Monday, June 25, 2012

  Our Boy Opie

There's a pretty good reason for me not writing anything here for the past week.

Tim Tam - Max - Opie
        About ten years ago Patty and I rescued a little ginger male cat. From the outset he was a little bugger, we already had two other rescue cats, four rescue dogs, two Barbado goats, and a momma sheep with her two babies.

This ginger cat, Opie, was a pretty disruptive figure, but he has always had a great personality. He was pretty much a loner, only coming out of his hiding places to annoy the rest of our menagerie. He was supposed to be my lap cat, but that never materialized, sure he'd make out like he was going to curl up in my lap for a few minutes, putting me through pure hell as he nested, I tolerated it since I figured he was fixing to settle down. He'd bury his claws into my legs, lay down for thirteen seconds then swagger off without so much as a look over his shoulder, leaving me with a tube of Neosporin and an aching, itchy thigh! As he headed for his hiding spot under our bed, he'd always look to smack Maxie, our long haired female cat in a maneuver not unlike a drive-by, a quick thwack to the back of her head never looking at her or breaking stride.

         Over the years we lost all of the other pets, mostly to the needle due to either age or disease, all except Max and Opie, we adopted another little cat Tim Tam and then rescued a couple of "Didgeredoodles," that we still have. It's always heartbreaking to make the final trip to the vet when the time comes, I know some people who can remain unmoved or cold with regard to having to euthanize a loved pet, note how I said "Know some people," those people will always, only be acquaintances and never friends, because if you are incapable of understanding the bond of a pet to human and human to pet then something is wrong and we could never be friends.

Patty with The Didgeredoodle's
We met our favorite Vet, Dr. Wayne, almost twenty years ago when we had a couple of Miniature Schnauzers, Harpo and Sacha, and we hit immediately hit it off, he could see how much we loved those little buggers, so for about the past eighteen years whenever he had an animal that needed a home, he'd call us up and say "Hey guy's I have a Miniature Schnauzer that would love to go home with yous," So we'd run down to his practice and there would be Wayne proudly holding the collar of a Rottweiler or a Catahoula Leopard, no, I'm being serious, and I'd curl my lip and bark at him and he'd say that he was pretty sure there was a little bit of Schnauzer  in its bloodline and we'd inevitably end up taking it home. Our file wouldn't fit in his file cabinet, they used to keep it under the counter top, we ended up placing over fifteen animals and keeping a few ourselves and each one of them were precious to us.

        A couple of weeks ago we noticed that one of our cats had started to pee outside the cat box that we keep in the laundry... Side note here: I hate litter boxes, always have, always will, but we found a product called "The Worlds Best Cat Litter," and it really works, no smell, no mess, easy clean up so try it!... anyway, we would clean up the pee and disinfect and deodorize and sanitize and sterilize and every other ize you can imagine, but the next day, right in the middle of the laundry floor would be another puddle for us. It took a little while to figure out who was doing it, although my immediate suspicion was Opie, because he's, you know, a little bugger. Finally last Thursday I saw him saunter up the stairs from the laundry, pausing on the top step to survey his surroundings, then after licking his front paw, he made a beeline for the bedroom, smacking poor unsuspecting Max on the back of the head for good measure, I glanced over my shoulder and Tim Tam  was asleep on her perch so I raced downstairs and there it was, a big ole puddle of pee right in the middle of the tiled (Thank God,) laundry floor, AaaahhHAaaa said I, it is you, you little basta...I mean Bugger of a cat.
Tim Tam

        So immediately to the beholder of all knowledge, the gargantuan of good advice, Google ... Why is my cat peeing outside his litter box? Of course there were more than a few possibilities, everything from, Just being a bugger to Feline Diabetes, to Urinary Tract Infection, from the way he was acting we figured it was a UTI, so off to the vet with him, our new Up The Hill Vet... two days later, we found out our poor Opie has Feline Multiple Myeloma quite a rare cancer for cats and also no chance of survival. The vet, who by the way, is a great guy has no real indication of how long Opie will live, anywhere from a few weeks to a year, pretty much a guessing game, but, he's comfortable, we took xrays and he looks good as far as bone mass and internal organs. I hate to think of our place without Opie stealthily being in our lives, Max will probably be happy in a way, but I think Tim Tam will miss him, Wunya our male Didgeredoodle will miss his covert cuddles with Opes, and Yulara our female Didge won't miss the tormenting she had to endure from him. So we are going to love him up as much as we can and or as much as he'll let us, and when the time is right we'll make that trip with him and hold him, and love him and watch with tear filled eyes as he takes his last breath our biggest hope being that we time it right.

        So there you have it, the reason I didn't write this past week, I was just bummed and sad, and already beginning to miss the little bugger, but today as Opie actually is sitting almost totally on my right foot I decided that it would be a great time to Write in Spite Of Myself.

Our Boy Opie


Friday, June 15, 2012

John Christopher Egan

        Whenever we leave town nowadays we have a friend of ours come over and house/pet sit; for which we are eternally grateful. The dogs and cats are much happier staying in their own environment and we feel a lot more secure having someone in the house. The only "down side," to having a house guest is the spring cleaning that comes with having that someone move in for a week. You know the general scurry of activity that accompanies getting ready for a trip? and then Patty wants me to get all Martha Stewart in preparation for a mate who could care less if the sheets on the guest bed have that Aroma Therapy Lavender Scent; seriously,  as long as there's a cold beer in the fridge and the Direct TV subscription is paid he's batting a thousand.

        Actually, I'm as bad as she is, but I still like to give her a hard time about it, so last week before we headed to New York, I went through the motions, cleaned the bedroom windows, dusted off the bed set, completely remodeled the downstairs bathroom (almost, I still need to grout the new tile and decide if Martha would actually paint the semi-gloss brown stripe above the accent tile or not,) threw the sheets in the wash, dried them, forgot the lavender scented dryer sheets, so dried them again, then tackled my desk area, Oh the perils of not having a door to my office!

        Once I got into the chore of sorting through the piles of old Home Depot receipts, Online auction records, and expired Bed Bath and Beyond coupons, (actually they never expire, even though they have an expiration on them,) and last years copies of Martha Stewart Living! I decided that once and for all I would really, I mean really sort out the good stuff from the junk and so I settled down with a clear mission to find a place for, or dispose of every single scrap of ephemera in my office. It was all going according to plan, the paper shredder was performing flawlessly even when I exceeded the ten page limit, and then I came across something that halted my progress faster than a TSA agent sniffing out a 3.6 ounce bottle of aftershave in my carry-on. I found a stack of letters from my dad.  
        He passed away just a couple of years ago and I really miss the old bugger. I'm sure most of you that know me, know that he and I had a few struggles sorting out our relationship when I was younger, but in the end we did sort them out and almost right in the middle of sorting them out, I moved to the States. This was over twenty years ago, so writing letters was still acceptable, Oh and by the way, I'm going to make a pact with myself to actually start doing that again as opposed to emails all the time, honestly who doesn't love holding a handwritten letter in their paws? I recently received a surprise note card from one of my fellow Swagger writers and it made me smile the whole day (thanks Gina.) Anyway, I sat and read a couple of his letters and I got to re-connect with him again and I got to cry again, and I got to feel regret and sorrow again and then, I found the note he left on his bedside stand for Patty and I to find when we returned from taking him to LAX after he spent three months with us eighteen years ago. It was a short, beautiful, heartfelt, simple note, and it was a note that makes me shed a tear of joy again right now as I'm writing. My dad had a great way with words, especially the written word and he also had what I considered gorgeous handwriting, I ended up with my mum's hand, worse than an inebriated doctors scrawl. I wont bore you with the details of his note, it wouldn't mean anything to you, but to me that one and half pages encapsulates my whole relationship with my dad and the most important thing about it was the "I Love You Son," at the end.


        The other item I discovered which brings a tear to my eye is a Fathers Day card I purchased the year he died, this weekend is Father's Day here in the States, but in Australia it's the first Sunday in September, so for years I would always just call my dad on Father's Day because we could never find a card in the stores here, but the year he died Patty reminded me to pick one up to hold onto so we could send it to him, (as well as a call of course.) I forgot to send it in time and so it now sits in my desk with his letters. A day doesn't pass where I don't consciously think of my dad, especially if I'm doing a project --- re-modeling the downstairs bathroom --- I know he'd know whether to paint that brown stripe or not, he loved to build stuff and he was a great tinkerer, so much so, that the morning he passed away, my youngest brother Adrian and I had just gotten to the his room in the hospital and he was slid down in the bed, he immediately went into describing a piece of apparatus he'd designed that would fit at the end of his bed so he could push himself up that he wanted my other brother, Julian to make for him, Because "He's good with woodwork and you boys don't have the patience he does."

        So, my point in writing this is simple, it's Fathers Day this weekend and I want to wish my dad a happy Father's Day, and although I regret not sending that Father's Day card three years ago, I choose to love that I have it as a physical reminder of what he means to me still. I also choose to believe that he is sitting by my side as I pick away at this keyboard Writing in Spite of Myself.

  Love you Dad
1933 - 2010


Monday, June 11, 2012

Writing for the sake of Writing

I just got back from a short trip to New York, and I'm feeling kinda lousy, had the sniffles and a cough since we landed back in Long Beach, nothing major but enough to keep me feeling a little bit sorry for myself, (and of course looking for some well deserved sympathy from Patty,) It's not all bad though, I got to stay in bed yesterday till two-thirty in the arvo, now that's what I call decadence.

So, "big deal," I hear you saying, "you got a cough and a snotty nose, get over it,"
But, that's not the big deal, the big deal is I haven't stopped thinking about writing since before we left for NYC, which is a huge deal.

I just finished writing a post for the swagger blog, and I also wrote a post as a guest blogger for Active Happiness, so including this post, that's three different posts on three different topics and I'm over the moon about it. I was at first a little hesitant about writing a blog because it committed me to actually writing and seriously that's mostly felt like a chore, but the more I do this the more I find my mind is craving that creative morsel.

I had a conversation with someone who I consider to be a good friend while I was in New York, and over a beer he told me he'd read my blog if it wasn't about "where your cat sleeps on your bed," (oops!) or what I had for breakfast today or what movie I just saw, he said he would read it if it was about the writing process because that's what he finds interesting. I've discovered that that's what I find interesting as well, (At least for this blog,) I'm beginning to realize that writing is a process that demands I pull out the jogging shoes and take for a run around the block (Ok,Ok a snappy walk in my case,) and that it's not something that can be taken for granted, that a writer writes, and when the writer isn't writing the writer needs to at least dedicate some portion of the grey matter to thinking about writing, or else the writer is not a writer. I'm realizing that it's absolute arrogance to think that I, as a writer can just sit down anytime I want with any amount of absence from writing and just pound on the keys and *poof* magically a worthy piece of writing will appear, If I just let my conscious thoughts go the authors of years gone by will fill the page with words worthy of being read. I'm beginning to understand the importance as a writer to, no matter what, get something down on paper every day. A very good friend of mine constantly tells me, and has told me for the past six? years to get Ass in Chair Words on Paper and only now am I seeing the value in that statement.

What I'm writing here isn't Pulitzer prize material and it never will be, what I am managing to write here though are the thoughts of a W.I.P. --- Writer in Progress, and so regardless of how sick I feel (can I get some sympathy Puuulease?) or how few words I manage to pound out at least I know I'm beginning to not just write in spite of myself.