Wednesday, July 10, 2013

On the Death of My Wife's Cat

Ebony beloved cat of Barbara Crowley-Carbone, died, after 20 years of devotedly sleeping on her head most nights, in his owner's lap on Sunday, July 7. He is buried in our backyard, in a place that will become a small flowerbed, likely perennial bulbs that will bloom early each spring.  Ebony was predeceased by a brother, Bogart, who died of kidney failure in 2004, and a sister, Simba, the runt from their litter, who died at two weeks old, found tightly curled --and very stiff-- on a sun-streamed bedroom pillow. All three cats were as dark as Ebony's name, with small triangular Siamese faces, and, if you looked closely, tiger stripes of a deeper black.

Ebony lived to and died from old age and his final months came with weaker vision, less spring, confusion that left him wailing on occasion, and towards the very end, it seemed, the search for a quiet place to let go of living. And so we'd find him in places he never went before: a very tight spot behind a book case, behind a book bag under an old school desk, asleep on top of basket of keys that sit atop a cabinet where we store coffee and tea, and, for some reason only after a bath, he'd sleep in the litter box. But still, his favorite place to sit, was on my wife; if she sat on the couch to grade, he'd walk over her legs, across the math-paper pile on her lap, and climb to her neck, and settle, with his head under her ear, fore legs over her shoulder, and rump on her breast.

Combined with summer heat and a new-to-her cat allergy, the location wasn't the best of places, but as often as not Barbara would take a Zyrtec, shift the papers to her left and his rump a bit to the right, adjust her bra, and let him be, knowing he had little time left.  And on the not-times, when things were too hot or itchy for her, he'd wander over and sit on me. I don't like cats on me. The rule of thumb for pets in our house is that they don't belong to me. I don't feed them, hold them, groom them, pick up after them. I'd occasionally flick a string at the cat to get him to jump, or throw a toy his way, but I was just as likely to toss a pillow to get him off the bed, or a dish towel to get him down from the table. Still, as he got weaker and weirder, it got harder to push him away, and so in the last few weeks he'd come to me, searching for the same location. I'd tuck a couch pillow on my lap, lacking as I do the perch he found with my wife, so he could climb to where he wanted to be. It made reading or writing a trick, and so when he came my way, I'd often switch to a gin-and-tonic and Netflix moment as a bribe to myself to be kind to him in his dotage dolorous.


Ebony, in his dotage, allowed on the coffee table so he can look at the skinks.

Still, for the odd crying jags, the more frequent search for new quiet spaces, the increased lap time, there were moments when Ebony would be or try to be himself: his appetite stayed good until the last day or so, when he switched to water; he'd pop his head up at the window when a rabbit stopped outside of it to eat the clover that grows in our yard; if one my daughters trailed a cat toy, he'd follow after it (though they had to play the game in slow motion); and he'd come to the table for scraps, sniffing and beseeching for a nibble of pork, chicken, fish, or pop-corn if we had a fresh-popped batch.

My kids got in the habit of sneaking him food because when Bogart, his brother, was alive, if Ebony didn't finish his breakfast before Bogart had finished his own, Bogart would Bogart Ebony's food, shoving him out of dish with a head bump and a look. So Bogie was plump, Ebony thin, and my daughters in empathy got him hooked on scraps. And that habit held on to the end, an end marked by the things that come with getting old punctuated by habits from a life lived. He carried on, doing what he could on his own when could, crying honestly when he was lonely and confused,seeking time with those he was about to leave behind, and despite occasionally doing things that would be embarrassing -- sleeping in a litter box when wet of fur -- seeming never ashamed of who he was and how his days were spent.

Strange to say, for a pet that wasn't mine, whom I grudgingly acknowledged, and certainly didn't love, I do miss his presence. I think in maybe the same kind of way George Bailey discovers, in It's a Wonderful Life, that he's happy to see even the exasperating broken newel on his staircase. Don't get me wrong, I'm glad to be one pet less, and that much closer to no litter dust or stench, no pet food odor, no scratch marks, no dander, and all kinds of wonderful no mores to come (after the remaining cat moves out with my daughter if she ever can afford to move out). And so as happy as I am to have cat-things diminished, Ebony will be missed. Maybe because when he begged for a bite, the kids had a running joke they'd make, or when he did one of those dumb things cats do, like slide in panic on a new-polished floor, my wife would laugh a certain way because it was him, and that laugh, that one special one for that occasion, won't be heard again.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Moronic Press Conference = Moronic Man?

Fred Kaplan, writing for Slate, analyzes Bush's most recent press conference, and finds it moronic. On an email discussion list I'm a member of, there was a discussion on the use of language like moronic to describe President Bush. The discussion started because someone objected to using name calling when describing Bush. But what if the adjectives were used to describe Bush's policies? Is saying his policy in Iraq is incompetent the same as saying he is incompetent? In saying the decisions he made about how to respond to Israel's retaliation to Hezbollah were stupid the same as saying he is stupid? In coming to the conclusion that his approach in the Middle East is morally bankrupt and cynical the same as saying he is morally bankrupt and cynical?

Kaplan, it seems to me, makes a distinction. The piece is titled "What a Moronic Presidential Press Conference!" with the subtitle, "It's clear Bush doesn't understand Iraq, or Lebanon, or Gaza, or …". Bush isn't being called moronic in this title, but the press conference and his answers to questions are being called moronic.

Bush and his team have always taken criticism of their positions as treasonous. Sure, Bush might say, as he did in this press conference, that
"I would never question the patriotism of somebody who disagrees with me. This has nothing to do with patriotism. It has everything to do with understanding the world in which we live." But that doesn't stop his Vice President from saying Ned Lamont's primary victory, which comes from democracy in action, would enourage "al qaida types."

To associate Lamont's victory with giving comfort to Al Qaida is the same thing as calling anyone who voted for Lamont unpatriotic. Not explicitly, but certainly implicitly. So Bush's statement that he doesn't question the patriotism of those who disagree is hogwash. His administration and his surrogates certainly do.

So is Bush lying when he says such things, or simply moronic that he can't see that what he says is false?

Saturday, August 12, 2006

So God Bless the Bloggers

Where Chait (see post below) got it wrong, this piece, written by Mark Spencer for The Hartford Courant, gets it right. The difference? Spencer reported --he asked, found out, and told what he learned.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Jon Chait gets it wrong

Writing in the LA Times about liberal bloggers supporting Lamont over Lieberman, Jon Chait says about their anger that Lieberman will run as an independent if loses the primary and risk splitting the democratic/liberal vote thus allowing a republican to win the seat:
Well, OK, some anger is appropriate here. But doesn't this suggest that
the whole Lamont crusade has sort of backfired? Although I'm no Karl
Rove, it seems to me that turning a rock-solid Democratic seat into a
potential Republican pickup represents something less than a political
masterstroke.
But it's not liberal bloggers who support Lamont who are turning the seat into a potential Republican pick up; it's Joe Lieberman who is doing that by vowing to run as independent.

Liberman and his fellow conservative democrats as well as many traditional print pundits are aghast that liberal bloggers are calling for his ouster and are demanding that democrats become the loyal opposition instead of the loyal lapdog. Primaries are for the express purpose of putting forth candidates that the party members who vote in that primary believe will be the best candidate to carry their views and values to Washington.

Bloggers living in California (Kos, for example) and elsewhere can organize opinion and help drive donations to the candidates in states they like, but what's wrong with that? What will drive a Lamont win isn't the din of bloggers, but the grassroots feet on the ground in Connecticut getting Lamont's supporters identified and then to the poles on August 8.

Bloggers create arguments and rhetorical momentum, but that alone won't translate into a victory.

Still, the fear this network of people who agree and are finding ways to take action strikes into print pundocrats who used to rule opinion and into politicians like Lieberman who believe they are entitled to their seats without challenge from members of their own party is heartening to behold. Ideas matter, arguments matter, and anger needs to be channeled and turned into action.

Traditionalists like Lieberman and Chait would like action confined to rubberstamping their views and their aspirations, voting for Joe because there is no other choice.

Those days --thank, goodness-- are fading and the days of the citizen activist are emerging.