Typically narcissistic blogging.

Posts tagged “death

Monster

Last month I lost my best furry friend, Thumper. He was pretty much everything to me, so his passing was heartbreakingly difficult. When the vet took him from my arms one last time, she begged me to consider getting another cat someday. In the moment, I couldn’t imagine loving another cat, but I acknowledged that, maybe after an extensive amount of time to grieve and heal, I wouldn’t be able to stop myself.

And then I spent a few days at home. 

And it was quiet. Too quiet.

There was no sound of paws padding across the hardwood floor. There was no cat waiting at or near the front door for me to walk in at the end of my day. There was no critter to tell me that there was insufficient food in his dish, or too much poo in his litter box. There were no cuddles, no nuzzles under my chin, no paws to hold, no motorboat purrs.

I started losing my mind almost immediately. I am a person who needs a critter to love and care for; it’s an integral part of who I am.

So, a few days later I walked into San Francisco Animal Care and Control and met some cats. I wasn’t expecting immediate results, but I figured it couldn’t hurt to visit with some animals and give them some play time and love.

I met several kittens that day. They were all adorable. I wasn’t feeling terribly well, and I was a little overwhelmed by all of the animals. Being who I am, I felt immediately guilty for not being able to give all of them homes. And I did not connect well with any of the kittens I had met. So I was ready to go home, when the volunteer who was helping me pointed out a slightly older black kitten. “What about this one?”

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SPOILER: I TOOK THAT ONE HOME

I shrugged. Well, if nothing else, he matched my wardrobe. So I allowed her to usher us both into the get-to-know-you room and sat down on the floor as she came in with the carrier box. She opened the top. And I knew somewhere between 45 and 60 seconds that this was my cat.

Unlike the rest of the kittens she had brought in for me, he needed no help getting out of the box. He hopped right out and strutted about the room1, tail straight up, full of fucking swag. He cased the room, and then checked me out. When I reached for a toy, my foot shifted and he pounced on it. When I grabbed him, he didn’t object, and when I flipped him onto his back and rubbed his belly he merely grabbed my hand with both of his paws and purred.

When I was finally able to pick him up from the shelter (thank you, Tristan!), it was pretty clear that he knew I was his human, too. The cuddles were immediate, and he followed me from room to room. That first night, as I lay in bed, he curled up beside me, wrapped his paws around my arm, and purred, occasionally stretching to lick my nose.

It was as if he knew how badly I needed those cuddles.

So now I have this kitten. He is made of love and purrs and headbutts and a willingness to burrow under my chin and a love of hugging my hand when I pet his belly and of gently tapping me on the face to get my attention at 5am.

To paraphrase my friend Valerie, nothing will fill the Thumper-shaped hole in my heart, but having this little guy curl up in it is a huge comfort. 

Also, he does this:

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I love my Monster. 

(For hot and cold running pics of an adorable kitten, you can follow me on Instagram.)

 


Goodbye

About a decade and a half ago, a kitten told me I belonged to him, and I believed him.

I was visiting my mother, brother, and sister in Guerneville. This was some number of weeks after they had found and rescued the runt of a feral litter of kittens from certain death and nursed him back to health.

“You have to see this guy,” mom wrote, “His paws are gigantic.”

When I arrived, I had only a few minutes to say hello to people before this tiny creature peeked out at me from under a chair. He looked like he’d been put together by a committee. Of toddlers. Giant, crazy hairy ears. Huge, slightly wild eyes. Large, mittened paws with extra toes on each one. A tail that looked like an extra fuzzy bottlebrush held straight in the air. He was a cocky little fucker, even then.

I was informed that if I sat quietly, he’d come to me, so I did, and he cautiously crept over to make my acquaintance.  This was a time in his young life where he was not sure whether people were monsters or trees, and so over the course of the evening, he alternated between treating me as both, occasionally taking breaks from climbing up me or running away from me to take treats from my hand.

He could not have been more adorable.

Some hours later, my mother and I sat down to watch a movie. And Thumper walked up, jumped into my lap, trilled at me, and then curled up and went to sleep, my heart wrapped up in his huge paws.

Eventually, I took him home with me, despite my mother’s rather astute observation that I am allergic to cats and would probably end up in the hospital. He’s been my home ever since.

Rest in peace, Thumper.


On Facing the Mortality of Our Wee Beasties

thumper6

This is Thumper:

thumper6

He has been my best buddy for fifteen years. In the last few days  of those fifteen years, I have watched Thumper go from older, but still moderately spry, to weak and wobbly. Or rather, it feels that way; it’s entirely possible that this has been creeping up and I’ve been willfully ignoring that motion in the corner of my eye. I don’t know.

Our last trip to the vet left me feeling optimistic. She couldn’t believe how old he was. His teeth, ears, coat, weight—everything suggested that he was several years younger than he is.

But, now.

Now he sits in front of me, swaying back and forth as he tries to maintain balance and not have his paws slip out from under him.

Now he’s lost significant weight, and the joke that he’s really all just fur and fluff is becoming less of a joke and more of a truth.

Now he doesn’t jump down from things so much as fall as strategically as he can, and it really makes a difference to him when I help him up to or down from my bed, which is less than two feet off the ground.

Now he feels almost impossibly fragile when I pick him up.

thumperAnd I am fucking wrecked over it.

I know that one of the things we sign up for when we bring home our four-legged friends is a life span that is far shorter than
ours. I get that, intellectually. I understand that we don’t get to have them forever, no matter how well bonded we are. But that doesn’t make the thought of losing the best friend I have had for almost 15 years any easier, as it turns out. That doesn’t make me feel any less like my world is going to fall apart a little bit when it is time for him to go.

Note: if any of you feel the need to tell me how lucky I am to have gotten so much time with him already, please shove it somewhere dark and mildly uncomfortable, okay? 

Thumper is the closest thing to one of Philip Pullman’s dæmons I will ever find in this world. While he may not be the metaphorical embodiment of any soul I may or may not have, he still knows me better than any creature on this earth and has been there for me through more heartbreak, tragedy, loss, depression, loves, victories, and achievements than anybody else in my life.

thumper2He knows when I am hurting, or sad. He knows when to walk up to me and shove his head against my side until I drag him onto my lap, or when to rest a giant mitten paw on my leg to tell me he’s right here. He knows when I need him to butt his head against my chin and purr for me, endlessly. He knows that when he walks up to me and yells at me that I know exactly what he is yelling about even if I pretend not to. He knows that if he catches my eyes, we will spend minutes just gazing at each other. He knows that if thumper5I walk through or out of a room, and I see him reach out for me with one of his massive paws, I will be unable to resist giving him the cuddles he is requesting. I know that when I put my face in his face, I will be rewarded with a kiss or nuzzle to my forehead. I know I can bury my face in his big white soft belly and all he will do is purr.

In human years, Thumper is about 80 years old. I don’t know how much more time I have with him. Might be a while, yet. Hell, we’ve been expecting each Christmas to be my friend’s cat Elliot’s last Christmas for years, but he has clearly made a deal with Death or made friends with a voodoo priest because that fucking cat is apparently not going anywhere until he is damn good and ready. So it’s possible that I have years left with my cranky old beast of a cat.

I have spent the last 15 years telling him he has to live forever, like I was casting a spell on him through sheer force of love and will. But I’m no magician.

I’m pretty sure Thumper got all the magic.


Death and Social Media

Not too long ago, my Facebook feed was suddenly peppered with vague posts about the death of somebody who was part of a broader (but quite small) community of which I am a member. People refused to post the name of the person who died.

I was immediately filled with fear and anxiety that I was out of the loop on the death of somebody I might know and care about. It had happened to me with Sparkly (learned about her on Facebook, by accident), and I had been the person filling in people who were out of the loop on Donovan (learned he was in a coma when I was, without warning, added to a Facebook group to discuss it). And what I learned from both of those tragic events is that:

1. It totally sucks to learn these things via Facebook;
2. Learning these things via Facebook is inevitable;
3. Nobody, nobody should be out of the loop when somebody in a close-knit community is seriously injured, near death, or dead;
4. We need to take a serious look at how we handle tragedy on social media.

In the most recent circumstances, a small but very visible and active group within the larger grieving community seemed to think that not naming names would protect privacy, even as they posted details about his death that were far more invasive than his identity. This group was also inclined to criticize those asking for more information. When my very dear friend Rachel, who has lived through more brutal loss than the vast majority of the people I know, finally demanded that people name names, another friend commented, “If you are frustrated by not being in the in club over grieving with us, consider yourself lucky.”

Now, I understand that grief totally kills our communication skills. And this is why not a single one of us called him out on this comment. However, the essence of that comment should be addressed, because Rachel was not the only person who was essentially accused of being a vulture for asking.

I think we need to start with the assumption that nobody actually wants to be in that club. Nobody. If you really think somebody wants to be in that club, it’s time to do some unfriending and maybe look into a temporary restraining order. Okay? So let’s start with that foundational premise. Nobody wants to be in that club. If people are going to glom on for drama, that will become readily apparent, and they will not be anybody’s problem but their own.

I think we should continue with the general awareness that people die. I know, it’s something nobody really wants to think about, which makes all of these discussions about death much more difficult. Rachel’s response to the accusation of wanting to be in the mourner’s club nailed my reaction to this series of vaguebook posts: “Our community is very high risk, and I have lost more friends than I have digits to suicide, drugs, and motorcycle accidents. I found out in a million different ways. Because of this, fear strikes my heart EVERY TIME I hear ‘motorcycle casualty on the 880′ or any time [people] are posting about some unnamed tragedy.”

Marisa filled it out: “I’ve known too many quick-and-deads to ever, ever think that ‘if I knew them, I would know.’ I found out last week about a dear friend…via Facebook. But at least names were named. […]Creating this kind of stress and anxiety in this incredibly high risk group is rude. It’s not telling anyone how to grieve; it’s asking for basic consideration.”

I’m not sure I know more than a tiny handful of people who have not been affected by tragedy and/or sudden death. Hell, just in case you think I am being insensitive, I have been struggling with depression and suicide ideation since I was a child. To top that off, I ride a motorcycle. In reality I–or any of us–could die any day. Every day. So many of my friends are similar: they suffer from extreme depression, are risk takers, get into accidents, and some of them have died. We are high-risk. With regard to the death of loved ones, I have not always been in the immediate loop. Nor would I expect even my closest friends to be in the event of my injury or death. Too many breaks in communication can happen. So assuming:

A. that everybody who should know does know is wrong.

B. that not naming names has no effect on those who didn’t know the individual is wrong.

C. that people who ask for the identity of the deceased are just social media vultures is—you guessed it—wrong.

I think we also need to think about how we handle information. Talking about a death in the community, not naming names, but offering other extremely private details is kinda like creating a really screwed up guessing game and it protects nobody’s privacy, ultimately.

For the record, when people understandably don’t want to guess, calling them vultures for asking for information is going to result in some ruffled feathers, especially when you have given just enough information to create the need to ask for more. You are hurting. I get it, and I have been there. I am so very, very sorry for your loss. But freaking out a bunch of your friends and then slapping them down when they ask for information is not the way to handle it. As my friend Normal pointed out in an analog example, “I don’t go to Lucky 13 and yell ‘one of us died and I feel sad!’ and then walk off to the bathroom without expecting a lot of follow-up upsetness.”

fat amyNorm gets a gif for that, because she nailed it.

We have all lost people. We are extremely aware of how truly fragile are the lives of our friends, family, and loved ones. And when somebody in a close-knit community feels the need to say that somebody who was a part of the community died, but not who it was, it does far more harm than good.

If you are going to withhold information out of respect to families and partners, consider withholding all of it and finding a more private forum for your initial response. In examples I have seen and heard of, some folks refused to name names publicly but explicitly offered to if contacted privately. It turns out I didn’t know the deceased, and I had the amazing and unfortunate privilege of getting to struggle with a feeling of intense relief even as I watched people I care about grieve.

I have read everything his friends have posted about him, and I have let those posts give substance to the person my friends have lost. This post is not about the fact that I don’t care; I do. This post is about the fact that people need to know, even if just to learn that their hearts won’t be breaking, this time. 


A Checkered Year

I suppose it’s time for my increasingly traditional annual retrospective. 

If 2013 were a cartoon animal, it would be the Cat in the Hat, balancing too much shit and ultimately failing. Oh, don’t get me wrong, many, many good things happened in 2013. 

  • I went to Puerto Vallarta, my first vacation in six years.
  • My friends generously helped me get Iago, my beloved motorcycle back on the road.
  • With some overlap, my friends also helped me raise significant funds for the organization for which I work.
  • I moved into a fantastic apartment in SF (with laundry AND a dishwasher AND hardwood floors AND natural light AND off-street parking).
  • I met Allie Brosh.
  • I got three raises (which add up to, in just a little over a year, a 29% raise from my first salary here).
  • Luke and Marisa got married.
  • Jay and Jenneviere got married.
  • What I am hoping is becoming a Christmas tradition of spending one of the most annoying days of the year with my friends Lisa, Matt, and Elaine.
  • I have met some new people and made some new friends, at least two of whom are definitely keepers (and one I just fucking love so much I gave her, as somebody pointed out when I mentioned the book signing, an original Allie Brosh drawing).
  • I beat my all time best bowling score. Which isn’t amazing, but I’m still pretty pleased with myself. (Current best: 157.)
  • I learned some new things about who I am and how my brain works that explains A LOT about me and is helping me to make sense of my life and who I am.

But 2013 also slipped on a gigantic pile of shit, twisted its ankle, and landed on its face in yet another gigantic pile of shit with its mouth wide fucking open, for me and for people I love.

Losing Sparkly Devil broke more hearts than mine, and I think some part of me is always going to be wondering when we are going to go get our next cocktail and talk about everything. I still make notes in my head for things I want to chat with her about. Apparently it’s going to be a while, so I should start writing them down.

  • I have watched my friends lose people, family members, partners to death, relationship failure, and drama. Broken hearts everywhere.
  • There are friends who have been too far away for me to give them the kind of support I wanted to give.
  • I am having to face the fact that my beloved constant companion, my purrbucket, my cuddly, affectionate, loving, and deeply annoying cat Thumper is officially old. He still looks great in a bowtie, though.

I don’t do the resolution thing, really. I know what I want to accomplish in the next year. I don’t know how I am going to do all of it, yet, but I’ll figure it out. 

Happy New Year.


Sparkly Devil

I’ve been staring at the title of this post for about 20 minutes, now, and it’s not working. It’s not writing this post for me. It’s not finding any words. It’s not bringing my much-loved, talented, brilliant, and complicated friend back to life. I would prefer, out of the listed options, the last one.

So I guess I’ll just start writing.

Sunday afternoon I returned home from the movie theater to see that a friend had posted to Facebook: “FUCK THAT.” Being generally in favor of such sentiments, I commented, “WORD.” But then I checked in privately, and was informed that Sparkly Devil, internationally renowned burlesque performer, journalist, and all-around fantastic person, was killed in an auto accident on Highway 101 Saturday night.

My righteous indignation about the Star Trek sequel disappeared.

sparkly5

When I first met Sparkly, I was appalled. She was loud, brash, fierce, socially intimidating to my not-so-inner introvert, who wanted to flee. But my friends adored her, and she kept coming to various social gatherings and I very quickly figured out why.

When people say somebody is “larger than life”, what they really mean is, “almost like Sparkly”. Her creativity was big. Her ability to enjoy herself in any given situation was big. Her love for her friends was gigantic. Her hugs were epic. Her ass apparently problematic. She could bruise you with the enthusiasm of a kiss, blow you away with her insight, make you fall over laughing with her sense of humor.

And that was sometimes before you even got in the door.

But it wasn’t until her wedding, to which I somehow got invited despite the fact that we were not yet close, that I realized what a caring, considerate, deeply emotional and thoughtful person she really was. And it was sitting in the audience for that wedding, watching her make her vows to Bones, that made me realize how fortunate I was to know this woman.

sparkly1Patrick McCracken

Photo courtesy of Patrick McCracken.

Some of it was just little things. The fact that I was invited in the first place. The fact that, because I had recently injured my knee, and despite the fact that we barely knew each other, she reserved a chair for me in the very limited seating available. The fact that she was patently thrilled that I was there.

Some of it was just her. Sparkly being Sparkly. Effusive, so in love with Bones, so in love with her friends and family, so in love with life. And that’s what it comes down to, with Sparkly. That’s a huge part of why her friends and family are and will remain in denial about the fact that she is no longer with us. She was in love with life.

It’s difficult not to love people like Sparkly. I think that we, as a species, tend to fall in love with people who are in love with life. Those people who seem bigger in some way.

But when somebody is larger than life, it’s easy to forget how relentlessly human they are.

And Sparkly was human. So very human. She experienced pain and disappointment like the rest of us. She made mistakes. She cried very human tears. She had very human needs. Sparkly wasn’t just larger than life. She lived her life, and experienced life, and was derailed by it just like the rest of us.

The difference for me was, when I grew bitter about life and wanted to tell life to fuck right off, Sparkly would publicly join me in my bitterfest and privately remind me that living life was worth the cost of…well, of living life.

Now life is apparently supposed to be lived without her. And I want her to publicly rage with me at the unfairness of this, and privately tell me that my friends and I are awesome and will totally get through this. I want her to be waiting with all of us for Bones to recover from the accident, I want to be able to hug her close. I want her to be there when he fully regains consciousness, because I can only imagine and dread the despair he will feel when he knows that she is gone.

The last time I saw her, we’d met for dinner. I got sick, and had to cut the dinner short. We were in the process of rescheduling, so we could hang out again, and she could give me advice on where to go in Puerto Vallarta later this year. I owed her either a drink or a bowl of mashed potatoes (look, what you do with your friends is none of my business). She told me she had faith in my ability to have fun regardless. I am going to try to live up to that. Sparkly knew fun.

RIP Sarah “Sparkly Devil” Klein. I love you.

sparkly6Brian Sørensen


In Memoriam

A year ago, I was in the middle of a fantastic evening. I’d gone to see Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter with C and some of my favorite people. C & I had parted for the evening, she to Muni and I to BART and I was turning on my phone and trying to decide if I had enough power to listen to music the entire ride home. I was high on my friends and C’s company, and a relentlessly silly movie.

So I had to read the words on my screen several times before I could make sense out of them.

A year ago began a time of waiting—less than a week. It was a time of hugs, and of stress, and of quietly and desperately wishing to be able to do something, or help, or find magical healing powers. It was a time of rediscovering an intense dislike of Oakland’s Highland Hospital, of sitting in painfully stark waiting rooms with friends and family while waiting to spend 15 minutes talking to a man being kept alive by machines. It was a time of everyone remembering to express love and appreciation for everybody else, before our oh so powerful minds stepped in once more to protect us from the constant awareness of the fragility and impermanence of life. It was a time of trying to believe in miracles.

The call was made. The machines were turned off. The time of waiting ended.

I wrote this post about Donovan when I was finally able to put something of how I was feeling into words. I wrote this post as I realized I was feeling, but not dealing with, my feels. I wrote this post as I flirted with coming to terms once again with the fact that I cannot protect everybody I love.

And this post? I guess it’s just to say…fucking hell, Donovan. I miss you.

donovan

Hat: Totally goth. Art: Sid Nicholson


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