Monday, December 26, 2011

Crash

This evening, Boxing Day, I find myself watching Crash. Not the more recent 2004 movie, but the one from the fall of 1996... David Cronenberg's strange little opus featuring James Spader, Holly Hunter, Deborah Unger, and Elias Kotias about people who fetishize car crashes.

I have a lot of reasons for revisiting this movie. It has a kind of bleak fascination to it that appeals to me. I can't watch it often, but I do relish watching it every so often. One reason I like it is it's filmed in Toronto, and while they make an overt point of it being Toronto, they don't pretend it's Chicago or New York or hide the Ontario license plates. But I guess the reason I like it best is that when I saw it for the first time, I was still young.

I was working at a digital media studio with a lot of very young, starving animators just new to the industry. First job for most of them, or at least, first "real" job. That's how it was for me, too, even though I was three or four years older than most of them. The woman who ran the studio was ruthless and we all kind of lived like rats in a cage in a snake exhibit, knowing we were alright for now, but always wondering who was next for the python.

One of the guys I went to the movie with that night was a bright programmer who was one of the guys who did the work in Lingo to stitch the stuff we did together and make it work right when the disks went out the door. He and I were still working at the place then, though his days, unbeknownst to us, were numbered in months at that point. Maybe weeks. It's hard to remember now. There was a group of alumni of the place who used to get together and commiserate, both with each other and some of those still "inside". There was a high attrition rate at the place, voluntary and not so voluntary.

The other guy was one of the brightest stars I've ever known in my life. I was the last animator hired there, at the start of the year, and he was among the four who preceded me. He was very young at the time. Barely in his 20s. All the other four guys had had to move to Toronto, and were living far from home. This fellow was living with his sister, a teacher. He was an idea man. Driven, smart, articulate. In truth, even I could see he was already punching well below his weight, but we all have to start somewhere. Though I was half a decade older than him, he was in many ways my mentor that year. There was talk of our product going on television, and part of his job was to work it up as a concept. Our boss shamelessly squeezed work out of him like a Texas oilman wrings crude from a rag over a barrel. We were poorly paid, and there was no overtime, and he was putting in between sixty and eighty hours a week on the project, and, I found out later, drinking himself to sleep. He was doing good work, but the financing wasn't there, so his project was shelved and he came to work with the rest of us, pushing pixels.

What a summer that was. It was my first real, full-time job, and though the pay was lousy, I felt like I was on my way. The work we were doing was interesting and often, quite fun. We were frequently recruited to do voice acting for our characters and animations. We took long, boozy lunches where we expanding our nerdly girths. We played practical jokes on each other and did hilarious little side animations. Working together under that awful sword of Damocles, I found a bond with those people unlike any I've known before or since.

At the end of the summer, in August, that sword fell. On my friend. Our boss announced she had decided he "wasn't happy working here", despite his putting more hours and sweat and pure inspiration into the work than any of the rest of us, and let him go. I felt guilty about that. For me, fun as it was, it was just a job. When the day was over, I went home. I put in some overtime here and there, but nothing like him. Generally, I watched the clock, and when it said I could go, I left. I felt like if anyone should have been sent packing, it should have been me. Not him, the brightest and most creative of the five of us; for him, it was a vocation. Things were never the same after that. I won't say the good times ended, but we'd lost one of those musketeers, and the remainder wasn't quite the "more than the sum of the parts" it had been ever again.

I kept in touch with him and in the autumn, he and I and the programmer went out to see Cronenberg's odd movie. In some ways I guess it was the apex of my experience working there. It's hard to explain, but it's come to symbolize that for me.

I stuck it out for another eight months or so after that but finally I quit and went back to a half-assed part-time "full time" job in the industry. I looked before I leaped, but I didn't expect to be where I landed as long as I was, and my career and adult life sputtered for another three years before it finally gelled. In the end my life was something completely different from what it had been there, with them. No job is ever going to have that sense of fun and freedom mixed with peril ever again. There will never be that heady, dangerous, druglike euphoria. I realize, just now, that that's why Crash is so special to me. It boils down and crystallizes my own feelings of my life that year and reflects it back to me.

I was young.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Dancing at the feet of the moon

I meant to write a few days ago that it had been two calendar months since Twinkle's death. Yesterday was nine weeks. I miss her. That black, ropy tail, the eerily human voice, the little gestures of familiarity and affection that were somehow all the more valuable and cherished for their rarity. I don't want to forget those things. I want to remember.

There is Ally now.

Ally is a small, light, year-and-a-half old calico who came to live with us Saturday last week. She belonged to a friend of Shelley's, Cagney, who came to the realization that she needed to find a new home for Ally sometime around the time little Twinkle was dying. A week and a half after Twinkle died, Shelley tentatively reached out to me to make me aware of this. Given that I didn't even have Twinkle's ashes back yet, I knew I would need time even to really consider it. It had been my intention to wait till the new year and see about finding another cat who needed a home. But this just seemed almost karmic. Through Shelley I expressed an interest to Cagney, and asked if she would be able to wait a couple of months, till mid-December. Cagney had not problem with that.

I went to Cagney's home in November to meet Ally. Ally was very friendly. Cagney and her boyfriend had gotten her when they were together, but had since broken up. Cagney was seeing another fellow and planning to move in together, but he had a cat of advanced age and was not sure Ally would be accepted. As well, Cagney travelled a lot on sales and felt Ally was not always getting the attention she craved. Cagney wept when she talked to me about finding her a new home. I knew then it was the right thing to do to help out. A week or so later, Cagney came by while Shelley was here to see what kind of a place Ally would be moving to. Max and Bonnie were confident and curious about the visiting humans, and I think that helped convince Cagney that my home is a good one for cats.

Saturday last week Cagney came with Ally and Ally's things. We both got a little misty as we arranged things... it wasn't easy for me, either, to see someone parting with a beloved pet. In fact, I'd been dreading that aspect of it. Having just lost Twinkle myself, it hits pretty close to my heart. But the good news is that Ally was of course merely changing homes and friends.

For the first two days I kept Ally isolated in the spare room. She knew there were other cats but didn't have to deal with them. Monday, I let her explore the place with Bonnie and Max in my bedroom. After two  hours, I opened all doors. Adaptation began. It's been an ongoing process but Ally, at this point, has very nearly found the new way. Max still intimidates her a little and I hear the odd hiss now and then, but so far Ally's socialization has gone a lot quicker and lot smoother than Twinkle's.

She doesn't replace Twinkle. She isn't like Twinkle. But she does have a home provided by Twinkle's heartbreaking loss. I can't pretend I don't feel a little guilty or worry that I'll lose what was distinctive about Twinkle, particularly since she was with me only a year and a half. But this feels as though it was meant to be, somehow. It was the right thing to do.








And then there's Lexxi.

I volunteered to be a transporter for Toronto Cat Rescue last August, but till now, nothing has worked out. Wednesday came the call to transport little Lexxi, 6 months old, back from the Petsmart where she was awaiting adoption to her foster home again. She'd been spayed, but after four days, was not eating. Since Twinkle wouldn't eat, that really registered with me. So Thursday I drove to Brampton and picked up this tiny little thing to take her back to her sisters at her foster home. The young woman there was happy to see Lexxi again and Lexxi started to purr. I emailed yesterday to follow up and it turns out she got Lexxi eating again in just minutes. I feel good about that. I was in Lexxi's life for less than an hour but I might have made a difference.

Here she is in my cat carrier on her way home.



Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A moon without a Twinkle

Today it's one calendar month since Twinkle died. In fact, in about an hour, it'll be a month right on the nose.

I got a card yesterday from the hospital that tried so hard to save her. It was signed by about twenty people, and they said some kind, wonderful things about Twinkle and me. I've been on a pretty even keel since Twinkle died, but that brought tears to my eyes.

Cats can't talk, of course; not in any way that meaningfully communicates abstractions. I'm not entirely clear on just who it was I shared my life with for a year and a half. An Ohioan woman I've been corresponding with since Twinkle got sick wondered recently if there'd been blood tests when I had Twinkle checked in the New Year to start her insurance. So I went back over her records, right to the start. No blood tests last January, but I really looked at the stuff the pound gave me the April before. It really breaks my heart, reading the records that came with her from the Toronto Humane Society. I kind of ignored them when I got her because hey, I was her happy ending. But I look at them now...

Admission type: Return.
Date: July 6, 2009.
Age: 3 years, 6 months.
Must spay before adoption; "very nice temperament".


There's also a urinalysis, done just after she was brought back to the pound. One thing I notice is her bilirubin is negative—it was extremely high while she was ill before she died. It does remark that her urine was "turbid", but that the resulting microbiology test resulted in "mixed growth of doubtful significance". But the fact that they were testing her urine, and my experience with her, leads me to believe it's why she lost her previous home... she was probably peeing all over their stuff, too. "Return" chills me... it makes it sound like she's been in the pound even before... though the fact she wasn't spayed seems to contraindicate that. The fact that she wasn't spayed by the time she was three makes me wonder, too... was she ever a mother, like Bonnie was when I got her? Is there a chance she left behind kittens who are a risk of the same autoimmune disease that ended her life so early?

But my heart breaks now, thinking of her sitting in those cages from July till the following April. Poor, poor Twinkle. Damn it, she had such a short, sad life, and she just never really got a break. Am I ever glad I brought her home and did my best for her. At least that was something, for a little while.

What I wouldn't give to be able to talk to her previous family... find out what she was like, how long they had her, why they gave her up.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

A few more Twinklings

A few things about Twinkle I decided I should record while it's still in my mind to do so.

I guess it was right around this time last year I was writing about Twinkle as a being, regarding her struggle to come to terms with how doors—in particular, the bathroom door—worked. You know, she never did figure that out... not in the old place, and not in the new one. Applying minor force to rotate a piece of wood around greased hinges was a concept that eluded her her whole life, bless her little heart.

But she was smart in other ways. When she got sick, but before I recognized it as illness, she took to hiding. Twinkle being Twinkle, I didn't take that as a sign she wasn't well. She tended to be more of a loner than the other cats and I simply took it she was amusing herself by finding clever places the rest of us couldn't find her. Still, I didn't like the idea she might be stuck someplace, in a box or closet she couldn't get out of, and I would look for her and call her name. I'm not sure which day it was, but once in my search, I came around the corner into the dining room and she stood and meowed to me from the bottom shelf of the wardrobe. It was a display of understanding, affection, and concern that still moves me. She understood I was looking for her, and she volunteered to let me know she was alright. She grasped all that, and she cared enough to respond. The thing that makes it kind of blue is that two shelves up, that's where her ashes now rest in an urn.

It was probably the Thursday before the Friday I first took her to the vet that she behaved in a very uncharacteristic manner. She leapt up onto the back of my chair and laid down behind me, putting her tail around my left shoulder. She seemed to cough and sneeze a little, and at one point, threw up a little of what looked like green phlegm. Again, I wasn't overly concerned. Cats cough stuff up all the time, and I took it to be a sign she had a cold or a flu or something. I remember that just before Jenny (a cat I had from 1989 to 2002) died, she came and laid at my feet, something she'd never done before. I wonder if Twinkle was saying something like good-bye, I love you, or maybe just, gee, I don't feel like myself, but being near you is a comfort. I don't know. I don't really think cats understand the concept of death, particularly their own. But she clearly wasn't well by then, and I wonder what exactly was on her mind.

Friday, October 28, 2011

King for not even a day

I just read this morning, to my real astonishment, that at the meeting of the 54 Commonwealth nations going on right now in Perth, Western Australia, the 16 Commonwealth realms, of which Canada is one (and host Australia is another), have agreed to mutually change the monarchy. After 300 years or so, the Act of Settlement that we all use to recognize the rightful heir to the Crown (16 separate Crowns, actually, but worn by the same person, which is the constitutional point of contention) is going to be updated. From now on, whoever is born first, regardless of sex, will succeed to the throne. No more older sisters being superseded by younger brothers. If William and Kate have a daughter first, and a dozen sons afterward, it’ll be the daughter who one day becomes queen, which wouldn’t be the case right now. Secondly, the provision that anyone in the order of succession who marries a Catholic becomes ineligible will also be removed. The provision that the monarch must be head of the Church of England, and thus, necessarily a Protestant, will remain for the time being, however.

Well, it’s a start, I guess. I’ve had soft republican sentiments for a few years now, but I’m not lathering to see Canada instantly become a republic, and while we do have the monarchy (which we probably will well into the foreseeable future), it’s a least a comfort to see it beginning to catch up with the first few decades of the previous century.

Reflections on a second Friday

It’s funny how different sums of money can affect you in different ways. You’d think the larger the sum, the more distressing it would be. I’ve found it be to be just the opposite lately.

When I first took Twinkle to the vet, her initial treatment and the blood test they wanted to do was $280 or so. That made me grumpy. That was eating into what I would, and wouldn’t, be able to do in practical terms over the next few weeks. It had an immediate abridging affect on my lifestyle.

Later, when I had to have her admitted to the hospital, and the admission and first transfusion were going to cost $2500, it was a real slap. That was a sum of money I could understand on a personal level... it was an amount of money I could envision saving up for several months; it was the equivalent of, say, a really good computer, or a good laptop. And the idea of suddenly having to spend it was kind of a shock.

But later, when we started getting into much bigger numbers, the shock began to disappear. When we were getting up around $8000, crossing over $10,000, and so on, the numbers began to take on a theoretical sense. These were numbers outside my daily experience. They were “occasional” numbers... things you deal with a few times a decade, buying cars and the like. These were long term numbers, amounts of money I found I was automatically resigned to thinking of as things to be paid off over years. They lost their immediacy, and in a weird way, they were more settling. Today I’m making the second payment on the $14,000 I spent on Twinkle. Two years from now, I’ll still be doing this. It seems unfair that I won’t have Twinkle two years from now to show for it.

Today also finds me dwelling on the forked timeline... the difference between what is, and what I expected, or at least hoped for, by now. Today, in reality, I’m a day away from two weeks since Twinkle’s death (has it only been two weeks?). But in my mind, I had expected by now to be seeing some real signs of Twinkle’s recovery. By now, I hoped, even faintly expected, that her red cell count would be stable and over 20. By now, I’d been seeing her taking an interest in things again and, while still easily tired, wandering around, maybe beginning to get back up on things like the couch and chairs. By now, eating a little on her own again, or maybe even only getting her meds through the tube. What I mean is, I really thought that by now, she and I would be working out the “new normal”, as I’ve called it, and adapting to her long term needs. I didn’t dread it. I was honestly looking forward to helping her get there, and feeling good about it every time I looked at her for years to come, and wondering if, in some little way of her own, she might understand and feeling something like gratitude, or love, or whatever it might mean to cats. I’ll never know. Sitting here today without her in my life, that seems really wrong to me. It should have been. We did the right things. It should have been.

Moneyball

I was out with Larry, my former roommate, last night. Talked him into seeing Moneyball, the new picture with Brad Pitt and Philip Seymour Hoffman (I'll make the joke here—I thought I'd "see more" Philip Hoffman in the movie than I did).

As everybody by now knows, it's the story of how the Oakland Athletics ball team used metrics to build a contending team out of disregarded players on a shoestring budget. The movie is largely caught up in telling the story of the resistance Pitt's character, Billy Beane (a once-promising player who never hit his stride, now the A's general manager), encounters in adopting this new strategy of Peter Brand (played by Jonah Hill). Brand uses statistics to synergize the strengths of "lesser" players to eliminate the weaknesses of others. The underlying theme of the strategy is, in a nutshell, "slow and steady wins the race". The idea isn't to find players who can knock the ball out of the park, it's to find ones who can consistently get to first base. Find enough of them, the theory goes, and the runs will trickle in.

Beane's scouts, old men who men who've been in the game for decades, scoff at the new approach, and as they drift away, they badmouth the idea in public. The biggest obstacle is the team's manager, Art Howe (played with Sahara-esque aridness by Hoffman), who insists on his right to play the team as he sees fit, not as the numbers indicate. Consequently, the team fares poorly at the start of the 2002 season, and the public scorn goes to Beane for his apparently foolish experiment. When Beane and Brand conspire to rob Howe of some of his choices in an attempt to channel the team into their prescribed direction, its fortunes turn around, and suddenly it's Howe's coaching getting the public accolades. Beane's approach is damned if he does, damned if he doesn't.

The A's attended, but didn't win, the American League playoffs that year, losing to the Twins, but what they did accomplish was the first, and only, string of 20 consecutive wins in league history. The movie goes on to say that the Boston Red Sox offered Beane their general managership, which he turned down; nevertheless, they adopted Brand's methods and went on to win the 2004 World Series, finally breaking the Curse of the Bambino.

The movie is well-acted; much of the tension understated as you would expect in a picture like this. Although I wouldn't call it a great movie, it's interesting and you can learn a lot about the game without it being shoved down your throat. It's one I'd pick up on DVD and watch repeatedly and let it soak in. That's one of the highest compliments I personally can pay a movie.

T(w)inkle

It occurs to me that two weeks ago, as I write this, Twinkle was home from the hospital for the last time. By now, I would have fed her her morning 50 ml through the e-tube, and it would have been the little juncture between breakfast and her first meds, around 8. She had not quite a day and a half left to live. Hard to believe.

But what gets me writing here is the memory that I’ve been wrong. I’ve mentioned here Twinkle’s predilection for peeing on things, to the point that my former roommate used to make the joke that her real name was Tinkle and the shelter had just snuck an extra “w” into her name to get her adopted. It eased off over time even in the old place, and I’ve been saying that once I moved into the condo, that was pretty much it, except for a few shots she took at my sandals (still not sure what that was all about).

I realized this morning I was wrong. She did kind of keep it up even after we moved. The mat by the door. Before I moved, we had a mat by the door for leaving our shoes on. Twinkle was apparently using it as her third litter box, but it was a natural fibre and very absorbent, and we didn’t even notice till around the time came to move. I ran it under the tap in the tub and was astonished to see the water running out of it the colour of steeped tea. I realized that even if I got it clean, there was no point in bringing it with me if that was what it was going to mean to Twinkle, so I threw it out.

When I got to the new place, I bought a large rubber mat for the door. I noticed nearly immediately that Twinkle seemed to take this as an invitation, or a challenge, and started going for it. I washed it once, she kept it up, and so I washed it one more time, rolled it up, and set it aside on the floor of my bedroom closet, where it’s remained. I must have seen it (I was going to say “a thousand times”, but obviously, that’s hardly the case after three or four months) scores of times without paying it any mind, but this morning it all suddenly came back to me. I’m not sure how I could have forgotten that... probably because, to the best of my knowledge, she wasn’t peeing on anything else outside the litter box after I put that rug away.

Just for a moment, I thought about putting it back by the door, but that smacks too much of sticking my thumb in her eye after she’s died. So, I guess I’ll chalk that round up to her, and maybe later on when the weather gets sloppy I’ll go out and find something else. I don’t think I’ll be using that particular rug.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

White dwarf

Well, Twinkle's ashes arrived back at the vet on Tuesday. P-Doug offered to accompany me to pick them up, as he did 9 years ago when I got Jenny's back. He wasn't able to do it Tuesday so I put it off till last night. He arrived at my place and we went in about 8:30. I also took in the Kitty Kollars I ordered for Twinkle, but never got to use, and donated them to the hospital, in the hopes the next cat or small dog who goes home with an e-tube can use them and have a better time of it.

Twinkle's ashes were returned to me in a nice blue box that contained in it a blue velvet bag that had a cast of her paw print set in it, and under a divider, the little beige urn that is so much like Jenny's grey one. The card that accompanied it expressed their condolences and told me that Twinkle was cremated on October 19th, which was four days after she died, and three weeks to the day, I think, after I first noticed she wasn't that interested in food. It's hard to believe that it was only four weeks ago today that it really started dawning on me she wasn't well, and that a visit to our vet might be a good idea.

After we picked up the ashes, P-Doug and I first went to The Second Cup on York Mills near Leslie, but it was packed, so we went instead to good old Tim Horton's at little further east on York Mills. That's where we opened up the box over coffee, muffins, and smoothies. I guess we were there till about ten. I knew Twinkle was dead, but holding that little urn really underlined it for me... I'll never see that stern, dagger-eyed, pretty little two-tone face again, or that black, black, ropy tail, or hear that creepily human "meow" of hers. Never feel her feeding from my palm, never run the bathroom tap for her again. Those are all gone. Fourteen thousand dollars later, it's all about a little tan jar sitting on a shelf. It's hard to accept.

But I understand it. The speed and aggressiveness of Twinkle's disease has made me see that it was almost certainly genetic. She just wasn't ever going to live that long. Something just switched on, and really, her time was up. But we didn't know that, and we did everything we could to wind up her clock again. It just wasn't possible, at least yet. And so, I had this fiery little individual in my life for a year and a half. While I might have wished for a better, longer tale for her, I wouldn't have changed that much, at least. Brief though it was, she had a good life with us... me, Bonnie and Max, and while he was with us, Larry. That's all the consolation there is, I guess.

I haven't settled Twinkle's ashes properly yet. That's for this evening. I'm planning to take some photos and put them up to give those who've wondered some idea of what comes back to you, and how.

(Later...)

They had a flea market at work today. As fate and maybe Karma would have it, I found this wonderful little display, to hold her urn, and prop her little pawprint up.












This is the first picture I ever took of Twinkle. The day we brought her home, April 12, 2010.


















Below are the photos I took of Twinkle the first time I brought her home from the hospital, Sunday, October 9, 2011. The bottom one is the last photo I ever took of her alive. She is in her sunbeam, looking away into the setting sun.


Sunday, October 23, 2011

Recent movies

Life goes on, at least for those of us still living, and I guess it's no disrespect to the memory of Twinkle if I start to mention some of the other things that have been going on lately. In this case, specifically, two movies I've lately seen.

The Thing

The first, which I went to see with Larry on Thursday night, was The Thing, confusingly named because it's the prequel of the 1980s movie of the same name, and not a remake, as the name might lead you to believe. I've grown to appreciate John Carpenter's movie more and more as time goes by, so I went in with ambivalent feelings. I wanted to learn more about the back story, but at the same time, I didn't want them to cheapen the original experience, which so often happens with these add-ons (witness the last three, "first" three, Star Wars movies).

I was pleasantly surprised. The movie gives the action lead to a woman, which is a nice change, but doesn't require her to get romantically involved with a young hunk or constantly require saving by a sacrificial avuncular older male. The character of Kate is scientific, sharp-witted, with just the right balance of sympathetic compassion and hard-headed practicality.

The movie tells the story of the discovery of the Thing, and the fate of the original Norwegian outpost in Antarctica. Since anyone who's ever seen the 1980s movie already knows they're doomed, the movie is largely about revealing how they underestimated the threat (not hard to understand; how big a threat is a 100,000 year old corpse, even if it is an alien?), and how the threat expands almost exponentially.

I was impressed with her ability to take a small observation and turn it into a means to separate humans from Things, or at least be sure who definitely is human. That itself was worth the price of admission.

The movie's not getting great numbers on Rotten Tomatoes, I don't think, which surprises me because I think they did a great job coming up with a plausible back story, and one that's true to the original right up to and including scenes interspersed into the credits. The two movies dovetail so closely they could be watched back to back, and one day, I'd like to do that. Recommended.

The Ides of March

I really like George Clooney, and I'm fan of Philip Seymour Hoffman too, so I was really looking forward to The Ides of March, which I saw last night with P-Doug. Essentially it's the fictional account of some of the cynicism behind the scenes during the Ohio primaries of a US presidential election, in which Clooney plays the Democrat governor of Pennsylvania looking to affix "Avenue" to that state's name as his address. Mike Morris, with Obama-style posters, says all the things the left only wishes could come out of the mouth of a US presidential hopeful with a real shot at the job. Not a chance, but it was nice to see.

The story's told from the point of view of a young assistant campaign manager (Stephen Meyers, played by Ryan Gosling) who is lured into a meeting with the campaign manager of the opponent. I can understand why this might be disconcerting to his co-workers, but I'm not sure why it would be newsworthy that Democrat campaigners, even those who are briefly opponents, should have things to discuss with other Democrat campaigners. It kind of seemed like a non-issue to me.

Similarly, the revelation that Governor Morris had a one-night stand with one of the interns, Molly, a young woman Stephen himself is seeing, did not strike me as earthshaking. A bit tawdry and sad, maybe, but not the kind of thing that's poison to someone on the left, it seems to me. That she'd become pregnant and was seeking an abortion might be, but since it was going to be handled in confidence, again, it didn't seem like a big deal. The character of Stephen seemed shaken by it all, and that read a little naive to me. Frankly, I would rather the crisis be not the kind of thing the Democrats seems to generate, which is trouble finding pants where the zipper stays up (ho-hum), as opposed to the kind the Republicans seem to generate, which if finding and fielding candidates who aren't running for the right to be the guy who gets to push The Button so that Jesus can come back.

I'll say this. It was a mature movie. It wasn't full of guns and threats and guys in dark glasses hustling people away in the middle of the night for smarten-up sessions. It seemed to me to be a glance into the world-weary dealings that are necessary to keep the average political campaign on wheels. I just wish the stakes of the issue at hand had been a little more profound.

One thing I did learn is that Ohio, apparently, has something called an "open primary", which means anybody can vote on who gets to be a party's candidate—including, significantly, the members and supporters of the other party. This strikes me as utterly insane. Who here thinks it's a good idea for Ford to have the right to make changes to GM's next model year, and believes those changes would really be in the best interests of consumers?

The movie's worth seeing, and it's extremely well-acted, but I wouldn't call it an Oscar contender, in my books.

A visit

I had my first dream about Twinkle last night... at least, the first I remember. At least it wasn't upsetting. Among other things, like running around a mall trying to find a washroom (a sure sign I needed to get up and use the facilities in real life), and opening the door for the Prime Minister who was visiting his riding association in an office in the mall, I remember being with some young woman I was trying to get closer to (no one real that I can identify), and that she was with me as I marvelled over Twinkle, alive and frisky and rolling around in her cat bed, delighted to see me. I remember the young woman and I trying to work out how Twinkle could have died a few days before, and still be here.

I didn't wake up to the memory, but sort of remembered it in a by-the-way, oh-yeah kind of fashion a while after waking, which is unusual for me in remembering dreams.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Twinkle's timeline

In trying to remember the sequence of things, I guess I owe it to myself to record how things went with Twinkle, while I'm still able to sort it out.

When did I first notice she wasn't eating? Maybe Tuesday, Sept. 27th? I'm pretty sure I'd noticed she wasn't interested in treats by Wednesday, because I was off that day. Thursday it was pretty apparent to me she wasn't well; she was sneezing and coughing a little, and threw up a little bit of something that looked like phlegm that evening when she uncharacteristically jumped up onto the back of my chair to sit with me. At the time, I took it for a cold or a flu, but I started to worry she might dehydrate, and I determined that if she was still obviously unwell in the morning, I'd take her to the vet. She was, so I did, taking a day of vacation.

I also remember now that during the week, she started hiding. That should have been a sign to me—it always is with Bonnie—but I didn't get "sick" from that with Twinkle. Of the three, Twinkle was the least likely to hang around with me. She was off on her own somewhere most of the time. I didn't take it as anything unusual. I don't imagine we could have done anything different if I had, but I didn't. I remember roaming around, trying to find her, and she seemed to find different spots. One evening, it all seemed like a game because eventually, she stood up in the little cabinet in the dining room and meowed to me... "Here I am." After that, she got really good at hiding, and I figured out later she was hiding underneath the old dresser in my bedroom.

When I took her in to our regular vet on Friday, Sept. 30th, she was there for a couple of hours. They thought it might have been an intestinal infection and they gave her some antibiotics she fought against. Just to be on the safe side, they took blood from her for testing. They charged me about $230, which seemed like a lot of money at that moment but looks like chump change in retrospect, and sent her home with me. At some point, I think it was Saturday, I saw Twinkle run and jump up onto one of the tables in the enclosed balcony to bird watch, and it made me happy. I think it was the last time I saw Twinkle well, or "normal".

At some point overnight Sunday morning, Twinkle's illness really became profound. I woke to find her lethargic and tucked in by the door of the condo. Aside from shifting to the other side of the door and trips to the litter box, that's pretty much where she stayed all day. It's where she was Monday morning, too, when I left for work. Somewhere around 2 p.m. that day, the vet called with the terrible news that Twinkle's blood test had shown she was extremely anemic, with a packed blood volume (PBV) of 12, when the normal is between 30 and 40. And remember, that blood was drawn Friday, before her Sunday morning downturn. The vet advised me to rush her to the Toronto Veterinary Emergency Hospital just north of them for a transfusion. He mentioned that I was looking at $2500. I blanched at the figure, but what can you do? I had an internal interview for another job in the company that day, and I barely had time to send medical emergency email and beg off before leaving. The bus ride home took around half an hour, and my appointment was for 2:45. All that way I was wondering if I'd find her dead when I got home, but no, she was still there by the door. I got her into the cat carrier and off we went.

The next couple of days were about securing a line of credit from my bank to cover the costs of Twinkle's treatment, and listening to reports of how low her PBV was, and that she needed a second transfusion. Somehow it escaped my good sense to go in and visit her on Tuesday, and I regret that. A pound cat, Twinkle must have wondered if she'd been abandoned again. I went into work Tuesday morning but found I didn't have the stomach for it, so I took the laptop and decided to work from home, with my manager's permission. And that's what I did for the next week and a half.

It finally occurred to me on Wednesday that, since she was only about a 7 minute drive away, I ought to be visiting her and reassuring her. I went in around noon and she was just a mess of tubes. One in her side to drain excess fluid from her abdomen. One in her nose to feed her. One in back leg, one in her front. The poor little thing. It was all about tests, and trying to figure out what was wrong. I'm not sure what day it was now, but they shaved her belly and ultrasounded her, looking for tumors. Nothing showed up, and none of the tests indicated cancer. Eventually they ruled out the blood parasite possibility, which largely left us with autoimmune disease.

I guess it was Wednesday night she got a transfusion of fresh blood from an on-site donor. Michelle was with me, visiting, as we saw Twinkle get the last of that blood. When I visited her on Thursday, she ate on her own for the first time in a week, and it was amazing to see. At that point, I was more or less convinced she'd get well again. Michelle visited with me again Thursday night and we watched Twinkle eat for me again.


By this time her PBV was holding around 17. Not great, but sustainable and on the verge of a new normal, something she could potentially adapt to. She started going off her food again, and we discussed the option of a feeding tube. Given that I'd have to give her medication at home, to be honest, I was anxious to have it as an aid to doing so... the idea of forcing stuff down her throat several times a day was anathema... I knew she'd wind up hating me, and then what was the point? But by Sunday, they were ready to release her and give her a trial basis at home, hoping the comfy environment would stimulate her appetite. The idea was to bring her back Tuesday if she weren't eating enough, and she'd get the tube. Well, she didn't eat at all for me, so I decided to be proactive and take her back on Monday, rather than wait. One more fresh blood donation and she got the e tube on Tuesday. They began feeding and medicating her through that. Given that I knew that was where it was going, I ordered two Kitty Kollars from a place in California on Monday. These are designed to ease the cleaning and protection of a feeding tube over the long term. The order came to just shy of $120, but I was looking forward to getting them and putting them on her.

By Thursday night, she was ready to come home again, with a reassessment scheduled for Tuesday. She came home with a bewildering array of medications, six or seven of them, including a new one that has only rarely been used with cats... generally it's intended for use with humans who've had organ transplants. We hung our hope on this one in particular, that it would arrest the process of her body killing its own red blood cells, and put her into remission. I came home and wrote up the schedule of feedings and medications that would rule my world for weeks, maybe months to come. I had a Magic Bullet blender to puree all the food she'd be getting through the tube, and I learned to feed her 50 ml over about 15 minutes. It was good to be close to her, to do something for her. It was a sad way to do it, but I'll always remember how good it made me feel. I was taking real, critical care of another life. I was doing my all to make a difference. I was in for the long haul.

Of course, that's not how it turned out.

My thinking was that if she could at least break even on Tuesday with regard to her PBV, that is, she didn't need another transfusion (and she was getting to the point, they told me, that her body would soon be producing antibodies and rejecting them), I was prepared to soldier on. I was prepared to give her one more transfusion, to give the drugs a real chance. If after another assessment they weren't working, well, I was steeling myself to have her put to sleep, since that would be our indication that we'd done everything and she really was never going to get better or have any kind of a life. But then she died on Saturday afternoon of the complications of her condition, and spared me having to ever make that decision. And now, I'm waiting to get her ashes back, in a little tan urn, to place beside the grey one that houses the ashes of Jenny, a cat she never knew.

Twinkle was dear to me, not because she was a cuddly cat particularly, or very demonstrative, though she had her moments. She was willful and self-possessed, contrary and sometimes quite difficult. But all those personality quirks, in the end, were the things that endeared her particularly to me. I'm going to miss those things. The sad fact is I had her in my life so briefly, only a year and a half, that I think much of what I knew about her will fade quickly, and I'll largely be left with the broad strokes. But whatever... at least that's something, and it's a part of my life, what I've experienced, and who I've become.

Thanks, Twinkly-Dinkly. You were unique.