Goodbye, Mo

7 09 2013

Thirteen years ago — the year we got married — my then-fiancée and I got two kittens, Mo and Cleo. It was our first tentative steps into forming a family.

Mo and Cleo as kittens

Then, seven years ago, we made the human kind of family. Honestly, that pushed me over my limit of taking-care-of-little-creatures-that-poop-and-vomit. Ever since Alex was born, I’ve dreamed of living in a cat-free house.

Well, I’m now halfway to my goal. We asked the vet to put Mo to sleep on Friday. For the past two weeks, we’ve known that Mo suffered from lymphocytic leukemia and that it was incurable.

And for the past two weeks, I felt like I was living in a tamer version of The Monkey’s Paw, with the growing realization of the underlying horribleness of my dream of a cat-free life. Once you have cats, you don’t become cat-free because they pack up and move to college. You become cat-free when the cats die. And with Mo, death wasn’t some passive thing that just happened. Mo died Friday because we decided it was time and made it happen. (Actually, credit where it is due: Molly made it happen.) The awful ambiguousness surprised me most of all. When I pictured the eventual death of our pets (which was rarely), I imagined them clearly suffering, with plaintive meows and maybe some blood for dramatic effect. Then we’d wisely and mercifully decide to end their suffering. But Mo wasn’t suffering, at least not obviously. Instead, he was fading. He’d nearly stopped eating, and lost a scary amount of weight, and didn’t move around much. But when he did look me in the eyes, his personality seemed the exact same. He was fading into nothingness with the same contentment that he had moving through the rest of his life. So it was up to us… at what point in this fading process to we decide: This is enough? 

For me, that point came on Thursday night, watching Mo walk from the water bowl back to the living room. Several times he gave a little stagger as he walked. It was slight, but still jarring given how graceful cats usually move. His eyes still had the same personality, but looking at the effect of his disease on his body: This was enough.

One of my favorite memories of Mo will always be how he liked to drink beer. We discovered this when he was a kitten:

Mo's big party trick

He’d attack a beer bottle with his tongue until he made the top of the bottle warm with his breath and body heat. He got to enjoy a little beer on his last day with us, but not with the same gusto. Just a few licks and he was done.

Last Beer

And the photo shoot didn’t go exactly as planned… my assistant was a little hard to control.

Wait a Sec

Goodbye, Mo.

Goodbye with the Boys

Sandy Beaches

1 09 2013

Holland Tree

I stand on the Eastern shore of Lake Michigan and feel the sand slide through my toes. It’s fine and white and soft, unlike the harsh pebbles and rocks of Puget Sound. Although it’s August, it’s chilly in the shade. And windy! Nearby on the beach of Grand Haven State Park, yellow flags warn potential swimmers that the water may be rough. Be cautious.

For most, the cold water is warning enough. I don’t see many swimmers. My oldest son, however, is apparently a hybrid Polar Bear / Golden Retriever. He’s befriended a slightly older boy, and they’re playing fetch. The older boy throws a stick as far as he can into the lake, and Alex runs into the frigid water to bring it back. They’ve been doing this for 20 minutes.

We’re at the state park for a cookout dinner. Nana and Po-Po have prepared everything: hamburgers and hot dogs, melon, chips, lemonade… The works. They even brought everything we will need for s’mores, including marshmallows so big they look better suited for a brontosaurus. It’s going to be a grand feast.

Alex finally gets too cold from running into the lake. After a quick towel-off, he starts a new game with Patrick. The two brothers crawl off on all fours, pretending to be animals lost in the desert. It doesn’t take long for them to get so far away that I can’t hear what they’re saying, so I don’t what twists and turns the game took from there. Watching them, it’s easy for me to imagine that they really are in the desert.

Sand is a constant presence this trip. No matter how much I shake them, I can’t seem to get it out of my shoes. It decorates the bathtub every night when the kids get out, because they spent hours earlier in the day burying each other. And making sand castles. Alex even ate sand, and he only stopped because we insisted… Not because he thought it a bad idea. Maybe this is the defining moment of the loss of childhood innocence: when you stop seeing sand as fun, and it just becomes grit.

Our culture romanticizes youth, but this is one case where the old fogie perspective is clearly right. In the distance, my kids crawl through the grit, getting another batch lodged in their bathing suits to decorate the evening bath. I turn away and head for the grill, the food, and the sane companionship of other old fogies.

Head in the Sand (I)

Head in the Sand (II)

More photos here: