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Posts Tagged ‘appreciate the moment’

The original home of my childhood was quite the mixed bag.   Some experiences were highly imperfect, but they have given me quite the clarity in terms of my life’s focus and direction.  And though I do not live the traditional life my parents would have wanted for me, I love them dearly and know they did their best.  And as they enter the sunset of their lives, I get to explore this concept of home…

What is home?  Is it merely a house with four walls, a ceiling and floor, rooms for various purposes…or is it more?  Is it a feeling of comfort and security, the birthplace of memories and ideas?  A place to return to either every day or every so often?  Does a house become a home with the addition of heart…and soul? 

And once you’ve left home, can you ever go home again?

I have made Colorado my home since 1998.  It was a place I was drawn to, and in early 1998 I took a leap of faith.  That feeling has served me well.  I have found good friends—kindred spirits united in artistic expression—and a second chance at a life partner with opportunities for even greater focus…and, of course, the many critters with whom we share our lives.

Although I left my childhood home in 1986 at the age of 22, there was this odd comfort of knowing that whenever I visited my parents, there was this familiarity… And even in Colorado, I have looked forwarded to this familiarity whenever I traveled back East to visit.  The trips were not always enjoyable, but they represented a tie to my past, a connection to the beginning of my life’s journey.

But now that familiarity has been inexorably altered.  My father is 86 in ailing health, and my 80-year old mother’s Alzheimer’s is progressing at a rapid clip.  I did return to the East Coast twice in June to help my sister, Robin, pack up their home of 40+ years so that they can be moved closer to her, outside of Philadelphia.   Two days after I returned from my second trip my mother suffered a massive heart attack.  It was heart wrenchingly touch-and-go for a few days, but now she is recuperating to the extent possible in a rehab facility near Robin.  And in the midst of all this chaos, my sister and brother-in-law somehow managed to supervise my crotchety old father and the move that recently occurred. 

So, I will never again return to the home of my youth.   How odd that the telephone number I’ve known and called for over 40 years is now disconnected.  What was once my home is now just a house, an empty shell—its walls waiting to keep the secrets, joys and sorrows of yet another family…

So again, I ask:  what is home?  And does the concept of home have to be so complex?  Perhaps I can take a life lesson from the felines with whom I share this life.  They’re simple creatures, really.  Once you bring them home and they get a “lay of the land,” that’s it.  Just feed them and love them.  Clean out those litter boxes.  Scratch behind the ears or on the belly.  Oooohh.  Yes, occasionally they want to explore what is beyond the threshold.  But they do return, more often than not.   

And that’s enough for them.  True home is this feeling of love and security.  Perhaps we humans make too much of a particular place, of wood, brick and mortar.  Maybe home is just this gift of the present moment.  And much like my mother’s Alzheimer’s that is robbing her of her past, in a strange way it is a gift, as well.  Because for her, home is where she is right now.  

Maybe we, too, can find our “forever” home in the true gift that is the present moment. 

Postscript:

In light of the recent tragic events in Colorado, I find Skylar Grey’s rendition of Coming Home a haunting reminder of the beauty of home—wherever and whenever that might be—and the power of forgiveness:

“I’m coming home
I’m coming home
Tell the World I’m coming home
Let the rain wash away all the pain of yesterday
I know my kingdom awaits and they’ve forgiven my mistakes…”

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Life has this way of sneaking by, and before I realize it, the moments have passed before I have had the chance to reflect on them.  It’s been a while since I’ve shared on this blog…

My attention has been elsewhere.  Roger and I are striving to become better human beings and partners to each other.  Continuing lessons include staying focused and keeping our commitments to ourselves and to one another… Being in the now does provide momentary relief from the lessons life constantly provides.

It’s been nearly five months since Chewie’s “Great Escape and 11-day Outdoor Adventure.”  It’s as if he never left, and he seems quite content to live the indoor lifestyle.  But we will not be tricked into complacency!

And, Roger has kept his word to Chewie:  We have not one but three tricked out warm water tanks!  In addition to five felines, we are now the caretakers of a variety of warm water fish, two crawfish and two albino African clawed frogs (Pinky and Peetie) .  Yes, we have quite the menagerie of fins, flippers and furbies.  And, yes, I do have an admiration for alliteration…  The tanks are Roger’s primary new hobby.   And all the cats do enjoy their new live “television” experience!

And life has gone on for our kitties.  Throughout all the changes and the passing of time, they remain as they are—beacons of hope, reminders of the present.  Still fighting and cuddling.  Still puking and peeing.  And still remaining lumps of irrepressible love.

My promise is to resume posting regularly to this blog.  This artistic outlet is one of many varied, creative lifelines anchoring me to this world of color, texture, taste…to this sensual life, brimming with joy, love, grief and sorrow.  But a full life, nonetheless.  And I’m not yet done…there are still a few items left on my bucket list.  But, first, I must find and pet a kitty.

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The last month of 2011 has turned out to be quite the odyssey.  An emotional rollercoaster of regret, sadness, irritation, hope…and gratitude.

The Monday starting the second week of December began like most any other.  Chewie, transparent as always, woke up Roger with a little kneading and cuddling—with the ultimate goal of earning an early morning snack.  After snacking all our furbies, Roger kissed me goodbye and was about to leave for work.  And, then…

He just bolted.  Chewie got underfoot while Roger was fiddling with the front door, leaving Roger in a daze and Chewie off to God-knows where.  We looked for him for most of that Monday, through the neighborhood, hoping to see a glimpse of him hunkering down…but nothing.  We were so fearful he ran too far he could not find his way home…or that he met his fate with some other beast or vehicle.

By that Wednesday, we posted a lost kitty ad on Craigslist and affixed flyers around our neighborhood.  We looked for him continually and hoped to lure him home with treats…but nothing. Was he scared?  Upset with us?  Lost and hurt?  Or…did he just prefer the life of a street kitty??

This turn of events was disheartening but not surprising.  Of all the indoor cats, Chewie was the one who expressed the most interest in exploring what was beyond that front door.  I guess his curiosity, desire and need to investigate outweighed his desire for safety, comfort and love from his hairless beings. 

Then, by the end of the first week, our regret and sadness turned to irritation.  On Thursday evening, we caught a glimpse of the fur beast just lounging outside our back door!  But when we went to let him in, Chewie bolted…again!  What the  F*%^&*$?!  Now we felt incensed and exasperated.  Ok, he was not hurt, alone or lost, and we felt relief over that.  Now he just seemed to prefer the outdoors?  Was Cheiwe afraid to approach the front door because of Sylvester or Orange Kitty?  Were we just trying to come up with answers, anthropomorphisng our ten-pound headache, in the attempt to understand the changing circumstances?  Even his two older half brothers, Junior and Blackie, eventually returned home after several unscheduled excursions.

For nearly a week, I feel asleep praying that Chewie was ok and trying to understand why he wouldn’t come back.  Of course, Roger felt horribly guilty for not paying better attention and vowed to make our home more inviting for Chewie by refurbishing the fish tank and stocking it with more fish for the viewing pleasure of all the kitties.

Well, we did catch sightings of Chewie several more times.  But in the end, Roger resorted to trapping our furbeast with one of our humane traps.  Yep.  After 11 nights out-of-doors, Chewie came home—a little skinnier and rumpled, but he’s home now.  And within an hour of his homecoming, he came out from hunkering underneath the bed and rubbed against his hairless beasts as if nothing had happened, no time at all had passed.  And of course our hurt and annoyance just evaporated into wellsprings of gratitude. 

Maybe in his mind, no time had really gone bye.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful to truly and whole-heartedly live just in the moment?  One moment you’re inside—woo hooo!  The next moment you’re outside—woo hoo!  No recognition of the passage of time, and no regret for what is not happening.

We higher-level beings are the ones who suffer—perhaps, even by choice—when things do not seem to go our way, or when we do not understand why something is occurring.  If we could truly live in the now, would there be any place for suffering, regret and shame?  Would we take for granted life’s impermanence and the gifts of love, kindness and friendship?

Chewie and Junior Relaxing

Chewie has now been home 9 days.  He has had to re-earn the title of kitty goodwill ambassador….when he was gone, he left quite a vacuum and the power hierarchy among the four remaining felines began to shift…The first to melt was Junior, after a day, but Puffy and Tigger were still quite vocal with their displeasure.  But after a week, Roger caught a glimpse of Chewie and Puffy cuddling, and I have witnessed the beginnings of Tigger wanting to again play with the Chew-butt.  Blackie still keeps to himself…

Roger now owes the cats one tricked-out fish tank—the first resolution 2012!

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He’s  a big boy weighing in at about 12 pounds at his last vet visit in March.  He’s a long haired blondie with hints of red.    He’s Puffy, aka The Puff, Big Puff Daddy, Puffenstein,  and sometimes even The Puffernator.

Puffy is the epitome of persistence and a lesson in the benefits of consistency.  He is a simple cat with a hint of the divine—the kitty reminder of stopping and smelling the roses…Puffy’s  needs are uncomplicated, and he revels in life’s sensual pleasures.  Nearly every morning, Puffy is waiting by the back gate, demanding to be let in for his morning dose of mother love.  With his rump raised high in anticipation, the scratching session begins!  Ooooo….ahhhhh….underneath the chin, now.  Oooooh, the belly.  Prrrr.  PRRRR.

In terms of habits, Puffy has his usual sleeping spots: atop of the closet in my office or in a “slot”-like area of Roger’s wardrobe.  Puffy must think of himself as a circus kitty, a feline contortionist when he wraps his big, bulky body around the pole of a kitty tree, hind legs and front paws akimbo. 

And he certainly enjoys just hanging loose.  With his  limbs a-danglin, you can find him precariously perched on all sorts of surfaces:  most currently, atop of the fish tank; and on various high ledges, carpeted cat stairs, or inside the bottom of one of my congas.  That’s right.  I have a set of congas on a stand, and The Puffernator likes to crawl up through the bottom of one of them and just hang, with a hint of his tail peaking through the bottom.  We believe he just exhales to expand and uses his girth to keep him in place.

He’s won a special place in my heart because he has put the prime bully, Blackie, in his place in the household kitty hierarchy.  The Puff is like a protection detail for Tigger.  Sometimes he overwhelms the woosy poosy with his enthusiasm, but Tigger has certainly expanded his in-home roaming range now that Puffy is on the prowl…

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He left our lives in the same manner he joined: quietly, without fanfare.  Fuzzy was an elderly grey and white male kitty (never neutered!) with these Halloween orange eyes.  Initially, Roger and I saw him lingering around Sluggo—the now spayed feral female that allows us to provide for her; more on her story later in this blog—thinking he was just another feral male wanting to get lucky… Then one day, perhaps a year and a half ago, I attempted to pet him.  And to my surprise, he allowed it.

Not only did he allow us to pet him, he seemed to crave the affection.  Who knew?!  In his quiet, tentative ways he wanted us to pet him, stoke him, gingerly crawling onto our laps so that we could do more.  Which made us feel both very sad and very happy: here was this obviously gracious kitty who was once someone’s pet, perhaps, who had been living so long in the streets.  Abandoned, fending for himself.  And all he wanted was love and affection.

So, we gave him that love.  And it was last summer when we realized that he was ill—there were scabs all over his body and some open wounds.  Roger took him to several vets with a similar diagnosis: he was dying. Some feline disease, and since he was so old—we figured he was over 12 or 13 years—there was nothing much we could do for him.  One vet wanted to put him down last summer, but we said no; there was still a lot of life left in the old geezer kitty.  Fuzzy still walked and was curious; sniffing and investigating.  It was so funny to observe him walking about in his “old man” cat walk… He still ate, drank a lot, pooped.  Obviously craved the human touch.  We figured that when the time came that he could no longer do these things, we would do the right thing and be with him in the end. 

But we never had that chance. 

So, throughout last fall, winter, and this spring, we fed him, and Roger provided a warm, comfortable place in the garage for him to sleep and a litter box, too—so he wouldn’t have to go outside when it snowed.  I would check on Fuzzy several times a day to make sure he was ok. When it was sunny, I would find him catching a few rays in the backyard, just enjoying this life…  He seemed to enjoy the human-made comfort during the bad weather, but when the weather turned nice, he beckoned to the call of his animal instincts to roam and to investigate.  Fuzzy no longer stayed overnight in the garage, but did come in the evenings for us to feed him.  He still seemed fine, in good spirits. 

Friday, June 10, 2011, was the last time we saw Fuzzy. In the evening, he meandered back, as was his habit.  At different times throughout the evening, he would climb into our laps, and we petted and stroked the elderly kitty who allowed us to share our lives with him.  When we went to bed, here was still on the patio, just hanging about as he had done numerous times before.  The next morning he was gone, but that was not unusual for him; we figured he would return that evening.  But he did not return that night nor any night since. 

It’s been 20 days.  We did look for him in our neighbors’ yards and in the nooks and crannies around the house… For nearly two weeks, I kept checking the garage and the yard, hoping to see his somewhat sad, Halloween-like eyes looking up at me…Fuzzy is gone.  Maybe a fox got him; I remember seeing one in the neighborhood.  Maybe he knew his time was growing near and found a quiet and comfortable place to make his transition.  Maybe the evening of June 10 was his way of saying goodbye.  We don’t know.  We never will.

 I feel very fortunate to have known Fuzzy.  Yes, we regret not discovering his affection sooner… We regret not taking him to the vet sooner.  But we did what we could for him, once we figured out a little more who he was.  And we provided a warm place for his final year.  Warm not only in physical comfort, but also in love and affection.  We loved Fuzzy as we had any kitty that has shared our lives.

Perhaps the life lesson with Fuzzy is to appreciate more the moments in time, for they sure are fleeting and not guaranteed.  And to let go when it is time to do so.

Fuzzy, my friend.  Farewell. We miss you. May your eternity be filled with warmth and love.

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