Lessons Learned on a Sick Day

She was up barfing at four. When I arrived hours later, she had pink cheeks, a kitty ears headband, and was play-ready. She assured me it wasn’t really being sick to barf, but pre-school wanted her to stay home. She was sad Mom wasn’t staying home, sad to miss her friends, but game for whatever Grandma brought to the day.

Lemon-lime soda was no longer needed. Water was fine. Munching many plain saltines and a cup of dry cereal made up for a missed breakfast. Within minutes we were on the sofa deep in a Brain Quest card deck working through sequencing challenges, adding, matching letters and words, talking about calendars and telling time on old-fashioned round clocks.

Those clocks sparked the first pronouncement of preschool wisdom. She thought I must have had a clock with numbers in a circle because I am old. I corrected that statement to older. She didn’t buy the change. A teenager had given me the same look when I asked if the general store in a small town carried watches.

With interest in Brain Quest waning, I suggested we start an art project. She turned down the idea because she said she loved to learn things. There wasn’t anything better she could have said if she hadn’t finished with a sympathetic sigh before sharing that it was sad that old people couldn’t learn stuff. That’s not true I replied and told her about a friend who learned another language to work with immigrants, another friend attending university classes, my own tap-dancing studies. She frowned and said maybe I had special friends. That I do.

Even at her age I couldn’t do backward summersaults, so she had me at that, but I didn’t expect to frighten her when I got down on the floor to do a plank next to her. Old people could get hurt doing planks she said. I replied anybody could get hurt doing planks, but we were both strong because we could hold a plank for almost a minute. Then I sat back to watch her attempt head stands and intricate twirls.

We rounded out the day with dressing the cat, coloring paper dolls, and baking a chocolate cake. She looked tired, but happy. Her mother looked tired after an important work day. And grandma drove home, happily tired out after an unexpected play day.

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Don’t Open The Brown Paper Bag Next To The Ice Cream

187f3776-4747-421f-b7b6-2ff156d465b2_400[1]“You’ll take care of the body?” she asked gently.

“It’s going next to the ice cream in the freezer,” I told her.

She chuckled.

I had thought about putting our cat Angel in the shed until the ground thawed out. But that seemed insensitive and physically too far away until she was put to rest in our backyard. Of course, I could have had him cremated. But I didn’t want to. Yes, cost was part of it though I didn’t even look up how much it was. More than that, it seemed weird to have one animal cremated and not the rest.

Yes, we have a few animals buried in our yard. I should ask for a discount from MN Pets – our go-to place for euthanizing an animal in our home. They do such a good job at it. Angel will make it one dog, four cats. MN Pets sends us a Christmas card each year.

With Angel’s departure we are now at our city’s limit for how many animals residents can legally have — five total. We have two four-legged cats, one three-legged cat and two dogs.

Though I did tell Buddy, our dog, that if he wasn’t careful, I’d make it a twofer. The vet wasn’t sure what to make of my joking.

She didn’t know that we had been waiting for Angel to die for a long, long time. He was the energizer cat that went and went and went for 18 years. I’ve never had a pet that lived that long.

Angel was my buddy. He’d meet me at the door when I came home from work and come sit with me every morning. He was MY cat.

R.I.P. Angel

R.I.P. Angel

He was also the reason we had so many cat brushes around. That was our time together. I told Angel, that I would know it was his time when the day came that he didn’t want me to brush him. And, sadly, that day did come.

I made an appointment with MN Pets for a Monday so all of us could have the weekend with Angel. I quickly changed it to Saturday when it became clear that waiting for Monday wasn’t the loving thing to do.

Angel isn’t the first animal I’ve kept in the freezer until the ground thawed. And, he may not be the last. What else do you do in Minnesota when a pet dies in the winter? Thankfully, we have small dogs. A German Shepard or full grown lab would take up too much room.

Having the cat in the freezer is working out okay. It just freaks out Antonio and Crystel’s friends when they tell them not to open up the paper bag next to the ice cream.

On Being a Parent

In the early morning hours I woke to a death squeal. I stood with my ear pressed to the bedroom door. I didn’t want to open the door and have whatever was making that noise escape into our room. I also didn’t want to see what lay on the other side.

If this was Antonio or Crystel needing me I would have been upstairs in a moment.

Either this was a cat injured or another animal.

Jody hadn’t moved from the bed. She sat upright watching me. To her credit she is often upstairs first in the morning and has to deal with any carnage brought in during the night by our three young cats.

I heard rustling, then quiet. I waited. I turned the knob, peeked out the door.

“It’s a bunny,” I said, relieved. I brushed away the cats. Took a piece of paper and touched the animal. It didn’t move.

I opened our garage, retrieved a snow shovel that hadn’t been put away for the summer, and scooped up the cottontail. In the darkness I flipped it over our fence into the athletic field next door and went back to bed.

That same morning, I was reading the Sunday paper. I could hear the dog barking in the backyard. I took another sip of coffee and thumbed through the Variety section.

Jody came downstairs from the upper level. She had been on a work conference call. Maybe the barking got to her.

“The dog has a bunny,” she said looking out the patio door.

I went outside. This baby bunny was still alive. It was smaller than the one last night. I picked it up and held it in my hands.

Antonio came up behind me. “Here, I’ll take it.” He held out his cupped palms.

I handed the bundle carefully to him. He used his swimming towel to make a nest for the bunny in a small cardboard box and took the bunny to his room.

His being up complicated matters. In crept the concern about how he would regard my actions with this injured animal and how I wanted to raise him as a compassionate person. There would be no flipping this baby rabbit over the fence.

I Googled how to raise bunnies. It didn’t look good.

“Antonio, it says that you should put the bunny back where you found it. Maybe it will go back to its den.”

He took the bunny and lay it under a bush. Ten minutes later the bunny still hadn’t moved. Antonio retrieved the bunny and felt its body for the injury.

“Should we wake Crystel?” he asked.

“No.” I was hoping I would have the situation resolved by the time she awoke. I went through a list of possibilities and ended with the idea that taking the bunny two miles to Woodlake Nature Center and leaving it by the bird feeder would be the most humane act and something that Antonio could live with. Maybe a hawk would swoop it up.

“It’s the circle of life,” I told Antonio on the drive over.

At Woodlake we sat on the bench watching the birds fly back and forth to the feeders. Antonio cradled the bunny in his arms. I pulled up dead grass and made a nest for the bunny near the feeder. Antonio lay him gently down.

Once home, Crystel met us at the door.

“You didn’t wake me,” she accused.

Back at Woodlake, Crystel picked up the bunny and petted it. “Can we keep it?”

“No, Crystel. This is the best thing.”

She carried the bunny away from me singing, “It’s the circle of life little bunny.”

Cradling the bunny in the crook of her arm, she pulled dead grass with the other to fluff up the nest.

“His mother won’t find him,” she said.

“You’re right. Not this time.”

The bunny lay on her soft white polo sleeve.

“Hey, that’s my jacket.”

She laughed. “I know.”

I gave her a cockeyed glance.

She knew me well enough to know that I loved being her mother and that I wouldn’t mind the hours I spent on this tiny bunny because it had to do with her and Antonio. Even though it meant that the Sunday paper would end up in the recycling bin unread and I’d be doing an extra load of wash later that day.

I wouldn’t have had it any other way.