I’ve been silent for a while.
You might have noticed.
I rarely find the need to speak out on a topic if I feel others have done it better (which is usually the case). Given the plethora of sources for opinion and criticism these days, I try to avoid covering topics which have been done-to-death or over-hyped unless I think I could add fresh or useful material to the discussion. This means it often takes something pretty big or important (to me, anyway) for me to blather about it here. When I get worked up on a subject, I tend to go a little overboard.
As a result, my posts have grown increasingly bitter in tone. Since I don’t think I’m like that in real life, I’ve been giving the matter a lot of thought over the last few weeks of silence. No, I haven’t reached any conclusions, experienced any mind-blowing epiphanies, or “found myself” (whatever the Hell that means). I’m just explaining the mental activity on my end which has been masked by the deafening silence on the reading end.
I know, I know- Cool story, bro.
On to the ends and odds.
The Sexy Mr. Phlegm
I managed to come down with whatever version of the Galactic Super Killer Death Flu is wandering around the Shallow South these days, and it laid me out hard. I missed a couple of days from work, spending the intervening time bundled up in my bed under a mound of blankets. I emerged infrequently over the last few days to eat and hobble to the bathroom, and managed to strain my ribs from coughing my lungs up a little too energetically. My wife reached into her bag of magic tricks and cooked up some soup in a huge pot on the stove. It took four days, but her soup finally got me to the point where actual human contact became possible, and she dragged me out shopping today (for groceries- we don’t do holidays).
Aside from a mild amount of weight loss, the only beneficial effect of the bug I caught is the effect on my larynx. When I get really sick, my voice drops an octave or so, and I end up sounding like a cross between James Earl Jones and Barry White (without the charisma). At the grocery store, I ran into a couple of ladies who worked there who recognized me as a regular. When I replied to their greeting, it came out in a husky, basso profundo rumble that both women assured me was “dead sexy”. My wife immediately dubbed me the Sexy Mr. Phlegm.
I get no respect.
Depots of Our Lives
I’ve noticed that there have been a lot of Depots in my life lately. Home Depot. Office Depot. Food Depot. As far as I can tell, depot was originally a military term for a general-purpose warehouse or storehouse. These civilian versions seem to be just a bit too specialized for their own good, in my opinion. At the start of the last century, department stores were coming into their own as the big boys in the marketplace. After the middle of that century, shopping malls with specialty stores grew into the marketplace leaders. With the advent of the internet, more and more stores are turning into laser-focused specialty boutiques in the hope of securing a smaller (but theoretically more reliable) customer base. This theory frequently crashes and burns with the rapidly changing tides of fads and fashions. Many of the super-specialty stores have had to branch out in order to survive, and far more have fallen by the wayside. On the other hand, Sears, Macy’s, and Penneys are all still in business. Maybe there is some value in being a “general specialist”.
Four-Pawed Beasties with Appetites Inside …
I like animals. I like most animals more than I like most people. Watching something horrific happen to people doesn’t bother me nearly as much as bad things happening to animals. I like cats, and dogs, and mice, and birds, antelopes, anteaters, wildebeasts, orangutans, sloths, etc. I’ve always had an animal or two in my home (barring times when I was in the Navy at sea or in barracks), and my lovely wife came to me with a dog in tow. We have pets instead of kids- for a variety of reasons. We’ve had a long run of cats (usually two or three at a time, but once as many as seventeen), based on the mobile nature of my work in the Navy and the related abundance of apartment life rather than any antipathy for dogs. We enjoy our cats, and we let them be cats. They are mostly free to come and go as they please, and we cheerfully pay the higher electric and gas bills as a result of this practice (having an open access to outside for the cats means the weather can come and go as well). Our cats usually live long and happy lives … for cats.
The downside to pets is their relatively short lifespan. Cats in the wild generally only live for three or four years. Domesticated cats often live ten or twelve years. Ours often go fifteen or more- probably a combination of mongrel stamina (all our cats are mixed-breeds) and my wife’s good cooking (she makes her own cat food). Whenever we lose one of our cats, it tears a little bit out of our souls. Since we have had- and lost- so many, our souls are pretty torn up these days. And we’re near to losing another one.
This particular cat has had a tough life. She was adopted from a shelter when she was about six, and had already lost about half her teeth to abscesses. She was skinny and scraggly and therefore unlikely to be adopted. My mom probably wouldn’t have picked her, except she reached a paw out through the bars and grabbed at Mom as she was walking by. She lived with my parents for several years, touring the country in their RV. When my mom died of cancer, she lived with my dad until he died a year later, on the road in his RV. I picked her up from the local animal shelter and brought her to live with us. She figured out how to live in a multi-cat household, gets along with our other cat, and positively adores my wife.
A few days ago, my wife found her collapsed in the bathroom, cold to the touch, but alive. We rushed her to the vet, where they found her chest cavity was filling with fluid. They got rid of the fluid, put her on oxygen overnight, and gave us a bunch of drugs to give her when we brought her home. We know how this tale ends. The last cat we lost went the same way a year ago. We cannot reverse the damage to her heart. It will kill her sooner or later. All we can do is make her comfortable and happy for as long as we can. When she dies, another piece will be ripped out of our souls.
And it’s worth it. The joy and friendship and happiness we get from our pets more than makes up for the pain when they die. All they ask in return is attention, food, and care. A rare bargain.
“And so, frail creatures of a day,
let’s have the best time that we may.
and do the very best we can
to give one to our fellow man.”
Those lines from Robert Service’s L’Envoi apply just as much to the four-pawed critters who share our lives as to the people.
Well, this has gone long enough, and I have to go back to work in the morning.
Current status: Somber and reflective
Current music: Achilles’ Last Stand by Led Zeppelin