Polarize Vortex

It’s cold and that means I will never, ever get to work on time again. I appreciate the desire of the Alexandria City Public Schools to safeguard my kids and their teachers and all, but I’m not sure that pre-emptive surrender to the elements with a third day of two-hour delayed start is necessary. I guess we’ll find out whether they were right tomorrow. That reminds me to open up the kitchen hot water tap a smidge before I go to bed so that my dishwasher and washing machine don’t refuse to operate in the morning.

I value my right to snark as much as the next Francophile, really I do, and I don’t condone terrorists killing French satirists one bit. But I’m bent out of shape that I have heard so little about the attempted bombing of the NAACP office in Denver. In additon to the Charlie Hebdo massacre, things that were important than a likely domestic terror incident on WTOP tonight included the polar vortex and, I don’t remember, some beauty tips or something. I’m not saying it had to lead the news, but some coverage would have been in order.

On a completely different set of notes, it appears that the cat has once again peed on an upholstered chair in my living room. DAMN IT, KITTY. There’s no tell-tale liquid spots, just that awful smell stuck in my nose. Aaaand for some reason Northern Virginia Community College’s extended payment plan accepts every credit card except Visa. What the hey, NoVA? I’m signing up for Biology 101 so I can see if my dreams of becoming a doctor or physician’s assistant in retirement match up with my actual academic skill set. It has been 24 years or so since I last took a college science class or, come to think of it, any college type class at all.

Of No Particular Interest

  • The plus of living in a 1940’s townhouse is the way the windows are placed to create good cross-ventilation.
  • The minus of same is that, with the windows open, our neighborhood gets a lot noisier. Between the little kids outside yelping and the neighbor lady having a high-volume phone conversation in some other tongue, Mouse is having trouble concentrating on her studies. (This may also have something to do with the fact that she stayed up almost all night last night while “sleeping” over with a friend.)
  • Mouse frets a lot when she hasn’t had enough sleep.
  • Another minus of 1940’s construction is that our kitchen and bathroom venting is almost entirely passive. There’s a sort of exhaust fan on the oven, but there’s no fan in the bathroom. This means that my living room now reeks of burnt cooking oil, and the bathroom paint is peeling.
  • I forgot the correct temperature for the cooking oil until I was halfway through making a batch of syrniki.
  • When Mouse is fretful she wants a lot of reassurance about her homework.
  • We’re supposed to go to the Animal Welfare League of Alexandria today and get a new cat.

Life and Death in the Animal Kingdom

The cat died a couple of days ago.  She had pretty much stopped eating as we went into the preceding weekend and no longer wanted to be petted. We would find her just sitting in front of her litter box or in front of her water bowl as if she just couldn’t remember why she had been headed toward them or just didn’t have enough energy to go any further. I asked the vet (Dr. Cohen at Alexandria Animal Hospital on Duke Street) to euthanize her Tuesday morning. She died peacefully while I stroked her head.

Dino Spouse and Mouse have mostly stopped tearing up at the thought of the cat. Mostly. They took it the hardest. Me, I’m still sort of peevish and efficient, which is apparently how I grieve as an adult.

Podrostok loved the cat. He was sad. TeenBot, who is allergic to all animals and plants, claimed that he was not. Neither of them seemed too upset on the day of. But they both had the sulks yesterday, and last night they busted out into full-on fisticuffs over pretty much nothing. The final casualties (between their fight and related rage attacks on inanimate objects) were two sections of drywall, one vanity mirror, two pairs of glasses, one set of sliced-up knuckles, and Mommy’s lumbar spine (after bodily separating the bull elephants from each other twice and threatening to summon the police before I finally managed to get them into separate rooms). Dino Spouse got home about 20 minutes afterward, as Mouse and I were cleaning up blood splatter while TeenBot dressed his wounds and Podrostok hid in his room. It was truly a crappy night for everyone.

I really hope they learn other ways of coping with grief before they reach adulthood.  They will certainly learn a lot about drywall repair and handling broken glass, at this rate.

(Poor Mouse. Between being scared out of her 11 year-old mind by her brothers’ performance last night and then reading the latest Time article about rape on college campuses, she’s  had way more consciousness-raising about violence than she can stand.

(Maybe I should have refrained from laying on the “attacks on inanimate objects will escalate into physical violence against people, do not tolerate this behavior if you’re in a relationship” speech to my girl as we were sweeping up glass off the floor. After all, the boys’ wrath was directed at each other, and she wasn’t even in the same part of the house as they were while they were fighting. But it seemed like a teachable moment.)

Death and the Saber-Toothed Tiger

Our house cat appears to be nearing death. She’s 20 years old. The vet says it’s congestive heart failure. She has been responding to the medication they sent home with us last week, but that’s only to the extent that she actually digests it.* The long-term prognosis is not particularly long-term. According to the Internet, she’s roughly 97 years old in terms of a human lifespan. Average survival time after diagnosis of congestive heart failure in cats is allegedly 180 days or so, but that figure includes diagnoses in cats of all ages.

I haven’t had any direct experience of death when it comes to people I’m close to. I’ve lost older relatives who seemed to have lived lengthy and complete lives (the definition of “older” being relative to my own age, of course – 62 seemed like 92 to me when I was 18, while now 70 seems like just barely a full life span). My reaction to their deaths was muted, which is a delicate way of saying that I did not grieve. Indeed, my predominating reaction to the first deaths I remember was irritation at others for being so emotional about the whole thing. This was in my teens (14-18). I am still not sure whether to attribute that to my self-diagnosed Asperger’s or chalk it up to the other possibility, equally likely, that I am a (now better-socialized) sociopath.

It’s different now. I’m still matter-of-fact and low-affect about death, but now I get sad about it and/or sentimental about the deceased. This is either a sign that I have matured or evidence that I have gotten better at feigning normal emotions. In either event, I know enough now to dread the loss of loved ones, ptu ptu ptu. I even occasionally remember that “matter-of-fact” and “low-affect” don’t necessarily scan well to people in the throes of grief. I strive to keep this in mind now as I model grief to my spawn and, in particular, as I confer with Dino Spouse about end-of-cat-life decisions. It will come as no surprise to the paleontologists among you that Dino Spouse and I have diametrically opposing approaches to grief.

*Dosing cats with pills is a skill I learned from my ex-husband and his parents, who bred Himalayans for sale and show. Maybe it’s easier to make cats with messed-up airways actually swallow the pills. Our cat is not one of them. She can hold those things in her mouth for way longer than I would have thought possible, then she spits them out after we stop looking. She will eat pills in her wet food, but only when she feels like eating at all. I am adjusting my technique accordingly.