Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Spring, kittens and jeans, the best medicine

Selective seratonin re-uptake inhibitors show amazing results, but they can do only so much.

In fact, in my mom's case, I'd put spring, kittens, new jeans and song up against Lexapro any day.

My mom has always suffered from Seasonal Affective Disorder, but now in her late 80s, it is getting worse. The doc prescribes Lexapro, an anti-depressant, and it helps, but as soon as we pass the autumn solstice, as soon as the sun begins slipping away by 5 in the afternoon, she will crawl into that protective shell she has fashioned for herself out of--what?--anger? fear? bitterness? necessity?--and stay there for the darkest days of winter.

The good news is that she crawls back out soon after the spring solstice.

When the roses bloom, so does she. To wit:

--Barnie Louise visited her the other day, eliciting laughter and amazement. "Is there anything as darling as a kitten?" she asked, rhetorically, although I kind of hoped she thought her three daughters were darling when they were babies. But we didn't have whiskers. (Those, of course, came in in our 50s and 60s.)

--A new outfit can put a spring in her step. My sister Vicki, bless her, found the ideal pair of new jeans. (Note to self: If I make it to 89, there is such a thing as elastic-waisted, denim pants that are tiny enough for an octo-sprite but large enough in the right places to cover protective undergarments.) Coupled with a bright yellow shirt, she looked like spring itself. "Sometimes," the octo-sprite said, "you just want to wear some jeans so you feel like a person and not an old lady."

--And even if you're an old lady, you're never too old, apparently, to call your other daughter (thank you for being there, Judi) and explain that, indeed, we had just been singing "Bill Grogan's Goat."

"Why?" she said when Judi questioned her. "Well, you know Cathy."

And I know "Bill Grogan's Goat" so I say, why not a hearty rendition of

Bill Grogan's goat
Was feeling fine,
Ate three red shirts
From off the line.

Bill got a stick,
Gave him a whack,
Then tied him to
The railroad track.

The whistle blew,
The train drew nigh,
Bill Grogan's goat,
Was doomed to die.

He gave a groan,
Of awful pain,
Coughed up the shirts,
Flagged down the train

In the spring, life is a cabaret after all.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Credit cards, personal information and saying goodbye and hello

Shred your credit card statements, conventional wisdom says. I'm going to frame my most recent one. It's a chronicle of sorrow and joy spelled out in one financial statement:
Charge: Angelus Pet Hospital, $425, veterinary services
Charge: Angelus Pet Hospital, $125, services
Charge: Cal Pet Crematory, $130, services
Charge: Ragmeister Ragdolls, $100, deposit

The incomparable P. Beauregard LeMieux (the darker one pictured above, left, with Beatriz), born in San Bernardino in 1993, lost his battle with kidney disease in early March. We knew it was coming; the first set of lab results wasn't good and the next was worse. He was a lionheart to the end, a "cat among cats," as my friend and colleague Susan Spano said.

We had Beau cremated, and we mixed his ashes with his sister's. (I had not known what to do with Bella's ashes for the last four years so they sat on the shelf with the cleaning products. In an odd way, it was the right place for Bella, the most fastidious cat I've ever had.) On St. Patrick's Day, 17 years to the day I brought Bella home, we took their combined remains and sprinkled them under two Ingrid Bergman rose bushes. They are very much like Bella and Beau: One is bigger than the other, but they're both sweet and give me and others much pleasure.

The Ingrid Bergmans were the first ones to bloom this year.

The roses got on with the business of living, so did we. But not well. Beatriz, whom we acquired some time after Bella's death, was clearly depressed. She idolized Beau. And, much to my surprise, Carl, who was not a cat person when we married, said, "We need another cat. For Bea's sake, I mean."

Yes, of course.

Two friends had acquired ragdoll Siamese from a breeder in San Diego and suggested I contact
him. So I decided to make the request as specific as possible because, if it was not to be, that would be the end of that. Did he have a blue point, mitted, girl available on April 3, when we would be in San Diego?

He did.

And that is how Barnie Louise (pictured above, left) came to live with us. She is Prozac in kitten form. She and Bea have bonded, Bea taking over the mentor role; she and Blue, the dog, are buddies. She and Carl have become so close that I'm thinking of filing an alienation of affection suit against her.

And me? Well, I still think I hear the clinking of Beau's collar; I still expect him to jump up on my shoulder when I'm working at the kitchen counter. I miss his nighttime ritual in which he would rub the inside of his lips on my face, marking me as his.

But last night, Barnie curled up around my head, just as Beau used to do, and purred me to sleep. It was the first time I'd slept that soundly in a long, long time.