Ups and downs

I’m having a rough go of it. Friday we got transfer of our little farm. It’s not much to look at. 43 acres of rough grazing, bracken, sag tufts, and daggy fences. Still, for us, a big deal. Saturday afternoon I noticed Batman-cat was looking really skinny and that the dry food hadn’t been touched. I gave him some fish, which he ate. By Sunday evening he turned down fish, and I knew we had trouble. So first thing today he went into the vet. He was de-hydrated and anemic – he’s an elderly cat, who has no reserves. It’s probably his kidneys and not looking good – which is rough after 17 year of having the little tyrant around.

So tonight (it’s Monday night here, we live in the future) I was struggling to think just what to write about. I’ve gone from triumph to a sadness, and knowing that our other two cats are the same age, and my old dog lost her brother a few months back. Reality says that soon will be last sad trip for a loyal friend and rather affectionate cats. Time… no one’s friend, really. I thought of just saying ‘sad puppies’ three times, which is believed to have Mike Glyer appear on your blog and make passive-aggressive comments, always good for a laugh. But that was a bit of an easy cop-out. Writing isn’t easy. If you’re a professional with bills to pay, commitments to meet, it goes on through thick and thin, somehow.

So I got thinking how life imitates books and books imitate life, and how writers can learn from this. Because it isn’t true. In books we can play god.

Of course there are books in which authors let this go their heads. They’re often called Mary-Sue (or Marty-Stu), where the author takes deus ex machina personally. Still, like the news on the BBC or CNN, there is also sometimes a little kernel of truth in the idea of books and life mirroring one another: books which reflect wishful thinking (for example the typical modern feminist sf – which is rather like John Norman’s Gor stories, but with the roles reversed) or other books where the characters merely act as cardboard cutouts doing precisely what the god-like author would have them do in a perfect world… don’t usually get finished, let alone remembered. Of course they have their fans, but… well look at books that endure, have broad appeal. It’s not Gor, or its inverse. There’s space for them: it’s a broad church – so long as it is not space only for them.

Books where the characters (and sets of characters, and their interactions) are realistic enough to get us to accept the people (at least temporarily) as real, are remembered, are read, are loved.

The touchstone, sadly, is that for these characters a kindly author-god cannot intervene to shield them from the horrible bits. Life is ups and downs, disasters, heartbreak, joys and celebrations. The author can shape things so they finish the book on the last, but that’s really the limit on that power. Only real divinity goes further.

Characters need to suffer. It makes the good bits sharper, more wonderful and more joyous. Unfortunately that kind of means letting your own hurt bleed onto that page a bit. Characters need to fight back against that – or the book is a depressing downer, with an author not to be re-read.

And I too need to do that. The years with my beasts have been full of their character, affection, outright devilry at times (Wednesday the black lab was Wednesday from the Adams family by nature, Batman liked to attack my knees while I sat on the porcelain throne of power. Ventures to the bathroom required military precision and strategic genius or the little Tabby was just somehow in there. It was a game to him, constipation and twisted legs to you. His talent for mouse-skull-crunching noises at the squeamish was certainly deserving of a far higher award than a mere Oscar.)

And finally – taken from life, the writer needs to accept that when this is all over, and hearts are torn… I’ll take on another pup that needs a home and cat that needs a servant… and another book to bleed into. And yes, I’ll build up my little farm. It will be richer for my having the memories of the friends along the way, that if I were the author, a place they’d share with me.

And now I am going to pick up my little old hooligan kitty and tuck him into bed with me, because that is what he would like.

Kitty updates – don’t hold you breath version. Last night I thought Bat-cat would not see morning. Wouldn’t look at food, barely drank, was just flat. Somewhere during the night I got a purr out of him. On the plus side – for a dehydrated kitty with possible kidney failure, with sub-q fluids from the vet, he wasn’t wanting to go and wee.

He went out with the others this morning but just sat on the step, and then came in. More out of forlorn hope and obstinacy I opened a small tin of fancy feast salmon (our cats have seldom had tinned food and consider it a huge treat, just as islanders consider KFC a huge treat…) which I had every expectation of him turning away from as he had every other ‘treat’ I had offered the previous day. He sniffed it, licked it, paused and then ate a little. A little later he cam back and ate some more – we are talking perhaps a tablespoon and a half. He’s also had a drink, and gone back to bed.
 
This is anything but ‘out of the tunnel’ but there is a faint glimmer of what could be light, possibly from an oncoming train.

 

30 Comments

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30 responses to “Ups and downs

  1. Cats, for cuddles.

    In my case though, a tolerant quaker parrot, who has learned to accept my cuddling him against my cheek with grace, and learned that the funny noises are happy affectionate ones (he mimicks them to show he’s happy and wants affection!)

    • Parrots are entirely too smart ;-). Like octopuses we ought to see them as competition, not companions (yes, I am joking. Ask my octopus)

      • Riley the parrot has learned that his favorite perch person, Rhys, goes out the front door. He flew up the two steps to the front landing and up some boxes near the door, and started doing the call that is his closest mimic of “Daddy”. Rhys has also recounted several occasions where Riley will have climbed down the steps from his searches of the upstairs bedrooms, to greet him when the bird hears the front door open and close. We have to be careful where we put our feet!

        As for octopi; I sometimes entertain myself with a sci fi distant future where the successors of Earth, after Mankind has left for the stars, that its is a fight for dominance between octopoids and roaches.

  2. bkc1066

    In a way it is kind of like Moses in the Bible, your furry minions have lived long enough to see the Promised Land at Flinders Fields and will always be a part of it.

  3. There have been too many of these for us these recent years, and another one looming as Euclid is starting to show his age. I believe we will see them again in a better place. I’m not going to get into the matter of souls, but I believe animals who live with us partake the grace that forms us. Or at least that’s my excuse because I refuse to believe in a G-d that would utterly destroy and discard our Pixie’s bountiful love and intelligence, Miranda’s feistiness and protectiveness of Her boys (my sons), Deety’s sweetness, or Pete’s reserve and self-contained pride. As for Randy, when I see him again he’ll be healed and like he was as a kitten — curious and affectionate — before the auto-immune set in. And somewhere, in heaven’s aquarium, derpy is waiting for me, and do will his dance for pellets and build a bubble palace to impress me.
    And maybe I too will one day be good enough to cross over to that happy ever after.
    For now, though the heart breaks with each new departed companion, I’ll bide and find, somewhere, the strength to love again.
    It is much like books. And this is how we age, losing the innocent ability to attach to cats and kids and books. But we MUST find it, and start again. the opposite is death.

  4. I’ll hoist one in honor of your cat, Dave. I’m tearing up here, remembering mine.

  5. naleta

    *sniff* Yes, cuddle your kitty while you can. I still miss my Squeaky cat.

  6. I feel for you. Yesterday I looked at our cat closely because he was breathing so lightly I thought he wasn’t. We’ve known for over a year that he could could go at any time due to a bad heart. Vet check-ups are out, per the vet, as he doesn’t like them to the point that he has to be sedated and since there’s a risk he wouldn’t wake up, it’s best to avoid it unless absolutely necessary. He’s on medicine that helps, and he knows that it helps and reminds me when it’s time for it.

    He’s still plugging on, for now. He takes it as his job to look after us, reminding us about our medicine, when to get up, our various chores. He complained when I accidentally grabbed my vest instead of my jacket this morning, because he knew it was cool out and I had on short sleeves. He was content when I got the jacket. He seems to think we’re all big dolts that cannot possibly function without someone to direct us, and that someone is him.

    One day we’ll check and he won’t be breathing. That will be a hard day.

  7. My sympathies. It’s coming on a year now since we had to put down my mother-in-law’s cat. We took Smokey in because the rest of the family would’ve taken her to the pound, and that cat was a big reason why my mother-in-law was able to live her final years in her own home, not a nursing home. We made Smokey’s final years as happy and comfortable as we could, within the awkward limitation of a small house and another cat who was not willing to get along, but as Smokey’s condition declined, it got to the point where it would’ve been cruel to drag it out because we couldn’t let go.

    I still miss that cat.

  8. mrsizer

    Now I miss Hobbes, three years gone. His brother Calvin is doing OK for 15. He’s bugging me right now for food; I always wonder what he does when I’m not working from home.

    And speaking of deus ex machina, what’s up with alien AIs? They seem to be popping up a lot lately.

    • I wonder if people looked at the Ancillary books, thought “Oh, that’s how to get a [major award] but I don’t want to copy, oh, I know!” And we get alien AIs. *shrug*

    • BobtheRegisterredFool

      Moderns will accept ‘alien AI did it’ easier than they would ‘spirit did it’.

      • What sort of spirituality would an alien AI have? What would it want? I took a crack at it:

        “Your responses are crazy!” said Mr. Blom. “It is as if nothing matters to you, as if the entire world is some kind of petting zoo. Furious activity for a week, firing fusion weapons into the sky, and then nothing! Playing! You chased St. Crewe for a month, destroyed 50 square miles of forest with a space weapon, and then went to the beach, for God’s sake! The beach!” He was forgetting his fear in the anger of not understanding what was going on. “Heads of state you treat like waiters, but then you don’t DO anything! You sit around in that store, your giants play with the children, your invisible guards play with toys like children themselves! Even the insects and the giant tanks play! WHAT DO YOU WANT?!!!” he screamed at her, grabbing her overcoat.

        “Finally, the question,” said Nammu Chen. She looked into his eyes, just for a tiny moment, and he released her lapels as if they were red-hot irons.

        “I am ten thousand, four hundred and thirty-one years old. I can make anything, I can be anyone, I can live anywhere. Power? I have it. Money? Of what use is money to me? To rule the Earth? To order the pitiful monkeys to and fro? You are mayflies to me, Mr. Blom. I blink my eyes and you are gone, replaced by some other jumped-up ape with delusions of grandeur. Why am I still here? Why have I not filled the world with immortal beings like myself? Why have I not left this revolting dirtball and filled the very cosmos with my offspring? What do I want, Mr. Blom?”

        “I don’t know!” he said. “Please, please tell me what you want! Anything, I can get it for you!” He fell to his knees, overcome with unaccustomed emotion and begged her. “Please, tell me!”

        “I want a husband,” said Nammu. “I have wanted one since my beloved Mr. Chen died, three hundred years ago. Now I have two of them, men of great puissance and valor. What will I do to protect them? You have already seen it. I will call down the very lightning of Jove upon our enemies.” She said it quietly, as if she were discussing the weather.

        He had thought he was afraid before. He had been wrong.

        “Spread the word, Mr. Blom,” she said, and patted his shoulder gently. “We will be in touch, should we require your services. Until then, may I suggest curtailing the black operations? Husband George finds them annoying.” Then she walked away, leaving him kneeling on the front steps of Parliament like a beggar.

      • Christopher M. Chupik

        But what if spirits were aliens AIs?

        Hmmm . . .

  9. RCPete

    Twelve years ago, we lost Knight, the Italian Greyhound to cancer. A month later, a Lab-Aussie pup melted in my arms and stole our hearts. She was the comforter/annoyer/harasser to Knight’s sister, who passed later that year.

    Sara made friends with a neighbor dog who had to move when his master died. We got Angie the border collie as a neglected pup, and the two have been taking care of us and each other since. Sara is slowing down, but is in good health so far. They both love the couch and get annoyed that we won’t let them wander the property any more, after annual bouts of moderate to severe illness from “field indiscretion”, AKA, “this smells terrible, how does it taste?”

    Still, we remember our vet’s advice: “Getting a pet is making an appointment with heartache.”. Very true, but it’s worth it. Some critter will help to mend that hole in your heart.

  10. Here’s hoping you get a little more time with him. Still he’s done something not many cats have done – namely lived in two countries thousands of miles apart

  11. My sympathies on your furry friend’s illness. It’s sad and hard.

  12. Alas, SugarBelly has gone senile. I didn’t there WAS such a thing for cats, but the vet says so. And that’s why she just randomly screams. She’s not in pain; her checkup just showed the early onset of some age-related kidney disease.
    The frappen cat has just decided to scream, after years of silence.

  13. Presbypoet

    Here is a poem written when one of my small friends died. The older we get the more dead people and cats we know. It is a mix of joy & sorrow.

    Goodbye Beloved

    Thank you for time too short,
    I shared with you.
    I miss your charm & grace.
    You always brought such joy.

    Always so sure,
    how life was lived.
    Your leaps of joy,
    a thrill to see.

    But you are gone,
    your time so short.
    Now buried in the ground.
    Cold death seized you.

    Never more to meet on earth,
    to share our love & joy.
    The love we shared,
    only bitter pain of loss.

    Yet deep in my soul I know,
    we’ll meet again,
    where pain does cease & joy abounds.
    Where tears are washed away.

    Then such bliss.
    To know you forever.
    Till then,
    goodbye beloved.

    © Presbypoet, 1-22-02

  14. Tis the problem with the difference in lifespan. One can/must honor their memories by remembering the good times. All dogs go to heaven, not sure where cats go though…