Teddy Bear, my nearly-toothless, 90% blind senior kitty, suffers from arthritis.
(Cue my husband's mention that I feed our cats too much.) Okay, so it is possible that his obesity plays a role, but when you're 90-something in cat years, and you can't see, what fun can you have besides eating?
He still retains his Brad Pitt looks, and the charms of a gigolo, but what good are those if you can hardly walk? His movie star features may be why he’s okay with weekly trips to the vet. The young ladies at the front desk ooh and ahh over him like he’s a furry Justin Timberlake. What species of heterosexual male wouldn’t enjoy that every week?
Maybe the real reason Teddy Bear doesn’t resist is because he understands the visits help him feel better. Not in a conscious way, the way humans understand the benefits of practicing palates and reducing their Newman O’s intake. (No one's claiming here that I actually do either of these) I like to believe Teddy Bear “gets it” on some special feline wavelength. Instinct? DNA programming? Whatever it is, he is by far easiest kitty I've ever taken to the vet.
Dr.Johnson, his fabulous vet marked specific spots from his lumbar area and his legs on a diagram during our first visit. She placed that into his chart. On each visit, the vet tech. uses the chart as the guide, and holds the laser one each spot for about sixty seconds. Mom, Teddy Bear and the vet tech wear special goggles to protect their eyes from the laser beams. The UV lasers break up scar tissue and stimulate circulation, but their also dangerous for your eyes.
Oh yeah, and it's pricey. I've had to cut back on some comforts of my own to cover treatments. But when I see Teddy Bear dragging his back leg like Quasimodo, what's a mom to do?
I can tell a difference when I skip a few weeks, because he stops jumping up on the couch. When he's having treatments every seven to ten days, he's more active, and makes those leaps without any problem. I'm a believer, and as long as I can swing it on my budget, The King of Fluff will continue to have them.
What kinds of things would you expect to learn in a course called White Gloves and Party Manners?
I was twenty years old when I asked this, a scrawny, freckly, eighties version of Pippi Longstocking. I sat in the college campus lunch room across from my new friend Darcy, a Malibu Barbie with an extra forty pounds.
My new friend was everything I ever dreamed of being. Zaftig build, pale blond hair, a suntan the color of caramel. Her canary yellow Mustang zoomed through our college campus parking lot, as dazzling to me as a dragonfly’s wings. That she was undeniably heavy didn’t matter. Her choice of attire emphasized the weight in the important places. One of many lessons I would learn from Darcy.
We met in our theater arts class. I guess she liked my bold goofiness as much as I admired her cool confidence. But more than those qualities, I admired the life she led. It was exactly the “middle-class normal” existence I dreamed of living. She came from a home with Persian rugs and real art. Her parents threw dinner parties. I came from peeling linoleum and real guns. My parents threw dinner plates.
When Darcy was twelve, her mother enrolled her in the White Gloves course so she could learn “life skills.” I asked her what kind of life skills those were, as I watched cute guys who didn’t see me snap their heads towards Darcy’s middle-class cleavage.
“Important things one needs to know to get by in the world,” she said.
I assumed this meant practical things like which coupons to clip and how to stock up on Swanson frozen dinners when they went on sale. But Darcy learned the proper way to waltz with boys at dances, and how to wait for them to pull out her dining chair.
At our dinner table when I was growing up, no one waited for anything. Some of us didn’t even wait for the platter to hit the tabletop before harpooning the biggest piece of meat. Waiting to read subtle clues at our table meant you wagered which was the bigger risk: waiting too long and find the food had disappeared, or risk losing a finger for the reward of a pork chop.
That a person could pay for courses to learn social etiquette was something I’d never imagined. Until then I thought I'd done well to read Ann Landers’ advice column every day.
For a twenty-year-old, I was more street-wise than Darcy. Her family went on real vacations. But mine went on probation. They celebrated birthdays and anniversaries while we celebrated homecomings from rehab. Yet compared to her, I was naive in many ways.
My decades-long friendship with Darcy would teach me more about class than I ever imagined. Our meeting in 1983 had sewed the seeds for a lifelong lesson. Many people would come into my life to teach me their own lessons about class. And someday now I'd understand that people with Persian rugs can lack the human decency of ones with peeling linoleum.
I was telling a nineteen-year-old recently that in pre-internet days people often took their chances when seeking roommates. In my twenties I was still trusting enough to drive over to a stranger's house to answer a “roommate wanted” ad from the classifieds.
I was single, and secretly I hoped my potential roommate would turn out to look like George Michael or John Bon Jovi. .
When the door opened, I was greeted by "Gary." Black shaggy hair, and equally shaggy beard. And mutton chops so long I wondered if chewed on them when he ate. This guy could’ve been Paul McCartney from the cover of the Let it Be album, except it was twenty years too late.
And Gary appeared to be pregnant with twins.
But he was friendly, and led me into his living room, circa 1970. The carpet was shag, and avocado green. A plaid couch with permanently indented cushions sat flanked by two orange, circular velvet chairs. I half expected Tom Jones to swagger out in stretchy bell bottoms, singing “What’s New Pussycat.”
But I had to admit, Gary was gracious. He asked me my cat's name, and offered me a beer. That it was only ten a.m. might have given me pause, but I was naive. I tried to ignore the pool hall odor of stale cigarettes that permeated the space. This meant if I took the place I’d spend most of my time behind my bedroom door. Even though we'd share a bathroom, at least Gary’s looked spotless. I told myself it would work as temporary.
I didn’t even notice the body hair at first.
After a couple weeks, black hairs, two to six inches in length began materializing on the bathroom floor, tub and countertop. I’d prepared myself for the inevitable raised toilet seat, but who expects to sit on a hairy one? The hair just appeared one day. Like some werewolf from the neighborhood had stopped by to borrow a cup of sugar, and asked to use the bathroom.
I broached the subject to Hairy Gary after work one evening. Burbank temps had been hitting near ninety, so I found him sitting shirtless in front of the air conditioner. He slouched in the orange, velvet chairs, a cigarette between his lips, and a moat of empty Coors bottles around him on the floor.
He stared, transfixed by the Giants game. I stared, transfixed by the lawn growing on his neck, shoulders and belly.
“You know, Gary,” I said, “I noticed some dark hair in the sink and tub…" I deliberately chose words which pointed blame in no specific direction. My being a redhead left me without a single dark hair on my body. The implication sounded obvious enough without an accusation.
“Huh,” he remarked, without taking his attention from the TV.
“I hardly noticed it at first,” I lied. “I mean, I drop a strand or two myself. But last night I while soaking in the tub...uh...whole clumps floated right past me.”
“When it reaches the clump stage…” By then I was grasping for non-offensive wording.
“A quick wipe after every shower would keep the drain from clogging, don’t you think?”
He didn't turn his head, but finally his gaze turned towards me. “Then go clean it up. ”
Baseball season stretched into football season. The beer and cigarette ritual continued. Now pizza crusts also surrounded his throne. Piles of hair surrounded everything else.
It was my own fault. My inability to be direct had turned me into a boarder in Hairy Gary’s apartment. But I'd grown up with a crazy uncle who collected his own beer bottles and cigarette butts. These, as well as guns, and he regularly threatened to blow everyone's heads to kingdom come. I was terrified of confrontations with men.
I started dropping less subtle hints for Gary, but still within boundaries of polite decorum.
I left Post-Its asking, “Missing these?” with black hairs attached.
One day, I recorded an outgoing message on our answering machine that said:
IF YOU’RE CALLING MASHAW, SHE’S PROBABLY AT WORK, OR THE GYM.
IF YOU’RE CALLING GARY, HE’S PROBABLY PASSED OUT IN FRONT OF HIS USUAL TWELVE-PACK, AND PIZZA. LEAVE A MESSAGE.
I was terrible. I'm embarrassed now by my passive-aggressive way of handling our conflict. My friends thought it was hilarious. Gary did not. When he found out about it, he pounded on my bedroom door and screamed for me to change that damn message. But my fuse had been ignited. I flung open the door, and screamed right back that he should clean up after himself once in a while, and I was sick of living with a slob. Several minutes of yelling ensued, and afterward, I actually felt exhilarated.
The next morning however, I cringed, remembering my behavior. I wondered if I should apologize as I watched my English muffin turn brown in the toaster. Maybe he'd try to be cleaner now.
The toaster popped, my muffin went flying, and landed on the counter top. When I picked it up-you guessed it. A thick, black hair was attached.
I moved out soon after that, happily settling into my very own studio apartment.
But only following my own three month-long cleaning compulsion.
Happy is the community that dangles found eyeglasses from tree branches,
in expectation of owners discovering them, despite their astigmatism
and the fading daylight.
My first mistake was buying into those DIY You Tube videos. I can’t even fold construction paper without severing a finger. I openly admit I'm not a crafty person.
Still, my husband got all snooty when I glued the water bill to the dining room table.
I just don’t do the hands-on part. I’m more of a…designer. I craft absolute masterpieces--in my imagination.
For my art to reach full potential however, it just requires someone talented to do the work.
So in the back of my mind I knew it was risky to plan a spooky dinner party for Halloween that involved handmade props. But the DIY videos made it look so easy. The people in those videos demonstrating almost look high they're so excited and they insist it's so simple to make "antique, blackened apothecary jars" and "Authentic Harry Potter floating candles." They claimed, “Anyone can make these in just twenty minutes!”
My old grandmother could spot insincerity in a flash, and had the wisdom of a sage. She would’ve said, “Shit fire!”
(That’s “OMG!” in rural, southern language) “That stuff on TV ain’t real.”
Grandma would’ve have been right. Those videos took hours to record and edit, not to mention the umpteen years for the crafters to bumble through their own mistakes until they’ve perfected it. Why can’t they just admit that?
With just hours heft before my party, I sat surrounded by glass jars, toilet paper tubes, spray paint, fishing line, battery-operated candles and a hot glue gun.
None of the videos tell you to practice using the glue gun first either.
You can guess how it turned out. I bought the wrong kind of gold paint to go with my black apothecary jars. In my over-confident preparation however, I made my labels saying gross stuff like “ground cockroaches” and “rat brains,” But when I finished they looked like really moldy food jars.
Then the Harry Potter candles started dropping. From the ceiling one by one, they detached themselves from the push pins, and leapt to their deaths like passengers escaping the Titanic.
In the end, the one decent, and semi-spooky prop was something I found at a second hand store. ("Cheating" my grandma would call it) I took a rag doll trimmed with straw, and hung it by a noose in our laundry room. To use our bathroom, guests would have to walk past the laundry room. They’d catch a glimpse something terrifying which looked like handiwork of some deeply disturbed child. Spooky as all get out.
During the entire night, not one person asked to use the bathroom.