Tuesday, December 19, 2006

There's more than one way...

But we'll get to that later in the post.

First off, I'm home with a baby who has a minor fever and a major attitude... but she can do that 'bulabulabulabulaba' thing with her tongue, so I'm not going to complain too much about missing a day of pissy high school students to veg with her.

While I was home, I went on a fly killing expedition. They all came inside because it's warm in here, but, really, I'm thinking that if they didn't bother to fly South for the winter, they don't deserve to live. The Cave Troll came with me--he was my spotter and my cheering section: "Bug! Bug mom! See the bug! Kill the bug! Kill the bug! Good! Dead Bug! Dead Bug! Kill the Bug!!" If you picture this with pointing and clapping, you'll A. be in hysterics, and B. have a fair idea of how I spent my morning.

It was a good morning, as was the 'bulabulabulabulab' thing... but even these moments of happiness haven't put out of my mind the fact that last night, I gave my children one of those horrible, bizarre memories that I think all parents give their kids and wish they didn't.

For me, it was the rat--when I was a kid we had a rat named Peaches who developed tumors. Peaches had two choices--be put down, as all people put down rats in the '70s--with a shovel and no regrets--or face my parents who were in nursing school with some ether and a scalpel. They actually did well--they're smart people, and not cruel in the tiniest bit, and she would have survived but the cotton ball with the ether was over-saturated, and, well, at least it wasn't a shovel.

Oh, if only I could have given my kids THAT memory. What I actually did was a lot worse.

See, we got Isabeau about 16 years ago. For those counting, that's longer than we've had Trystan, except Trystan was eventually potty trained and Isabeau the cat disdained anything to do with physical hygiene. She was really disgusting. For a while, her complete misanthropy made this no big deal. She haunted the garage in a cloud of crap-matted white hair and 'I'll kill you in your sleep' glowers, and we left each other alone. But in the past year or two, she's been hanging out by the washing machine, waiting for pets while we do laundry. There's six of us, there's been a lot of laundry, and she's gotten a lot of toe scratches under the chin in the last two years. Lately it's been colder than polar bear fuck (thanks Julie!) out here--yesterday it was 26 degrees when I went outside to warm up the car, and, quite frankly, nobody who lives in the Sacramento Valley hangs here for the chance to lose our pubic hair to frostbite, thank you very much, and I started feeling sorry for poop-crusted old Is. She kept wandering outside at night and in the morning was begging to come inside on the way to the garage.

I decided it was time to let her into the house. But first, we needed a bath.

I filled up the sink, my daughter broke out the brush and the scissors, and we went to work on the walking cat box that was this 16 year old cat.

Do any of you see where this is going? I wish I had

She didn't even yowl as I skinned half her stomach, thinking it was a big old hair clot, and then, horror of horrors, there it was. I had skinned the family pet in front of my four children while my husband and best friend were off watching the Kings game. I didn't take it well. I wrapped her in a towel and freaked out, while my older daughter (aged 12, mind you--younger than the fucking cat) tried to calm me down. I took several deep breaths, and, realizing that I couldn't take the baby with the 102 degree fever out into the 36 degree cold, I did what any 39 year old mother of 4 would do when she'd just maimed the family pet.

I called my mother. Are you all with me on the math? Mom's been a nurse (and so has dad) for more than 30 years--mom could help me fix this cat for less than $1000, because, remember, we just got a new heater that cost more than a new car and a LOT more than the kids' braces but not as much as day care for two little ones for a year. Mom's a good nurse, and a good person. She raced over from Loomis (made a 20 minute drive in 15), took one look at the cat and said, "I can't fix this. But it's not your fault."

Well sure it is. If I'd taken care of it earlier, her skin wouldn't have been as fragile and it wouldn't have ripped. But if she'd been a different sort of cat, it would have been easier for me to change the relationship, then wouldn't it? I had planned to clean her up, set her up in a mat by the space heater, and let her snooze her old age away. My family has sort of a country attitude towards cats--we don't spend a lot of money on the vet/grooming bills, and the cats take care of the mice and themselves. Sixteen was a record--not just for Mate and I, but for my parents--our cats, quite frankly, don't live that long. I was looking forward to watching that cross-eyed old cat who used to hate me and my children, outlive the obsequious and insane dog. It's not going to happen--my friend Wendy who is (and she admits this) insane about animals but who hates suffering of any kind--helped us out by taking her to the one all-night vets she knows, and now Isabeau is no more, and one of the few living remiders of the Mate and I who existed before children is now buried in Auntie Wendy's garden, and I'm at home, perversely glad the baby was not feeling well, because I don't know if I could have made it through the day.

There's all sorts of spiritual life lessons I can take from this--I know there is. All sorts of comforting things I can tell myself. And, because I'm one sick mother-puppy, I also know that there's a terrible, grim sort of humor in the whole thing. I mean, I'll never use that expression again, will I?

And she didn't sit on my lap--even before we had the children and she started to hate us. And she didn't really like people, or even being inside--but I'll miss that grouchy, cross-eyed claw at my ankle when I go out to do laundry for a really long time.

So last night while we were waiting for my mom and dad to get here, I joked weakly to my daughter about what she was going to do when she was 40 years old and had screwed up royally.

"Yeah," the sarcastic little shit shot back (between hugs(:-), "I'm gonna call grandma!"

It seems that she's learned the same lesson I learned with Peaches the rat--there are some things even mama can't fix.

7 comments:

NeedleTart said...

Wait! It's 26 in Sacramento??? Yesterday it was (I kid you not) 58 degrees in PA. In December!
Sorry about the cat. Be assured, when the kids hit the early 20s they will start to tell you about all the times you screwed up, the cat may not even make the list. I'd tell you Elder Son's list, but it's just too depressing.

Julie said...

My mother once sold my pet bunny to the butcher. I survived. Without becoming a serial killer. It wasn't your fault. Hang in there.

Roxie said...

I'm so sorry about Isabeau. But Lucia, NONE of us make it out of here alive. You gave her 16 years of safe haven, food, and all the affection she could tolerate. And the kids will certainly survive. Heck, they probably won't even remember if you don't remind them. Just wait twenty years and ask if they remember Isabeau.

Sorry, also to hear the baby is not well. But the tongue thing is wonderful! and I love the fly-killing story. What fun!! the cave troll is becoming a nice person.

Wear a hat when you go outside. It holds in all the heat.

Rae said...

Amy, sounds like it's not the kids you have to worry about but yourself. Have some tea. Cuddle the kids. Joke about Is and her temperment, and let her go. 16! That's pretty darn amazing in my book.

26. Ha! Try 12. I suspect we'll get down to 12 in my parts sometime this winter. Now that's cold.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry...

...was this the cat that pissed in your ear one night?

Leili said...

I'm sorry...

...was this the cat that pissed in your ear one night?

Diana said...

Its ok. Is had a longer, and probably happier life, than she ever could have expected, and your kids will be ok- although- at every opportunity- they will remind you. However, you can join the club- I am responsible for the the loss of the siamese fighting fish and the expiration of the science project crayfish- both killed by kindness (overfilled tanks permitting escape routes!).