Friday, May 31, 2013

Twinkle's butterfly

I was sure I had blogged about this, long ago, back when it happened, but it seems I didn't. I went looking for it, and I'm really sad I didn't record it when it happened, because it was sublime and I owed it to my future self to get it down.

It happened in the weeks after Twinkle died. It was early in November, and I went out on one of my little photo walks. This one wasn't far. Not all that far from where I live, the Don Valley Parkway crosses York Mills Road. What's now the DVP/Hwy 404 between Lawrence and Steeles Avenues was, till the 1960s and 1970s Woodbine Avenue (and still is, north of Steeles). South of York Mills it was just a little dirt road that died on the heights and never made it down to Lawrence. There are still little hints of it, and I tried to get to one of them on the east side of the DVP just north of York Mills Road, but I couldn't. Fenced off. So I started back.

A monarch butterfly caught my eye and I watched it land in the middle of the strange interchange between York Mills and the DVP. I can't remember now whether it landed in the middle of a lane, or on the line between lanes, but it was someplace generally safe from the tires. I stood there for, I don't know, maybe five minutes, waiting for it, urging it, to take off. But it just sat there. Lights would change. Cars would charge. I kept fearing the worst, but it was never run over. Finally I couldn't take it anymore, and between lights, I went out, picked it up gently, and set it down on the grass on the far side of the sidewalk. I have no idea what happened next. Odds are, it was already dying. But I did what I could.

The butterfly reminded me of Twinkle... her strong tortie banding, black and orange; not subtle like Bonnie's was. I had to stand there watching Twinkle in the middle of her road. There was too much traffic, and urging her was all I could do. But this I could fix. This was in my power to set right, and I did. I can't believe it's taken a year and a half to write about it.

Mixed feelings on the mayor

I was going to start off with a Bob and Doug McKenzie joke about Mayor Rob Ford and his brother, city councilor Doug Ford, but someone at Toronto Life magazine beat me to it...

I'm not sure how I feel about all this... the whole sordid "maybe the Mayor smoked crack and made racist and homophobic comments in the company of two druggies who subsequently got shot, one of them fatally" thing.

I've never been a fan of Rob Ford. I'm stunned a city this cosmopolitan, educated, and buttoned-down (yes, in spite of it all, still) could ever vote a guy like that into office. I think he's loud, arrogant, doesn't think beyond the next sound bite, and grew up spoiled by rich parents. Toronto is one of the major cities of North America and not inconsequential internationally, and it needs a serious, full-time mayor. This one spends as much of his time as possible ducking out of council meetings he finds boring to coach a high school football team or stick "Ford for Mayor" magnets on the cars in the City Hall parking lot, and when he's not doing that, he's in court... defamation: defendant, litigant; conflict of interest... on and on. Now this.

My feelings are complicated. He's an embarrassment. I'd like someone else to be mayor. It's not just that I don't like his policies—some of them I do, actually—it's that it's pretty clear he doesn't have the judgement to be the mayor of a city. He's making Toronto look bad. Staffers are being fired or quitting on a daily basis. There are rumours of email deletions and actual warnings to the Mayor not to undertake that. The Premier of Ontario is having to look into the municipal acts to see what options the province might have, should it come to that. It's getting to be like Toronto's own mini Watergate.

But I don't want to believe it. This video hasn't actually surfaced, and as much of goof as I feel Rob Ford to be, I don't want to believe he's that venal or stupid. And I even find myself beginning to resent the way the media have gone after him; particularly The Toronto Star. There's reporting, and then there's vendetta, and The Star has crossed a professional line in my eyes and demeaned itself. I expect this kind of thing from The Sun and its pin-up page. Even The Globe and Mail chooses now to spring a story, supposedly 18 months in the making, that the Mayor's brother Doug, now a city councilor, dealt hash in the 1980s. It's looking less about the dignity of Toronto and its elected offices and more about "getting" the Ford family, and I don't care for that angle.

I want Ford to lose an election, fair and square, to a more progressive and responsible candidate. I don't want him hounded or, worse, torn from office and made into a martyr for the right wing. And speaking of them, aren't they supposed to be the stand-up, do-what's-right, law-and-order people? These are supposed to be the kind of people who'd say "oh, you were are a party in 1975 where someone had a joint in their pocket? Sorry, you can't be my mayor. How could I ever trust your judgement?" But no, his support remains solid in much of the suburbs. I guess if a guy cuts your taxes, hey, that's all that really matters. Apparently their civic pride ends in their wallets.

I don't know how it will play out, but if the Mayor comes through this, it's going to tarnish him, his office, and the city. I think, though, in the course of the next few weeks, he'll bow to the inevitable and resign, and let his crown of thorns become a halo to the right wing. We'll see.


I've been blogging now since a couple of months after Jody died back in 2004. Getting on for nine years now. I used to blog just about everything... Nova Scotian comedian Ron James made a joke about blog entries. "I just washed my hair and now I'm eatin' chips!" Well, I was never that bad, but I did post a lot early on. Then it trailed off. It's picked up again a bit this year, and I just noticed this morning that I had 40 entries for May. I checked, and it's official: more postings this month than any other. If I wanted a tribute to Bonnie, I guess that might be it.

And this is 41.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Ask me if Ikea... :)

When I was shopping at Ikea on Sunday I was surprised to find them advertising, of all things, their Swedish meatballs, when there was a minor flap recently that they'd shipped some that were actually horse meat. (Yes, I know, some people don't care; but a lot of people do.) I thought it might be funny to 'shop in a new slogan for them. :)


Last week I bought a glass display table at Ikea and on Friday Larry helped me assemble it. Since then, I've added an LED lamp and a 15" digital picture frame that changes photos of my lost cats, Jody, and Georgette once an hour. Sunday afternoon I moved the urns and photos over, and I put the frame up on Monday evening. Larry brought me the LED bulbs last night and now it's pretty much complete.

Yesterday when after I got home the photo rotated to this one of Bonnie, taken around the time Jenny died, I think. At 15" it was virtually life-sized. I would have thought that would bring me down, but it didn't. It was very nearly like having her around again, in a casual, hey-how-you-doing, I-acknowledge-you-without-much-fuss kind of way. I'm glad now I got the frame. I think it's going to be important in re-enforcing my memories of how Bonnie and Max, in particular, looked an acted. Neither one has been gone even a year yet.

The naming of the cats

I've noted here a number of times that I've never in my life named a cat or dog and had the name stick. But I've given them tons of nicknames, though.

I thought I'd listed the nicknames for the cats over the years, but it seems I really only did it for Max. I can't find references to the others anywhere on here. This was just going to be an update for the new ones, but I think I owe it to be nauseating about them all.

Cat's name: Jenny
Refinnej ["Jennifer" backwards; supplied by Michelle one evening]
Violin Voice

Cat's name: Bonnie
Pumpkin (Punkin)
Pumpkin Girl (Punkin Girl)
Pumpkin Bum (Punkin Bum)
Pumpkin Niceness
Pumpkinny (Punkinny)
Pumpkinny-Wumpkinny (Punkinny-Wunkinny) [this comes from an episode of Blackadder and is really the basis for all the pumpkin references]
Bon Bon
Little Girl ("Are you bein' my girl? Who's being my girl?")

Cat's name: Max
Wee Fellah/The Wee Fellah
Wee (Maxy-Wee)
Squeezicus Rex
Squeezicus Max/Maxicus

Cat's name: Twinkle
Twinkly-Dinkly [Twinkle, unfortunately, didn't live with me long enough to have been encumbered with a long list of foolish nicknames.]

Cat's name: Ally
Alison James [play on "Alice in Chains"]
Little One [of her, Max, and Bonnie, she was by far the lightest until Bonnie really started shedding her weight this winter; she was and is a third or a quarter the weight of Seth]
Little Little One

Cat's name: Seth
Sethticus Giganticus
Big Fella/The Big Fellah
Use the Scratching Post, Not the Carpet, You Idiot; What's Wrong with You? It's Right There! [unofficial]

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

This love was mine

This was recorded exactly seven years ago today, as it turns out... May 28, 2006, in the spare room of the place where we used to live. It's also the room where Jenny died in her sleep, August 15, 2002.

Look at all the silent meows I'm getting from Bonnie! I can't believe it. I've never gotten even one from another cat yet, so far as I know. Just her.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Still Yellow... still

I listened to Yellow by Coldplay for the first time in several years this afternoon. I'm delighted it remains one of the most beautiful and moving songs in the world. Letting its lyrics fall like tears is the closest I come to devotion. It makes me want to believe in a God like that.

Time to leave the song alone for a while. As I've said here before, I never want that song to become ordinary for me, or lose its power to move me to tears. It's a treasure having a song that can do that for me and I don't want to squander it.

I've expressed my feelings on the song a few times now, and I'm amazed that nearly a decade after I first heard the song, it still has the same power it did then, and six years later, and eight years later. I'm astonished to note that the second post about it was written exactly three years ago today.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Bonnie, home for good

When was the last "normal" day with the three cats I bought with me here? I look back at a comment that Twinkle hadn't been herself since the previous Tuesday. I seem to recall associating noticing she wasn't well with my dad's birthday. If that's so, Sept. 27, 2011, was our last (apparently) normal day together, the four of us. One by one they've gone. Now of us four, there's only me.

Bonnie returned home today, in a way. About 12:30 this afternoon I took the elevator down to meet the doctor in the lobby. She handed me a blue box, the third such box I've received since October, 2011. This one contained a ceramic pawprint and an urn that holds all that remains of my little Pumpkin Girl. We spoke for about ten minutes, near the conclusion of which, a man of retirement age came in, spotted my shirt, and interrupted us with "HMCS Haida?" Threw the vet and I both for a loop. The man went on to revealed he'd served on the ship, the last of its class remaining and now a floating federal museum, in the early 1960s, including the Cuban Missile Crisis. It was a strange moment of deep sorrow splashed with a quirky happy coincidence.

Larry had the day off and he was upstairs in my living room. I brought what was left of my sweet Bonnie back home. In the elevator, alone for a moment, I hugged the box and was finally moved to tears. I had Bonnie back. Not the way I would ever have wanted, but... she was back.

So we put on a movie, Almost Famous, and with a few belts of maple-flavoured Crown Royal in Diet Pepsi, we set to work assembling the glass cabinet I bought Wednesday night as a newer, more fitting home for the cats and human whose remains I've gathered in the past 11 years. We built it in the living room over about half a hour or so, and moved it to the dining room where the bookshelves were till a few months ago. I haven't moved everything over yet. I think that's for tomorrow. For tonight, Bonnie is resting on the top shelf of the armoire in the dining room, at the far right side, along with Jody, Jenny, Twinkle, and Max.

I hope that's as many of these things as I'll have for a while.

Incidentally, and I mention this just in passing for future reference, this afternoon Larry also helped me assemble the bed frame that I got from Bolt, though that took only about five minutes. So, for the first time in at least I year, I have a bed properly off the floor again. In a way, I'm glad I the bed was lower. It made it much easier for Bonnie, and she never had an issue getting onto the bed. I remember just before Jenny died, she couldn't manage it anymore, and wanting her to feel normal again, I put her up onto it. She immediately decided she wanted down, and before I could catch her and help her, she awkwardly threw herself off and into the wall. At least Bonnie never suffered that indignity.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Due diligence

So... this is about the last of it. Bonnie comes home tomorrow, as such.

Not counting everything in between, it cost about ten times as much to say good-bye to her as it did to say hello, all those years ago. But at least there was hello, and every wonderful, loving moment in between.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Oakville to North York

Driving back from Oakville Monday night.


Every morning it's the smell of this place. It really is like breathing in the bitter, acrid scent of Twinkle's death over and over. It adds a bitter edge to every time I come here, because it's uniformly disturbing even without that association, but the fact is, it has it.

They do a trial period for working from home to make sure it goes smoothly. I'm thinking of setting a date for mid-July. It's when I'm kind of thinking of getting a kitten. Maybe I shouldn't, though. I'm going to have to paint the place at least, and two cats is enough to deal with trying to show the place. I'll have to think about it.

This morning I can't stop dwelling on Bonnie's last moments. Sense of betrayal, even though analytically I know we were really down to no realistic options. Extend her life; let her life to the end with some dignity. Pick one. It wasn't going to be both. But I invited a lady to come over and end her life. Me. I chose that. Obviously I didn't do it to save money. I did it to save her from dying by inches... which, I have to face it now, she had been, for weeks. Months. But no matter how I try to wrestle with it, it still doesn't sit right.

What I remember was how hard it was just to get that first needle into her. There was almost nowhere for it to go, and so it was hard. And I remember she raised her head and protested, gently but clearly. And it was as clear as if she's spoken English. "Ow, come on. Not another damn needle. I've had enough of those in the past month. Give me a break." And it was, really, pretty much the last thing she ever did. She relaxed again, drifted off into a sleep so deep even squeezing her paw didn't stir her, and then came the other needle.

I kind of wish that had been as quick as with Max. But with Bonnie, she lived about another five minutes, though I couldn't see her breathing. With Max, it was over. There wasn't time for me to sit there, second-guessing myself. With Bonnie, there was. All the while, there was this sad, pleading little voice inside my head, urging me, She's still alive... maybe they can still reverse this. Maybe you can still have her tomorrow. There's still time. Say something.

But louder, firmer... Tomorrow? Another day where, for whatever reason, she can't even drink water? And clearly, hasn't been eating, even at night when you can't see her? Who was I kidding? Just myself. Tomorrow is another day of hunger and diminishment, and now the torture of a thirst she can't slake. No, this is the right thing to do, and it has to be now. Tough it out...

I still don't have her ashes back. And it feels like the longer that takes, the harder it's going to be when I do get them. I'm trying to make plans for a new glass case for the now ponderous collection of the loved and lost, human and feline, I'm sharing my home with. They now outnumber the living. But I suppose in general that's always been true.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Victoria Daze

A lot of things in my life have pivoted around Victoria Day, or thereabouts. I moved out on my own in May; thirteen years later to the day, Bonnie died. I took possession of the place I'm living in now in May. Drove a car by myself alone for the first time in May (long ago!). Did... something else... for the first time in May. :) Ahem. (Again, long ago.)

Last night as I sat up there watching local folks send up fireworks all over the neighbourhood, I wondered if maybe I might be watching the next set from a different home. I suppose it's up to me. If I want to make that happen, I'm pretty sure I can. The primary obstacles seem to be lethargy on my part and unrealistic expectations. If I accept what I can do, and then push the first domino over, it'll happen.

So we've just come through another Victoria Day weekend, which is the unofficial "official" start to summer in Canada. It was a pretty busy one for me.

Saturday P-Doug had these tickets to an unusual sort of outing... a gathering of urban food trucks... y'know, chip wagons... on the Peller Estates winery in Niagara Region. So it it was this odd conjunction of sampling some of Ontario's prize-winning Niagara wines along with trucks that were selling wood-fired pizza and fish and chips. P-Doug and I had a few samples of white wines interspersed with trying a rubbed chicken sandwich and chicken tikka masala over chips (first curry I ever had, about 15 years ago now, was over chips). We were there about two hours. Parking was across the road and just about a kilometer away. The walk there and back, decorated with flurries of dandelion fluffy, did us good, P-Doug said.

I should point out the the first stop, however, was a huge book warehouse we've been to before. It used to be a yard for repairing steam locomotives, I'm told. I picked up a couple of puzzle books for my dad, and for myself, an excellent book about B&W digital photography (tricks on wringing great monochrome shots out of colour images), and autobiographies of William Shatner and Michael Moore. From there, it was off to Peller Estates and the ring of chip wagons. :)

After that we drifted north up the Niagara Parkway along the river toward Fort Erie. Eventually we passed the Falls... funny, there was a time that would have locked my attention but this time it was just a few casual glances. Well, it's not the same passing it in a car with it 100' away and 300 people blocking the view as it is getting up and there and barely having the nerve to step up the the retaining wall.

We got to Fort Erie and drove down a street even I remembered, with a Chinese restaurant on it that we've frequented a few times over the years. He and I didn't go there this time; he was looking for a corner store to get something to drink. A bottled water and a couple of small ice cream cones later we were back on the road. Toronto saw us having the baked wings and carrot sticks at the Three Monkeys. Nice capper.

Sunday it was my turn to go pick him up. I got him about 12:15 and we headed west to Dig's place for a BBQ. Bolt asked if I could pick him up on my way through Oakville. The traffic on the Queen Elizabeth Way that had been so clear on Saturday was a mess on Sunday; sheer volume of traffic, no accidents. We left the highway at Winston Churchill Blvd. and took Upper Middle Road across Oakville, but there was no avoiding getting back on the QEW to head to Dig's. It was slow going but it was moving as we crossed Burlington. I took the exit to the 403 for a couple of reasons. One was that I wanted to drop in on my folks for a couple of minutes to drop off the books for my dad. The other was that with the traffic still grinding on the QEW, it looked like the fastest way to get to Dig's was to take the expressways up the Mountain and back down to Stony Creek. And that's what we did. We arrived at about 2:30, which was over two hours after I got rolling.

Everybody who was invited eventually showed up. It was Dig and his missus, and me and P-Doug and Bolt, and eventually Larry dropped in. Burgers and sausages. Lots of conversation over five hours or so. Did everyone some good, I think.

After that we stopped in at Bolt's "new" place and hot tubbed in the back yard for a couple of hours. It's nice when the warm weather has finally gotten rolling but it was still chattering teeth time getting out around quarter after ten. Drove back to Toronto, dropped P-Doug off, went home, hit the hay.

Yesterday, Victoria Day, I'd promised to come back and help Bolt move some of the last of the significant furniture from his parents' place, which sold in April. We threw some stuff out in the bin in the driveway, but mostly moved and/or disassembled wardrobes and bureaus he wanted to keep. The wardrobe was the biggest hoot, oh yeah. Taking the doors and the back off it, getting it up out of the basement, getting it into the back of his pickup... all the while his sister was there, distracting him about who should keep what little nick-knack. For once, instead of standing around like a lump, I was proactive and kept moving whatever I could manage on my own, without being asked to... just using my head. I'm kind of proud of that; it's kind of a new feature in my character in recent years and I'm trying to cultivate it. Anyway, the fun started when we got it back to his new place. He wanted it upstairs. But the stairs, and their walls and ceilings, all got together on the first landing and said "nope.". Getting it to the point it got stuck wasn't too hard... but getting it unstuck, well... that was a different story. Eventually he had to get a screwdriver and loosen one of the sides just so we could get it back down off the stairs. He was pretty disheartened and on the verge of taking it back to dump it in the bin and just keeping the mirrored doors as wall decorations, but I reminded him of its stated sentimental value and he took my advice and we just put it aside in the back yard till he could get his new place in order and figure out what, if anything, he wanted to do with it. In pretty short order he was making plans for using it to store the robes he wants to get for his hot tubbing guests.

A couple more trips back and forth saw us move another bureau and a bookshelf his father had inherited from the U of T where he was an engineering professor. The wood was stamped T. Eaton and Co., which means it was manufactured by Eaton's, a long time ago. These days, that alone marks it as a piece of Canadian history.

Though it wasn't my intention, I came out of it a little ahead, too. First of all, Bolt paid for lunch, which was chicken shawarma at a place he frequents for lunch. I also got a rake and a spade he was throwing out with an eye to our recent project of improving P-Doug's back yard. And I got the queen size bed support rails he was about to get rid of (he only wanted the Mennonite-carved headboard), to replace the ones I threw out about a year ago. Having a bed that's not on the floor like a hippie flophouse, I think, will slightly improve how my place shows when I get around to putting it on the market.

After that we went to Philthy McNasty's for supper, which was fajitas but with a new twist I got to introduce Bolt to. Bolt was diagnosed with diabetes last fall and I have to say he's taken it seriously. He's lost something like 20-30 pounds since then, and he's pretty scrupulous about watching his sugars. I can't remember where it was now... ah, yes, now I can; The Occasions Restaurant in the Beaches, I think... where they serve something like fajitas but instead of using tortillas, they bring you half a head of lettuce and you just wrap everything in the leaves. It's a nice, crunchy change and since there's not much to lettuce, it was a good replacement for the flour in tortillas. We talked the restaurant into cutting a head of lettuce in two for us and ate the chicken fajitas on that instead. Bolt was pleased and he's armed with a new idea for enjoying something he likes without the down side.

I got home about 9 and dumped the bed rails beside the bed. I'll have to see about assembling them sometime this week. I'll see if I can get Larry's help with that. But anyway, that was the weekend that was. Busy busy busy. Which kind of kept my mind off the fact that it's been two weeks now since Bonnie died; two weeks since I was just planning to get her stitches out on Tuesday and had to make that long-dreaded decision on Monday instead. It kind of reminds me of Linus's observation to Charlie Brown at the end of A Boy Named Charlie Brown after he's narrowly lost a national spelling bee competition: "But did you notice something, Charlie Brown? The world didn't come to an end." Well, I guess it did for Bonnie. But I, and the rest of the world, are still here, and we have to keep chugging, at least for a while yet, and this weekend past, I did.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Summer On Four Paws

I noticed this a few days ago on Flickr. It's from November, 2005, as winter was setting in, and it must have been among the first things I put up. I'd pretty much forgotten about it. It's nice to know I already had this kind of regard for her long before we were even half way through our journey together.

Summer On Four Paws, originally uploaded by Lone Primate.

Summer On Four Paws

Awake, asleep, alike

Morning light squeezes through the blinds, spread fine across the ceiling

Her purring is the sunlight on my neck;
The brushing of her tail over my arm,
the aimless spring breeze

At my arm, the whispered promise
of warmth and life reborn
to a land where water's sharp as glass:

She is summer,
sleeping close by.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Pinning pictures

I have an email pen pal in Australia, and I was trying to go through photos last night to show him pictures of the people I'm talking about in emails to him. But the computer was slow and cranky and I gave up... not before noticing I took an astonishing number of photos of my cats over the years. Good for me.

It surprises me that Max and Bonnie really did look different when they were younger. They were more wide-eyed and didn't quite have the edge that they took on. They don't look quite like themselves, back ten or eleven years ago. If I may say so, I think Bonnie grew noticeably prettier, and Max took on a rugged, handsome air he didn't quite have at first. I wonder if I'll think the same of Ally and Seth someday.

Anyway, I mentioned here last week how I used to get into grudge matches with Bonnie over her ancient habit of peeing on my bed, and how after one bout, I went out and got her a silver and amber pendant as a gesture of apology and a reminder to myself whenever I looked at her from then on. I happened across photos of her from July, 2003 where it doesn't look like she has it, and then a handful from August 4 that seem to make a point, in some shots, of showing it. Thanks to those photos, I have a pretty good idea when I got it for her. I knew it was in the summer, and I knew it was on a weekend. August 4, 2003 was a Monday. So it's a good bet that I made that gesture August 2 or 3. Bonnie wore that pendant for the rest of her life, nearly ten more years. Right now it's on her last collar, sitting on the shelf by the ashes of Jody, Jenny, Twinkle, and Max, waiting for her return.

The one thing I can say about this photographic hobby and how I've held onto pretty much every photo I've taken since 2003 is that if I'm willing to put in the time to go look, I can usually use those photos to pin down dates and give a context to my life in the past 10 years or more that I would otherwise probably have lost to the murk of fallible memory.

Coming and going

I've said I'm not eager to work from home, but given that I don't work here with anyone, it hardly seems any different.

One thing I won't miss is the smell. Let me set the stage here.

I started working here, in this office, less than 48 hours after Twinkle died. I'd been working from home while our office was transitioned. My stuff had been sitting here about a week. But with her gone, there was really no more reason to work from home. It was more or less at that time, too, that I decided to hell with the bus. Why spend more money than I would on gas to stand around waiting, brave the cold, sometimes not get a seat, leave myself without the ability to run little errands at lunch time or on the way home, and spend more of my life getting to and from work? So, that morning, I drove in. I was one of the first people on the floor. I had no idea where my desk was and I slightly scared a woman working on the floor when I suddenly appeared, asking about a seating map. I found my spot, shared with a 2' concrete pillar. I had to open a box and start putting things together there in the dark at 6:30 in the morning, late in October. More than anything at that moment I wanted not to have to be alone with my thoughts, but I was. It would be most of an hour before I could even get the laptop up and going.

But the thing that really caught me, and remains the thing that brings me right back to that dismal moment every morning when I walk in here, is the smell. Swear to God, it's like the maintenance staff comes up here at 3 in the morning, unwraps a fresh Barbie doll, and sets its hair on fire. In some places it verges on nauseating. And every morning, that's the smell of that morning walking in here after watching Twinkle gasping for breath in her litter box, dying. Besides the constant association, whatever it is, it can't be healthy. That's one thing I won't miss in working from home, anyway.

Booze power

Here in Ontario, the provincial government holds an essential monopoly on the sale and distribution of alcoholic beverages other than beer (which is a private monopoly), via the Liquor Control Board of Ontario, generally known as the LCBO. The first long weekend of the short Canadian summer is coming up... Victoria Day, also known as "May-Two-Four", both because Victoria Day, always the third Monday in May, buzzes around and sometimes falls on that day, and because "a two-four" is local slang for a case of 24 bottles of beer. It's the weekend that the cottages open up, you see.

The union to which LCBO workers belong has chosen this moment to strike. Odds are, at midnight tonight, they will be going on strike. The radio stations are telling us to expect long line-ups as people stock up in advance of the province going dry (at least for wine and liquor) till who-knows-when.

I do drink again; after taking two years off, I decided to start enjoying beer when I go out again. But I'm not keeping it around the house, so I'm not really inconvenienced by this all that much. I have a strange relationship with unions... I'm pro-collective bargaining; I think it's an important feature of a democratic society and the only real hedge we still have against the rich simply siphoning off every drop. But I hate strikes! I hate the inconveniences. The disruptions. So I was kind of miffed when I heard about this, in the abstract.

Recently, though, I heard the practicalities of it. There are a lot of people working for the LCBO part time. Many of them took the jobs in the understanding that, shortly, they'd be full time. Some people have languished in part time positions at the LCBO for years. The issues of the strike seem to be job security and putting more of the current workers on full time. I think these are laudable goals. I stand behind them.

Every time some politician or right-wing newspaper wonk gets on his soap box and recommends selling the LCBO off to the private sector... like one of his big business buddies, say... we hear the same old song about how the LCBO is actually a money-spinner for the province, bringing in billions of dollars in revenue every year. Okay, fine. We pay slightly higher prices and have no competition, but we have two advantages: a wide variety of items since the LCBO is one of the world's largest single buyers of wines and spirits, and the revenue stays in the province and goes into the till. So I say, if we're making good money off of it, let's put some of it into giving the people keeping the lights on and the shelves stocked a decent wage and standard of living. In my mind, any good business should accomplish that before anything else.

What you keep

Look at this.

What you're looking at is a daily reminder of my grandmother. Hard to believe, right? A bit silly. When she died way back in 1989, and we went to Montreal to help clean out her apartment, this happened to be something I picked up simply out of practical need. And for some reason, I've had it ever since. It's been in bedrooms, bathrooms, and five or six different offices and desks in the past almost 24 years. I've had it more than half my life. The original lens cleaner in it is long, long gone, replaced by Windex and then more actual lens cleaner.

It's amazing that this is what her life comes down to, for her grandson. The only other thing of hers I know for sure I have is a letter from the British Ministry of Defense that summarizes her father's service record, which told me just enough that I was able to work out which regiment he was in, and that he died on the first day of the Battle of the Somme. That, and the opportunity to acquire Irish citizenship by foreign birth registration, which I did back in 2002. (Which reminds me; I really need to get around to renewing my passport; it lapsed over a year ago now. Had that in the works when Twinkle got sick.)

I really don't have anything else of hers that shows who she was, what she cared about, what she took an interest in. I was just getting to know her as a person, rather than as a grandmother, when she died, and I've always regretted we didn't have a few more years. She was the last of my grandparents. With her, that generation passed in my family.

You'd look at this bottle and just see it as one more incidental nick-knack in the jumble of pens and paperclips here on my desk. You'd never know the bottle is anything special. Without me to provide the context, it's not. It's kind of sobering when you think about it that way. Unless you're someone hugely famous, your life and its meaning is given context by the people who know you and care about you. And after them, we're lost in the pond as the newer, stronger ripples supersede us.

The internet's still a relatively new thing in human society and sometimes I wonder if this blog will long survive me if I just leave it up, and if anyone decades or centuries after I'm gone will ever come across it and take a passing interest in it. It strikes me that that would be rather a deeper personal legacy than my grandparents were able to leave behind, anyway.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Coming to more grips

There was something I realized I forgot to mention this morning in terms of coping with losing Bonnie, and that is that almost immediately, literally within an hour or two of her death, I was being tasked by Dig and his wife with a way to take control of the debt that's been on my back since Twinkle became sick. Suddenly, in all that despair, there was light, a way, a path. Something constructive to take my mind off what had just happened and been going on for weeks, months. I had a project and I grabbed it with both hands. I suppose finding a new place to call home is a part of that. That's going to be strange... surrendering the place Bonnie lived in and breathed her last, and never seeing it again. But on the other hand, never having to see it again, not being forced by my circumstances to glance to my left and see, a foot away, the place she died, every day.

I've talked about how I held up when I faced Bonnie's illness and, finally, having to spare her from suffering by ending her life. Those were, in some ways, practical matters. There was emotion in them, of course; I can tell you right now that if the doctors had said, "yes, we can lick this and she'll have another two good years, but you'll have to come up with another five thousand dollars," I'd have done it without flinching. Even ten thousand dollars. She meant more to me than just the meaner living paying that debt off implies. But over top of it all were the clinic, sensible decisions I was making, without getting balled up about the money. It's not trivial, and obviously it worries me, but I felt it was the right thing to do. But what's got me scared now is when her ashes come back. When there's nothing I can do for her, and everything she was is gone and all that's left is some dust hidden inside something about the size of a coconut in my hands, and that lively, loving girl is set on the wardrobe shelf to sit and collect dust forever... when there's no clinical, hopeful, or morally necessary decision to be made that will stiffen my spine, I wonder then. Will I cry at last? Or close my eyes, sigh, and accept this too?

At this point, I'm honestly not sure which I'd rather. But there'll come a moment when I'll feel both, and I'll have to force that river down one channel or the other.


Crop of a frame capture from the dash cam on the 401 eastbound on my way to the car dealership this morning.

Coming to grips with having come to grips

I'm not really expecting anyone to read this stuff and indulge me at this point. This is mostly so that I can look back someday and see how I was feeling and how I was working things out.

My fairly calm, sang-froid reaction to losing Bonnie is both a comfort and a concern. It's a comfort because I've been spared the headaches, the burning face, the lost sleep, the desperate thoughts and bleak hopelessness I've felt at similar losses. It's a concern because I feel like I may have lost something important and human about myself somewhere.

I always believed, and looking at that post from a couple of years ago about the song No One's Gonna Love You (More Than I Do)—which I love but will never be able to make a friend of or listen to—only underlines it, that when I had finally lost Bonnie, I'd come apart. Weeks of despair, time off work, waking up every half hour to find her not there, yearning for her touch, being unable to even look at a photo. It was something like that when Jenny died. But it hasn't been like that, for a very long time.

And now I wonder... why?

Twinkle went through hell, but I got through it, and I think I only came to tears when a card from the hospital came. Max, I got through that too. I ached inside, but I never came apart. But Bonnie, I figured there'd be no escape. So many years. So much love. So much singular, irreplaceable personality and companionship. How can my life be so almost normal, so soon after? I'm really trying to understand.

I know I loved her, and continue to love her in her absence. I remember, with some pain, the particular things she did, the contact she made with me, the way we were together. So it's not that it didn't matter, or I've betrayed all that. It's still here. So what is it?

Well, I guess it could be a lot of things. I'm a lot older than I was when Jenny died. Ten years older. I guess life really has worn me down some. Blunted keen feelings, made it harder for them to break through. Like I said, that's both a comfort and a curse.

There's also the aspect that I've been through the loss of two other pets I loved, and in so short a time. There's been almost no recovery time from morning and adjusting before it starts all over again. And maybe that, sadly, has robbed Bonnie of something that should have been her due. The rag keeps getting wrung out before it's really wet again.

Another aspect is that with Bonnie it wasn't really a surprise. Twinkle and Max got sick, and with two weeks, they were dead. A one-two knockout punch in each case. They left me less miserable than simply stunned. But with Bonnie, well, she was 15. She'd had a brush with cancer. It was back; operable, but probably for the last time, and would likely return. Her health had clearly been declining in recent months. And, unlike Twinkle and Max, I did get some breaks with her. When she terrified me the summer I moved by losing her appetite and taking to hiding under the bed in the spare room, I steeled myself for losing her. Turned out to be an infected anal gland. Immediately after that, Twinkle got sick... but I didn't lose Bonnie. Then, last fall, the cancer... but I didn't lose her then, either. I got six more months to enjoy her company and feel her love. So though I ultimately lost her, yes, I also had those sweet reprieves, and that's not something I got with the others.

Finally, it's right there in the post from two years ago I quoted this morning. I mourned Bonnie for a long, long quiet time before she really got sick and died. There were, quite literally, dozens of times when, in reflective moments, I'd contemplate the day I'd lose her, and have to brush away tears... and that was back when she was just fine, and robust, and making my life a daily joy just being herself. Even then, I was letting myself feel her loss. Maybe that's it. Maybe part of it is, in small doses, I let that out over time, rather than all at once. It was a constant reminder to be good to her, to indulge her, to pick her up and hug her and croon my affection to her, and see it blinked back to me, silent meowed at me, nibbled into my arms and cheeks. Maybe I haven't needed to come apart because I took so much of that mourning and converted it into expressions of love when it mattered.

Okay, now my eyes are stinging. <:)

I miss you, Pumpkin. But I missed you while I still had you, too, when it counted. I love you. I always will.

The move: mulling it over

I've had these little inklings in my mind at various times today, telling myself that, well, you know, maybe I am overreacting. No one's actually said so yet; most people have cautioned me not to do anything rash. I'm not planning on moving for many, many months yet; maybe even a year.

But I just kind of had a wander back and I was looking at that little movie of poor little Twinkle, tube in her nose, trying to eat for me in the animal hospital. And no, I'm not overreacting. That's all this place has been to me, and everything else considered, I'm not really interested in giving it the several years it'll take to stop being that.

When I moved [note: interruption of about 18 hours occurs at this point in writing due to my cell service provider calling me up to offer me more service at a cheaper rate] in 2011, things were different. For one thing, Bonnie, Twinkle, and Max were all alive. I figured I had probably another two or three years at least with Bonnie, another five with Max, and probably another ten with Twinkle. I was still working at a nice office on the subway with the team of people I had to interact with to get things done actually there in the bullpen or elsewhere in the office. We could even go out to lunch, and sometimes did. I was finally a home owner, with a great view, and could even at long last do my laundry without leaving my apartment. I missed the company that having Larry a couple of steps down the hall had grown me accustomed to, but he still wasn't far away. G was still alive and if not a constant presence when I got together with P-Doug, a constant topic of conversation, news, and anecdotes. I kind of missed the place I'd lived in for 11 years (had they stuck a washer and drier in it and put it up for sale, frankly, I'd have bought it), but I felt I'd finally stepped up to something better. Well, I did. It's just so much about it all in the meantime has grown so depressing, and I want a change.

It's little things, too. I'm tired of everything being about elevators. A couple of months ago, I was literally on the way out the door when the power went out. Thirty seconds later and I'd have been in the elevator, and stuck between floors for two hours. As it was, on the 19th floor, I wasn't about to trot all the way down, only to find out I couldn't get my car out of the garage because the door wouldn't open, and then... what? Climb back? Sit in the lobby till whenever? So I had to sit it out.

Yesterday (the day I started writing this), I stepped out into the hall at 6:30 to find a cascade of water pouring down in front of the door of a suite opposite the elevators. It wasn't a torrent, but it was as much water as you'd get running the bathroom sink, and there was a pool a couple inches deep in front of the door. I went downstairs to tell the office, called the number, could hear the phone ring, got no answer. So I had to try at the intercom in the lobby. And then it was a 30-second comedy of errors trying to explain the problem over a bad sound system to a guy who came by the English language late in life. I'm tired of feeling hostage, as I have been for 13 years now, to everyone else's fuck-ups, and the response of other people whose responsibilities I can't supersede even if I wanted to.

As mentioned in a previous entry, last night I parked in a visitor spot in the off chance my car needed to be towed in the morning (it didn't). I left a note identifying my suite number and typical spot and why I was there, and I still came down to this snotty note about this not being my parking space and move it or it'll be towed. If I hadn't been more worried about getting the car started and to the dealership, I'd have marched inside and told them what I thought of the note and where to shove it, and how deep. Instead, I crumpled it up and threw it on the lot. Last year, someone broke my window doing work on the roof. I'm sick of all this, too... stupid, arbitrary, bullshit little rules about when you can do this and what colour that has to be and when to make sure they can get into your unit. Can't have a dog, but a hallway full of someone else's pot smoke at 7 in the morning, no problem.

Oh, and I'm paying what will soon be $700 a month for a lot of facilities I never use. I look around at other places, especially town houses, and their condo fees are more like $400-500, even when they're inclusive. Because they're inclusive of upkeep and utilities, not facilities, so they're not expecting people to pay for Beverly. Hills, that is. Swimmin' pools, movie stars.

Anyway, you add it all up, and I'd really like to get Dig and Bolt in there this summer, spruce the place up just a little, maybe do some painting, and then see what I can get for it, and where that can take me.

It's still a good place. Just not for me, that's all.

More mixed notes

Well, this morning, I'm waiting a bit to get going. Last night, the car wouldn't start. For the first time ever I called the Kia helpline whose number's been glued to the driver's side window of my last two cars. They sent around CAA. The guy was great. Got the car started, thought maybe the pump wasn't up to it because taking the gas cap off got her going. Followed me to the dealership in Markham where, just off the cuff, they figure it's an undervolt problem in the ignition. Thing was, they had no way to get me home, so I had to take my chances and drive home. Managed to get it started again and parked above ground. Left a note on my car; hope they haven't messed with it. Anyway, I have to see about getting it started again in about half an hour.

Yesterday the financial adviser at the bank emailed me a scan of a filled-out mortgage discharge paper. I printed it, signed it, scanned it, and sent it back. What an age. Banking by Jetson. Still, so much for "paperless". It took at least two pieces of paper to do what one used to to.

In the last few days I've uncorked the cat treats again for Seth and Ally. Last night was the first time in, oh, a couple of months, maybe? that I opened a can of cat food rather than just pouring out the various varieties of hard stuff. It wasn't fair to them, I know, but seeing Bonnie not eat the cat treats she loved and not even lick at the gravy of the canned stuff, something else she really liked, made it all just too real. Besides, even Ally, who was the whole reason I started buying and serving the stuff, had been just going through the motions for a while. Open a can for me! Thanks. Well, I'm tired of this stuff. Just throw it out tonight. I'd had enough of that. Last night, after a couple of months of not having the stuff, they really cleaned the dishes. But I think it'll be once a day from now on, if that.

Love bites

It's going to be love bites. I realized it this morning.

Bonnie used to give me love bites. On my cheeks, on my nose, on my arms. She used to reach out, take hold of me in her mouth, and begin to squeeze. Squeeze till it was sharp, but short of breaking the skin. Usually, that is. One night about six or seven weeks ago she squeezed my nose so hard I woke up with blood spots on the pillow, but I didn't mind. I knew what it was.

I've had other pets. Have other pets. Will have others, I expect. But it came to me again that it's possible that no one has ever loved me as purely, unconditionally, broadly, and deeply as Bonnie, or even will again. The only consolation I have is that I knew it, and I didn't take it for granted.

Haunted now by this post from exactly two years ago tomorrow.


As often happens, I was in the men’s room when I heard the new song (well, new to me, anyway). It’s one of those places where it’s quiet and you tend to be alone for a few moments, so you pay attention. The song, as it turns out, is No One’s Gonna Love You by Band of Horses.

But no one... is ever gonna love you more than I do...
No one's gonna love you more than I do.

I suppose it’s meant to be reassuring to someone you’re spending your life with. But the song has a faint desperation and even a bit of a melancholy to it. It’s gorgeous and soaring in its way but I find it painfully depressing. As it’s rolled over in my head these last few days, it’s kept reminding me that my cat, Bonnie, is thirteen this summer. She’s in good shape, as far as I know, but I can’t help thinking that, you know, most cats are lucky if they get past about sixteen (though it’s not entirely rare for them to), and that mushy, iffy three years or so seems so, so short. It’s hard to explain, and I think a lot of people with spouses and children would be apt to wave it off, but... it’s almost less what I’d say to her if I could as what I’m tempted to believe is true about her with regard to me. Almost daily she’ll stare into my eyes, looking back and forth between them, reaching a paw out, and the knowledge that if I live long enough, I’m going to lose that, is almost more than I can stand. I honestly don’t think there’s any less conditional love in my life than hers. Humans always have conditions; we can’t help it. She wants to be with me wherever I am at home; she doesn’t want me to leave in the mornings. She’s scratched my arms trying to keep me from going. I find myself cutting short my excursions because I don’t want to leave her alone for too long, knowing in the back of my mind that my time with her company is, indeed, finite. So there’s all that in the chorus of this song.

I hate being the kind of person prone to mourn what I haven’t even lost yet... but on the other hand, when the time comes, I’ll be able to say I didn’t take it for granted. I do adore her, and the best part is, I’m convinced she knows that.

"Does it mean you love me when you stick that thing in my face?"

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Mixed notes

Well, wasn't yesterday a stellar Hockey Night in Canada.

Larry emailed me Sunday night and said he had come back from Mother's Day with extra steak, potatoes, corn, even pumpkin pie, and all we had to do was warm them up. He actually suggested we watch game 7 of the Leafs-Bruins playoffs. I laughed and said I didn't think there'd be a game 7, but if the Leafs won Sunday evening, sure. It was a strange request because neither of us is a big sports fan, but we'd incidentally watched the Leafs blow it twice at pubs in the past week and I guess it was just a chance to square the circle.

So, as it turned out, the Leafs won Sunday evening. They went from being down 3-2 in the playoffs to tying it up, and now there'd be a game 7. I still didn't think they'd win, but at least now they had a shot. Who knows?

Larry came over and we watched the first two eps of the original 1981 Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, then hopped onto the game about ten after seven. The Bruins scored first and Larry joked that was a good sign, because both times we'd seen them lose, the Leafs had gotten on the board first.

Meanwhile, Ally did what she always does when Larry comes over... climbs all over him and starts making a big deal over him. I'm not sure why she does this; if it's an attempt to make me jealous or just that he's someone she's seen a lot, has grown to trust, and wants to be social. I've warned him a few times, though, what I've noticed she doesn't like (such as sticking your finger in her face to warn her off, which he's apt to do... bad move), and that she likes being petted briefly and on her own terms, and he exceeded them. She started to lean back and I said he should probably ease up, but he didn't, and she finally had enough, grabbed his arm and raked his wrist with her back legs. I didn't like seeing her lash out at him but it was a little hard to feel sorry for him. Cats really aren't that hard to read and when they're letting you know, with whatever patience they can muster, it's time for you to respect their space, you really shouldn't play the "I'm human and bigger than you and I don't have to" card. And I did try to warn him off. He says he's done with letting her get social, and I suppose he is, but that's too bad, when all you have to do is take what she's able to give, and ease off when she lets you know she's given it. Twinkle taught me that.

Anyway, in the meantime, the hockey was hockeying. Then it happened. The Leafs tied it up, and then started winning. Four unanswered goals, and it got really quiet in Boston. I started thinking hey, the Leafs really are going to make it to the second round. They went into the third period up 4-1, and I kept saying, hey, it's not over till it's over, but just tying it up would be a huge chore for Boston.

Then Boston scored one.

Then, with  about two minutes to play, they pulled their goalie, which I didn't think they'd do with a two goal deficit, but they did. And it paid off. With 87 seconds left in game 7, they scored. Now it's 4-3. But the Leafs just have to keep their shit wired for less time than it takes to listen to an early Beatles ditty.


Bruins tie it up with 50 seconds or so to go. Game goes into overtime. I knew the momentum was theirs. Six minutes in, so was the game.

They've been called "the loser Leafs" all my life. Last time they won, or even played in the finals for, the Stanley Cup was in 1967, the last year of the Original Six teams. I wasn't born yet. No one playing on either team last night was, either. The coaching staffs probably can't even remember that. And for all that, last night has to be some kind of Leafs record for epic fail. To piss away a three goal advantage and then lose the game all in less time than it takes to play a single regulation period is something that probably doesn't happen much more than once in a season across the league... and yet, the Leafs managed to do it last night in game 7. I don't mind that they lost so much as I hate them for making me think they really had the heart to win.

Hockey isn't even one of my hobbies and I'm some pissed off. I can't imagine what this is like for people who watch every game, or pay hundreds of bucks to sit in the ACC. Probably like Larry feels about Ally. I should probably call my dad.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Offered without comment

Future pets

Well, I just looked at my watch... Bonnie's been gone for about half an hour over a week now. There's an entire week now between my life with her, and since. The forever since.

I forgot to mention my discussions with Michelle on the weekend as to future pets for me. I've gotten used to a three-cat home. Right now it's a blessing because if I'd lost Bonnie and was just down to Ally, that would be hard. And if it were just Max and Bonnie, I'd have very been facing a Bonnie with cancer within two months of losing Max. It's selfish but I need more of an emotional safety net than that and with Ally and Seth, at least there's some of that. When Jenny died, I spent a couple of months with just Bonnie, and that was a little lonely, and must have been a bit hollow for her, too, when I was out of the apartment. Max rescued us both from that, for years and years.

Ever since adopting Bonnie, all the cats I've had have been rescued cats... cats who had a home and lost it. Bonnie, Max, Twinkle, Ally, Seth... they were all someone else's cat first, and came to me as adults. I'm still dedicated to that idea but... it's been so long since I've seen a cat grow up. The one and only time was Jenny, who was about four months old when I got her. I've never in my life gotten to name a cat or a dog... at least not and have it stick. I won't rename a pet who's already got a name he or she is used to (nickname, sure; that's different... Refinnej, Bon-Bon/Pumpkin Girl, Weasel/Squeezicus, Alberatsaurus, Sethticus Giganticus, etc, .etc.). What I'm saying here is, I think in a couple of months, sometime well into the summer, I'd like to stock back up the three cats, and for once, probably for last time in my life, I'd like that new cat to be a kitten. If I live long enough, I'll see Ally and Seth pass away, and I pledge to make room in my home for other cats who've had and lost a home. But one more time... I want to watch a kitten grow up.

Nearly ten years ago now, I lost a friend—a human friend—to cancer. He was a very dear friend I knew only from the internet, but we were a daily part of one another's lives for ten years and the distance mattered not a bit. At the end of his life and for a couple of years after, I became close to his father in his own right, and probably spoke with him more in those few years than with my own dad in the past 20. He was another friend I lost to cancer, two years after his son.

The son's name was Jody (the father's, Jim), and he loved cats more than almost anything else in the world. They fascinated him and there were lots of times he said flat out he wished he were one. Though exceedingly intelligent and a talented code writer, he was a very shy young man who died a virgin in his mid-20s. The simplicity of a cat's life deeply appealed to him, but he was born into a species with a more complicated society than he was really suited to. Obviously he never got his wish to be a cat. But it struck me when I was talking this over with Michelle... this kitten... boy or girl, the name "Jody" is appropriate. And it would have delighted Jody to have a cat named after him. So that's what I hope to do in a few months, when the soreness of the hole Bonnie's passing has left heals some and isn't tender, and bringing a new cat home doesn't feel like a slap in the face to her memory. But two or three months isn't all that long. You usually can't adopt a cat until he or she is 6-8 weeks old. So "Jody", this kitten, might already exist somewhere... either in the womb, or already as a newborn. It's a ponderous idea, realizing sitting here right now, that "Jody" could already be sharing the world with me, but not my life yet.

Another reason I'm thinking of moving, and finally getting out of apartment living, is the nagging, on-again-off-again urge over the years to get a dog. I grew up with a couple of dogs. From the time I was seven, until long after I was out on my own, my parents' home had dogs; much earlier than we had a cat (Jenny). Two spaniels, actually, separated by about a year. Astonishingly different in temperament to one another. But it seems natural to have a dog around, and I think if it hadn't been for the rather attentive, direct, vaguely canine natures Bonnie and Max had, I would have felt that more keenly. Where I used to live, what mainly stopped me was that I lived on the 5th floor, and hauling a dog in and out just seemed like too much of a pain in the ass. Besides, I lived alone and was out of the house between 8 and 9 hours a day. Now, the building I bought into doesn't even allow dogs... which frankly I think is a violation of a fundamental human right older than civilization itself and shouldn't even be constitutional. But if I get a place where I'm on the ground floor, and it's got something like a backyard, and it's not such an issue to get out the door and walk for a bit in the good weather, and I'm working from home so I can look after a dog, why in the world shouldn't I do it? I love the idea of being able to go out on weekends and do a little hiking with a dog, or see her sitting in the car seat excited by a trip, hanging around at my feet at home and chasing around with the cats. I really want that. Bringing the dog around to visit my folks, especially my dad who really misses having a dog. Soon it could be possible.

Yeah, I know. Three cats and a dog. But I'm not married. Don't have kids. I have a powerful urge to nurture and support and give and get affection without too too much complication. And it's one more of those things that seems to have opened up in the past week or so. Maybe it's just spiritual junk food I'm feeding myself for a moment to assuage the craving Bonnie's left behind in me. But it's still better than starving.

Tuna is fail fish

I've mentioned tuna here before. I was just down in the cafeteria and glancing over the ready-made sandwiches, I spied tuna. Kind of a downer. I used up my last can the day Bonnie died, getting her to drink something. Last food she ever had.

Before that, last year, it was trying to interest Max in food again. I even got to the point of pureeing it for him because the tumor at the back of his mouth made chewing and swallowing obviously an ordeal.

It took me a long time to get to like, or even stomach, tuna. I think I was 12 or 13 before I'd eat the stuff. In fairly short order, I took to it, and while it never became one of my top faves, it got to be something I'd look forward to about once a week. When I moved out and was losing weight successfully for the first time, I remember eating quite a lot of it.

The sight of a stack of tuna cans now will be forever associated with the knowledge that I had a cat who was so sick as to have stopped eating. The realizing I probably had a beloved pet in the process of dying. I'll eat tuna again. I'll even buy it. But I'll never again be able to do so without seeing it as something with darker connotations.

I'm not sure what to call this, so...

As it turns out, I just got the call from the bank, and the new mortgage has been apparently approved without issue. No mention of an assessment, so I guess they figured the estimate wasn't out of line. So, if my math was right, and I can stick to it, the line of credit should be paid off by the end of the summer.

Reasonably busy weekend. I don't usually blog about that anymore unless it's a genuine excursion but I'm in one of those phases, and this is a confusing moment in my life that probably bears some mention just so I can keep it all straight later. So here goes.

Anyone who remembers what I went through with Twinkle a year and a half ago will remember I had my friend Michelle around through nearly all of it. She listened to my hopes and fears over dinners. She accompanied me several times to visit Twinkle in the hospital. She came by my home on what turned out to be the last night of Twinkle's life and it buoyed my spirits to see Twinkle, not usually the cuddliest of cats, crawl all over Michelle as if in recognition of her visits. I mention all this for context. I had brunch... well, lunch, really, with Michelle Saturday. Earlier last week she casually let me know that she's expecting. I'm happy for her and her intended (the wedding is this August and I've wrangled myself an invite, I think; she didn't think I'd want to be around a lot of strangers). It is, after all, a vicarious joy to see your friends get what they want out of life. Ah, but there was a bittersweetness to it, too. She was once, a long time ago, the one I thought I'd marry, and I suppose in myriad parallel universes, did, to varying degrees of success. But not in this one. That's pretty minor; though. Just a silly legacy of who we were as young people together. The other aspect is that it means I'll see even less of her than I do now. It's inevitable. When your friends finally really grow up and leave Neverland, that's how it is. But I won't abandon the lines of communication this time. I know she won't either.

Afterward I ended up in East York to continue some work in P-Doug's back yard. Larry arrived with a borrowed spade that was the principal tool of the day. Pretty quickly we focused on removing the stumps of the felled young trees; a task that grew harder with each we undertook. The last took about half an hour to dislodge. We also cleared up the mystery of how the 25' clothesline mast and possible radio antenna was anchored. We managed to dig it up, but didn't have the leverage or horsepower to actually remove it. I'm personally hoping this can be accomplished quickly and easily by salvage operators who will remove old metal for free. As it is, it's even less decorative than it was a couple a weeks ago.

I suppose we were back there for about an hour. The weather was cool, but not cold... despite all the oomph, I don't think even Larry worked up a sweat, though if anyone had a right to one, he did. By then it was somewhere between 2 and 3, and we headed up the the Queen Vic. There was a point at which I was sitting there kind of mourning it, thinking, if you move, how will you do this? But then I realized, this is Saturday. You'd do what you just did: get up, drive to East York, do the chores, then hang around someplace till the evening, DUH. The only difference is the length of the drive. That was kind of reassuring.

Sunday, Mother's Day, I was supposed to do a cat-transport thing in Brampton on my way to Hamilton to visit my folks but someone got the jump on it Saturday so I just headed straight in. I took my folks out to lunch at Kelsey's, partly for Mother's Day, partly to run the idea of my moving past them and gauge their reaction. I honestly didn't know what to expect; anything from "how about our basement" to "oh, don't be so foolish; you just moved into the place" was in the cards in my mind. When I explained it all—my feelings on losing the cats so quickly and terribly, my weariness with apartment life, the fact that my job's no long geographically-fixed, my desire to be closer to them and more generally central to where my friends live, and the goings-on with the bank and my mortgage—they were surprisingly supportive. After they paid the bill when I couldn't get the banking app to respond... ahem... we had a look around the area where I'd found one interesting place in Hamilton. It was actually a rather nice-looking neighbourhood. I'm still rather more inclined to pick Mississauga, but there's a lot to think about in terms of what can be had for how much money and where over the next few seasons.

It's funny what gets you thinking. I almost never watch sports unless I'm in Hamilton with my dad. Yesterday we sat downstairs and watched a hockey game between Canada and the Czech Republic. My relationship with my dad is not as emotionally constrained as Hank Hill and his son Bobby, but there's still kind of a waspish restraint to it. Still, I find myself enjoying things when I'm hanging with him that I wouldn't on my own; watching football, baseball, hockey, curling, and actually finding myself commenting more than half-intelligently on them. Before I left home there were other things we used to watch together... public television military dramas like Sharpe and Horatio Hornblower were kind of a touchstone for us for a long while. Yesterday I got him kind of charged up by talking about a documentary I'd seen about the exploits of people escaping under, over, and around the Berlin Wall. I guess it's who we are to each other. Part of moving, I suppose, is to take more advantage of that than I have for the past 13 years or so.

I can't help dreaming my little dreamy dreams for everyone. I've long lamented P-Doug's awful commute and I started looking for things I thought were approximately, or not much above, the value of his place much closer to his job, and I was surprised to find a really nice one not half a mile's walk from his office. The difference in price was, I'd estimate, something like the value of a new car. I was psyched enough to even show it to my mother when we got back to their place. You know when you think you know someone? She surprised me. She doesn't usually frame things in terms of what appeals to others, but I'd previously mentioned the new BBQ and how much use P-Doug would be making of it over the summer, and she floored me by saying, "Oh, if he left by five, he'd be grilling by quarter to six!" She made me feel like I'd just brought home a test with an "A" on it or something. :) I'm not really expecting much from it, but you never know. After all, the whole reason I'm switching mortgages now in the first place is because of what Dig and his wife said back in forth in emails to me last Monday.

Little things. Seth is more and more on the chairs beside me. Even Bonnie's perch. That's a tiny stab in the heart but she's gone; she can't resent it (and didn't when Max used to do it anyway), so I should take it for what it is—Seth trying to sit closer—and adapt to it, not try to take offense for it on Bonnie's behalf when she herself, always above jealousy and resentment, probably wouldn't have. Also, someone was grabbing and sort of chewing on my foot at about 4 in the morning. I assumed it was Seth. When I finally peered into the darkness, I realized it was Ally. In a year and a half, Ally has only rarely made a place for herself on my bed when I've been in it. This morning she must have spent an hour or two there, and I was really surprised. My mother and some of my friends have remarked they'd expect to see a change in the feline dynamic of my home now that Bonnie's pillar no longer supports a status quo. I suppose that's right. Watching how and to what extent things change over time will be the adventure, I guess.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Redux: the lastest last photo

Actually, I forgot about my phone. My usual camera, the S100, is in the shop for repair of a well-known lens error, so I've been making more use of my phone lately.

Taken just before 10 in the morning, this would seem to be the real last photo I took of Bonnie in her life.

Below is a photo of Bonnie in the cat bed on the pillow beside mine. This is where she spent at least some of pretty much every night since 2002 or so, after Jenny died. This photo was taken April 19, the day after I learned from her ultrasound that things weren't as bad as I feared, and her cancer surgery would go ahead the following Monday. As you can imagine, this shot represents a rather joyous and hopeful moment in our recent life journey together.

Below is a photo from the last Thursday of her life. I'd been working from home over the past couple of weeks, both to keep an eye on her and to spend time with her, knowing that no matter what happened, the end of our time together was in sight... though at that moment, I didn't know how near it really was. As the photo shows, from time to time she would show up and simply insist on stepping out onto the keyboard tray, obliging me to move the keyboard for a while. Only the most hard-hearted could fail to understand the necessity of this indulgence.

And, finally, this is a shot from last Sunday, a week ago, around 4 in the afternoon. Bonnie was sitting next to me and simply reached out, as she did every so often. She didn't tug... she just reached out and left her paw on my arm: I'm here. Being near you pleases me. You matter to me. I had no idea yet when I picked up the phone and took this photo that we were already well into the last 24 hours of her life.

The last photo

There's always a last photo. The last recorded memory of someone that you can have and hold outside of yourself and say, yes, this is them, this is who they were, this was the last I knew of them.

For Bonnie, this is that photo.

This was taken just after 9:30 the day she died, about an hour after I called to ask the vet to come, and not quite three hours before Bonnie died. You can see there wasn't much left of her. The little bowl contained the drainings of a can of tuna, which, kind of sadly, she actually completely drank that morning. For a moment I had hope, but pure water continued to confuse her.

Compare that to these shots.

This is from last October 14, about a week and a half before I noticed that growth under her tail that sent us to the vet in the first place. I guess you could call this our last "normal" week or so together. You can see she's still very robust. At the time, she weighted about 12 lbs. (Note: paired shots here are 3D; you can see the effect by crossing your eyes slightly.)

And this is a photo of her and Seth on February 15. Not much change to look at her, but right around this time I was beginning to be able to feel in my hands there was an undeniable weight loss. Still, she looked fine, could do anything she ever could before, and was still eating well.

These are her from the last day, May 6.

I look at the shots of her from even a couple of months ago and I can see how much I was fooling myself hoping she'd recover. She went down astonishingly fast after March but I swear, even that seemed gradual over six weeks. It's only when you can compare views like this instantly, without the interval of months, that you can see plainly what was really happening.

Tricks of the trade

A few minutes ago Seth pushed his way through the not-quite-closed door and into the bathroom. Just to see what would happen, I pushed it not quite shut again. He didn't flip or anything; he just went over to it, pressed his paw against the edge, and opened it again.

I said to him, "You know, Twinkle never managed to figure that out in a year and a half."

Nothing of consequence here. Just something a little funny I thought I'd like to remember someday.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Comfy Bonnie

Comfy Bonnie, originally uploaded by Lone Primate.

I think, everything considered, this is my favourite picture of Bonnie. It's from three years ago, April 25, 2010. It's at the old place. It was taken the day before I started my new job. Larry was living in my spare room. Max was still alive. We'd just gotten Twinkle and were in the process of that interesting couple of months where I was being awoken by her feral growls at Max two or three times a night, while Bonnie slept by my head.

Wasn't she gorgeous? Can you see the personality and depth in those eyes? She knew me.

She loved me.


The queen is dead. Long live the king.

I mentioned here a few days ago that in a dream I had about Bonnie, it was Seth who was sitting in the cat bed on the chair at my left elbow... but that he had never actually done this in real life.

Well, it didn't take long. Seth actually did that for the first time Thursday evening, a little over three days after Bonnie died. The second time was just a few minutes ago, now, Saturday morning. He's actually curled up comfortably in the cat bed, six inches from my left elbow, right now.

I'm not sure how I feel about this. It seems very sudden.

But then I remind myself, it only seems unusual because in the year and a half Ally's lived here, she has hardly ever bothered with the cat beds on the chairs, and Seth, though he's sat a few times in the secondary one on occasion, never challenged Bonnie for the primary in their three months together. But Bonnie, Max, and even Twinkle all rotated positions. More often than not, Bonnie took the closest spot, but not always; I'd say Max had it about a quarter of the time without Bonnie ever picking a fight with him over it. The one spot that was sacrosanct and acknowledged inviolably Bonnie's by the all others (after Jenny died) was the pillow beside mine on the bed (and as of writing, remains so, even after her death).

I what it comes down to is that because for pretty much the past year, since Max died, the spot has been Bonnie's exclusive privilege, and seeing Seth in it now underlines that she's gone.

Friday, May 10, 2013

The look of love

I think it's Richard Dawkins who has theorized that our pets are the inadvertent beneficiaries of a broken or hyperactive gene in human beings... one that would ordinary say, in most species, "you will be driven to nurture and defend small creatures that look sufficiently like you until their neotenous characteristics abate", but in us now directs "you will be driven to nurture and defend small creatures that look even vaguely like you; and in the event they reciprocate your affection, will do so indefinitely"...

Feline medical outlay since moving to the condo in June, 2011

October, 2011

January, 2012

August, 2012

August, 2011

January, 2012

October-December, 2012

March-May, 2013


...I guess so.

My financial career

As it turns out, I went into the bank last night to formalize and complete the mortgage transfer application. The whole thing took not quite an hour. A lot of it was paperwork, of course. Check this. Confirm that. Do you have this? How many of those do you have? I was surprised to learn my credit rating wasn't just good, but unusually good. I haven't had a credit card in about three years and I'd always heard that counted against you, but I guess having had several you built up a debt on and then paid off without blowing payments counts.

She actually had this big print out from the credit agency. Pretty much every credit instrument I've been involved with for years. Her mission was to make sure there wasn't anything outstanding, and I got to watch her... circle, check; circle, check... I kind of felt like I was back in university, in an end-of-year interview with a professor, or one where I'm trying to get into a course and need to show the prereqs. I guess in a way I was.

I had to bring in a few things. Statement of employment and annual wage... which I was surprised is actually about fifty dollars a month higher than I remembered... must have gotten a COLA in there I was never told about... property tax statement, estimate of resale from my real estate agent based on recent sales of similar units in my complex... last two pay stubs; things like that.

So off the thing goes now. It looks like it should go through. The sticking point will be whether or not they actually demand an appraisal. I hope to God they don't; not over a difference of about ten grand either way. Since they only lend you 80% of the value, that's only a difference of about two or three grand. Peanuts to them; but every thousand dollars is a month I do, or don't, have to live like a monk to kill off my line of credit debt. And what we're pitching for is right up the middle of what my agent says places have sold for.

I stand to come out ahead in a lot of little ways. For instance, the life insurance my current mortgage company insisted I get costs me $74 a month. The insurance my bank is suggesting I have tacks on only about $32 a month. That's $500 a year, right there. Not to mention the $60 or so a month I'm currently giving the bank in interest on the outstanding $13,000 in the line of credit, which is about 2.5% higher than the rate on the mortgage that, I hope, is about to absorb most of that. There's another $700... well, give or take; obviously that would come down as the months pass, but still... I've been paying pretty close to that every month for a year and a half. That's a thousand bucks or so that just vanished into thin air since I lost Twinkle. Anyway, it's hard to put a precise number on it, but if you were to ballpark it, it probably frees up well over a thousand dollars in the next year or so.

I've been thinking about it this morning and there are really two factors that put me here right now. One is, of course, Bonnie's passing on Monday. The other was actually a leg-up I got just about exactly a month ago. It came right out of the blue, unsolicited and unexpected, and when I realized what it was, I was literally breathless for a moment. It was, I believe, a gesture of financial understanding and sympathy with what was about to be undertaken for Bonnie's sake. But it was something else, too. I took it as a vote of confidence. What I mean is, I don't believe it would have been made, everything else considered, if I'd spent the last year flashing credit cards around, buying whatever I pleased, or acting like I didn't care at all about the debt that was on my shoulders. And I recognize that there was a risk involved in making that gesture. I might have taken it as a sign that I didn't need to worry after all; that other people would bail me out. For me, it was kind of the opposite. It was humbling, in a good way, and I felt it put a moral obligation on me... I realized I had to be worthy of the gesture. To earn it, retroactively, by how I marshalled it and how I behaved afterward. Part of the drive to do what I'm doing is a conscious effort to show my appreciation and live up to what was done for me. To show how seriously I take it and how much it meant to me.

I feel compelled, not just for my own sake, to take this opportunity as a chance to responsibly put money into my retirement funds and to sock more into the mortgage, and not just to pay off the debt and start living like a sailor on shore leave. I want to be in a position where it will be possible for someone else to depend on me someday.