nerves.  By now I cant stand to have the radio on when I’m in the car.  But when the things that you know are going to happen some day start happening now it’s chilling.  Especially when they start happening all at once.  Death is among them but, obviously I’m not dead yet.

When I was sixteen I was in a near fatal collision in which my head went through the windshield of a car.  I got several teeth knocked out in addition to nearly bleeding to death.  After plastic surgery I got my teeth worked on.  For $10,000 I got a permanent porcelain upper bridge cemented in place.  It gave me no trouble until one evening last month when it simply fell out.  Fortunately I was at home.

I went to the dentist hoping that he could just cement the bridge back in place but it wouldn’t work.  I’m going to have to have it redone after an oral surgeon takes some teeth out.  After bone grafts and implants and a new bridge I’m going to be out $12,000.  And BTW I need root canals and caps on my lower teeth.  But the dentist says he can do a lower bridge like the upper one cheaper than root canals and caps so it makes sense to just take them all out.  That’s insane but that’s money talking.  I could just see the dollar signs in his eyes when he told me this.

I was still reeling from this the next day when I went to the doctor for a wellness visit and found that my blood pressure was 165/120.  I thought it was a fluke but after I bought myself a blood pressure cuff and started taking my bp I saw that this was a typical reading.

I hadn’t been on the treadmill for months so I went back to running for an hour three times a week.  I kept all kinds of graphs on BP and it really looked like it was coming down until it shot back up.  It doesn’t appear to correlate with anything.  So I’m going to have to take a blood pressure medicine that is in the class of ACE inhibitors that works on the Renin-Angiotensin pathway.  It can damage my kidneys and make my pecker go limp.

And to make matters even more grim I looked up my life expectancy on some actuarial tables.  It seems that as I am now I have a 50% chance of living to 84 and a 25% chance of living to 89.  If I can get my blood pressure normalized and lose thirty pounds I have a 50% chance of living to 89 and a 25% chance of living to 95.  Since I have a relative who died when she was 100 and my grandfather was hit and killed on the way to work by a car when he was 85, IDK how to take all this.

And BTW I have all my hair.  For now.

I know I shouldn’t bitch.  I don’t have anything that’ll kill me.  Yet.

I wish I could take the same attitude I did toward playing guitar but I guess I’m not yet at the point where life itself seems childish.  But I’m getting there.  And that is the end of this bitch session.


Sparky, Living and Dying 2

Français : Senefer de Fondcombe, mau égyptien ...

Français : Senefer de Fondcombe, mau égyptien Silver Mis à disposition de Wikipédia par Didier Hallépée et l’Association Internationale du Mau Egyptien (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: Full face close-up shot of a pedigree...

English: Full face close-up shot of a pedigreed Egyptian Mau (cat breed). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When Nat gets old enough to go into heat, it’s bad.  With tomcats you have to have them cut as soon as you can but if there’s not an unneutered tomcat in the house you can wait awhile with the females.

But this one yowls horribly and since we are living in a duplex in town she has to be cut immediately.  The vet tells me later that her female organs were in bad shape and she really needed to be spayed.  I thought we were done with the yowling but she seems to go right back into heat even though it’s impossible.  The vet decides her adrenals are making too much estrogen so he gives me a steroid pill to give Nat half of, then the other half the next day and Nat stops yowling.

Nat looks at me stoically.  Hey, Ma Petite, I say.

She opens her mouth to say something but nothing comes out.  I guess she must be tired after all that.

So i’m glad we got her from the pet store.  She would have otherwise had a miserable life.

Dana needs to change jobs because the hospital superintendent has had some kind of psychotic break and decides people at work are after him and makes a shit list and persecutes everybody on it.  Once Dana had unintentionally embarrassed him and she’d ended up on the list.   She finds a job that she has to travel for but it pays twice what she’s making now.  IDK why she thinks she has to work at all since she’s worth five mil liquid and has a 100 acre farm free and clear.  I guess it’s just anything to get away from me.

But she does need to leave this place.  The people she works with are dangerous.

The transition is hard on these two cats.  This apartment has been their home and now they have to be uprooted and moved to a farmhouse full of resentful, territorial cats.  Sparky decides as soon as she hits the floor to go after the two toughest cats in the house.  That approach doesnt seem very smart but it works.  The others leave her alone.

Nat gets on the refrigerator and hides.  I feed her sliced ham and turkey and she growls as she eats, which is funny.  Such a little cat being so ferocious.  She looks so hapless and vulnerable and I guess that’s why she’s special.  When the other cats are asleep Nat will come down from the refrigerator and sit in my lap and sleep.  I finally just put Nat and Sparky in a room by themselves and they’re a lot happier.

This time every year Dana’s family has its reunion at a state park outside Dillsburg.  For a week every April they stay out there and when they’re good and tanked they cruise by, find fault, and criticize.  Words are spoken, mighty oaths sworn, and then goodbye till next year.  They make Dana as nuts as they are and in the process important things don’t get noticed.  Maybe that’s why I dont see it.  Or maybe I wouldn’t have  anyway.  I don’t notice that I haven’t seen Nat for nearly 24 hours until I hear a soft yowl.

She’s crawled up underneath a dresser and I reach under it and pull her out.  She’s so reclusive in this house that she’s easy to miss but that’s no excuse.  Nat looks awful.  In fact she looks almost dead.  Just a day ago she was fine.

Dana’s face has gone white.  We look at each other until I put Ma Petit on the bed on her side.  She does not move.  When I listen to her chest with a stethoscope I hear rales-a wispy, whistling sound.  Her lungs have some kind of fluid in them.

The vet says she has pneumonia and gives her a big-ass shot of some antibiotic and sends her home.  I feel a little better.  If it’s bacterial she’ll be better tomorrow.

I wake the next morning groggy and irritable.  When I look at Dana I see that she’s been crying.

Nat’s dead, she says with horrible simplicity.

Dead?  I say.  She cant be. She was just…she should be…

Dana looks at the floor and says, I put her in the big bathroom with Sparky last night.  At two o’clock I got up to check on Nat.  She was even worse.  Then she has some kind of seizure and died.

Where is Nat now?  She still in the bathroom?

In the bathroom in a tupperwear bowl with a lid on it.

I cant believe any of this.  I open the bathroom door.  Sparky was asleep and looks at me crossly.  I want to open the lid and see Nat one last time but I cant bear it.  I take her to the vet and give him the bowl and ask him to find out what killed her.

The waiting room is empty.  I look out the picture window at the wickerwork of a copse of bare trees that front a sluggish stream called the Blue River that runs a jagged line thru this county like a knife wound.  Dead trees and bracken and a kennel of pissed off dogs in back of this place.

Presently the vet comes out and solemnly hands me the bowl with Nat in it.  It was fungal, he says.

What killed her?

Massive pulmonary hemorrhage, he says.  Looks like she threw a big clot and just…i’m sorry, Erik.

I nod and say thank you.

A lot of people die of fungal pneumonia.  It presents pretty much like bacterial so they usually give antibiotics like the vet did.  By the time they realize the patient isn’t getting better it’s too late.  Antifungals are slow anyway.

I take what is left of Nat and get out of there before I start sniveling and embarrass myself.  I go to an army surplus and get a container that looks watertight and that you can actually seal.  I put the Tupperware with Nat in it and seal the container.  A neighbor is good enough to bring his bulldozer and dig a six foot hole in the front yard.  Dana and I put Ma Petite in the ground and the man fills the hole with dirt and moves some limestone boulders that look to weigh a ton or more so no scavenger will dig her up.

Nat was the last one of our animals to be buried.  The dogs and cats that die later will be cremated.  I just cannot stand putting another one in the ground like that.  It’s still early in the year so we plant flowers along the boulders that will bloom every Spring.  I get a wooden placard that reads “Nat Memorial Garden” and place it in the middle of the stones.

We weep together and in respective solitudes.  Sparky does not act visibly different.  Do they grieve, I wonder, and if so how?  Our anthropocentric biases insist they are lesser beings.  If that’s so do they not require grief as we do?  Or do they know something about acceptance our grassland ancestors forgot or never knew?  Is grief part of the price we pay for language and culture?

Sparky jumps on the arm of my chair and flicks her tail and warbles at me.  I nuzzle her and say, I know, Sparky.  I miss her, too.