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Tag Archives: loss

CW: Pet death.

We had to say goodbye to Hermione over the weekend…

When V and I adopted Hermione (aka Miney/Mineycat/Miner/Not a Major Cat, Just a Miner Cat, etc.), we didn’t know exactly how old she was. We had an estimate. Her previous owner had only had her for a month, and due to circumstances, had to re-home her very quickly. V and I said that we could take her, and so in February of 2016, we officially had our first pet together.

Waiting for attention after my run.

It’s been five years since we took her in. Five years of the world’s most default cat (American shorthair tabby). She was smart, sweet, and loved to snuggle with the kids when they slept. We praised her for her ability to be a much better cat than her sister, Maria (aka Mimble, garbage cat, but decent hamster).

Doing her best meme impression.

She was my late night companion, curling up with me when I would be up watching movies, sitting on my text books when I was trying to study, and making cameo appearances during a lot of Zoom meetings.

“Reading? No. Only pets.”

In October of 2019, we noticed a pretty severe weight loss, and had her checked for feline leukemia and various other possible issues. We came to a diagnosis of inflammatory bowel disease, and started treating it with a combination of diet and steroids. She stabilized. She was still underweight, but we were in the clear.

V made her a sweater to keep her warm that winter.

Later, she had to have multiple teeth extracted because of infection. Her appetite suddenly came back (amazing how little you want to eat when you can’t chew). Last month, she had additional teeth removed, and had bloodwork done again. Everything looked okay, but the doctor surmised that she was older than the roughly 7 – 8 years we thought she was, because her health issues wouldn’t have been uncommon in a cat 3 – 5 years older.

Last Thursday evening, we found a bite on her side where Maria had drawn blood, so we cleaned and treated the wound. She had some blood in her stool that night, and I said that if it happened again, I’d take her in to the vet. I assumed it was due to her injury, but it looks like that wasn’t the case. I made plans to take her in to the vet first thing Saturday morning. 2 AM, however, she didn’t make it from our bedroom to the litter box. I found that she was having trouble standing on her own, and her eyes had lost the ability to track movement. I wrapped her in a towel and placed her in a cardboard box so that we could move her as comfortably as possible.

My last photo of her on my phone.

V contacted the 24-hour emergency vet on the other side of town. I carried Hermione out to the car and said my goodbye, knowing that I would likely not have another chance.

The staff there ran additional bloodwork and concluded that it was most likely that Hermione’s inflammatory bowel disease had developed into an aggressive cancer that had also attacked her pancreas, leaving her anemic, diabetic, and blind in very short order. They could not recommend continuing treatment for her, and the decision was made to let her go. V told me that it was very gently done, and sent me one last peaceful picture.

One last photo of our girl.

Goodbye, Hermione Cat. Thank you for an incredible five years. You are sorely missed.

“All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts…”

As You Like It, Act II, Scene VII

A man has died, and I am undone.

On Monday morning, as I was preparing for work, I received notice that Clark Ginapp, my high school English teacher and theatre director, had died. I had been told that he had at most, a few weeks left, and that was less than 24 hours before. I’d been drafting a letter to him that I intended to mail. I didn’t feel it was my place to try to call him, despite some reassurances that it was. Now that letter, an update on how my life had gone in the years since our last class together, remains unwritten.

I can’t overstate the importance of Mr. Ginapp in my life. I grew up attending almost all of the high school theatre department’s shows. When I was in high school, I leapt at the chance to take part in them. As a director, Mr. Ginapp guided me through seven shows (three plays and four musicals):

The Wizard of Oz – Munchkin Lawyer/Winkie/Jitterbug
The Wind in the Willows – Clerk of the Court/Weasel (The British/Gay Weasel)
Little Shop of Horrors – Radio Show Host/Chorus
The Egg and I – Hi-Baby
State Fair – Harry Ware
I Remember Mama – Peter Thorkleson
Grease – Kenickie Murdoch

Each year, he cast me in bigger roles (with the exception of The Egg and I, because I was going to be out of the country for two weeks in the middle of rehearsals). Each show, he put that much more faith in me, put me under that much more pressure to be better. He believed in me, and I, in turn, came to believe in myself. We learned about proper blocking, and how to project our voices. We learned that the average human being is a dull-witted slug. We learned that “nobody’s cool, everybody sucks.” When I delivered Harry’s final farewell to Margy during dress rehearsal for State Fair, he said that if I could do it with that much emotion on opening night, that I wouldn’t leave a dry eye in the house. During Grease, he told me that if I ever grew into my feet, I’d be a giant. These sort of stories just stick with you. More and more have come back to me this week as I’ve tried to write this.

As a teacher, he was my instructor for sophomore English, as well as AP English during my senior year. He introduced me to Monty Python and the Holy Grail, which I can now quote along with in my sleep (I have witnesses). He showed me the surprising depth of The Simpsons, and made me memorize Marc Antony’s soliloquy from Julius Caesar (and he had all of the cues prepared to help students remember the next lines). He taught me Macbeth, and that we should only refer to it as “The Scottish Play” while we were backstage (note that this reading was assigned while we were in the middle of a show). He is profoundly, and terrifyingly responsible for my sense of humor.

In college, I majored in English. I took a theatre class, and continued to support the local arts community in Colorado Springs. I further developed my love for literature and poetry, and made that my career when I began my work in libraries. I’m not a teacher, but I hope to have as much of an impact on the teens that I work with as he had on me.

This week, I have seen the beautiful notes left to him by my fellow students. I have shared in the grief of my community, and I have reflected for many hours on my time with him. I would not be the person I am today without Mr. Ginapp. Clark taught me that there was a bigger world beyond the city limits of Holyoke, and more importantly, he taught me that this was not something to be feared, but to be embraced.

I haven’t been able to decide which Shakespeare quote fits best now. On Monday, after first hearing the news, my mind immediately went to Hamlet’s speech, which I shared on facebook at the time. Several others have arisen since, and I think I’ll share each of them with you here. Mr. Ginapp, I hope, would be proud that so many of his lessons have lingered.

*********************************************************************

Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears;
I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.
The evil that men do lives after them;
The good is oft interred with their bones;
So let it be with Caesar. The noble Brutus
Hath told you Caesar was ambitious:
If it were so, it was a grievous fault,
And grievously hath Caesar answer’d it.
Here, under leave of Brutus and the rest–
For Brutus is an honourable man;
So are they all, all honourable men–
Come I to speak in Caesar’s funeral.
He was my friend, faithful and just to me:
But Brutus says he was ambitious;
And Brutus is an honourable man.
He hath brought many captives home to Rome
Whose ransoms did the general coffers fill:
Did this in Caesar seem ambitious?
When that the poor have cried, Caesar hath wept:
Ambition should be made of sterner stuff:
Yet Brutus says he was ambitious;
And Brutus is an honourable man.
You all did see that on the Lupercal
I thrice presented him a kingly crown,
Which he did thrice refuse: was this ambition?
Yet Brutus says he was ambitious;
And, sure, he is an honourable man.
I speak not to disprove what Brutus spoke,
But here I am to speak what I do know.
You all did love him once, not without cause:
What cause withholds you then, to mourn for him?
O judgment! thou art fled to brutish beasts,
And men have lost their reason. Bear with me;
My heart is in the coffin there with Caesar,
And I must pause till it come back to me.

-Marc Antony, Julius Caesar, Act III, Scene II

*********************************************************************

Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits and
Are melted into air, into thin air:
And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp’d towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.

The Tempest, Act IV, Scene I

*********************************************************************

“Now my charms are all o’erthrown,
And what strength I have’s mine own,
Which is most faint: now, ’tis true,
I must be here confined by you,
Or sent to Naples. Let me not,
Since I have my dukedom got
And pardon’d the deceiver, dwell
In this bare island by your spell;
But release me from my bands
With the help of your good hands:
Gentle breath of yours my sails
Must fill, or else my project fails,
Which was to please. Now I want
Spirits to enforce, art to enchant,
And my ending is despair,
Unless I be relieved by prayer,
Which pierces so that it assaults
Mercy itself and frees all faults.
As you from crimes would pardon’d be,
Let your indulgence set me free.”

-Prospero’s Epilogue, The Tempest

*********************************************************************

You have taken your final bow, my friend. The stage is dark. The curtain falls.

Farewell.

“Echoes”

We hold on to pieces of the ones
Who have left us, whether to
Elsewhere in this world or to
Something beyond comprehension.

We cling to what little reminders
Have remained, a handwritten
Note, a lingering memory of a
Kiss, or a voice, a mundane recording.

We savor that we have some means
Of remembering, that we can
Recall a bit of how we felt when
That person was still a part of us.

And as the years pass, we may
Notice that the voices aren’t as
Loud, or the images aren’t as
Clear as they used to be.

Until the day that we come across
One of those little fragments,
And all of that love rushes back
Across time, a reverberation.

9/13/18

“Vision”

I saw a new picture today, and I
Thought immediately of you, and
How long it’s been since we were
Able to talk, and how we stopped
Talking far too long before you were
Gone.

It was your face in the photo,
Though it wasn’t a photo of you,
And I was struck, very suddenly,
By just how much alike you two
Were, and how alike we were,
Once.

I saw your smile again in hers,
And heard your laughter for
The first time in years, and now
I can’t stop reliving a friendship
That started over twenty years
Ago.

We drifted apart as years went
By, but we went on adventures
Together all the same, seeing
New parts of the world, living
Our grand journey, despite our
Differences.

And now, I am left with little
More than some old photographs,
And the memories that we made
In the far too short time we had
Before your voyage came to an
End.

6/21/18

I’ll lose her someday.
That struck me full-
Force this morning,
While we were getting
Dressed for work.
Whether it’s my own
Stupidity or her
Getting Alzheimer’s
Or one of us dying,
I’m going to lose her.
So I’m going to make
The most out of every
Damn minute until then.

Today is World Cancer Day. It’s a day of spreading awareness. It’s a day about coming together to fight this together, to finally put an end to cancer.

I’ve lost more than my fair share of friends and family to cancer, folks. More than I’d like to count right now, from my preschool teacher to one of my oldest friends.

It’s not just seeing music artists and actors die before we’re ready to part with them, though that hurts too.

For me, it’s deeply personal. Today, I’m remembering all of my friends who fought cancer, and thinking of those who continue to fight. I love you all.

A great man has left this world, and I need to take a moment to talk about him. His name was Theodore Jerry Baum, and he was my English teacher in my junior year of high school. Mr. Baum died almost a month ago. I’ve been trying to figure out how to memorialize him in a better way than the sadly lackluster obituary our local newspaper provided.

Like most of the kids my age, I met Mr. Baum long before I took a class with him. When you live in a small town, everyone knows everybody else. He taught English and Television Production at Holyoke High School. My first (and sadly only) class with Mr. Baum was my junior year of high school, and I’d been terrified of him. The man was a sort of urban legend, and he had a reputation, at least in my head, of teaching the hardest English class around. No nonsense. Strict, straitlaced. Or so it seemed.

After a while, though, I got to know him a little better. I learned that he loved German food, and that he delighted in playing practical jokes. When my independent study German group decided to have a German meal at school, I made brats and sauerkraut, brought a crock pot full, and let it simmer in my classroom all day. Mrs. Ortner’s room was right across the hall, and she made it quickly known that she HATED the smell of sauerkraut. Naturally, after sharing lunch with us, Mr. Baum took a cup full of sauerkraut and left it hidden in one of Mrs. O’s trashcans for the rest of the day.

He could move far faster than I ever would have thought possible for a man his age. One of his best pranks involved sneaking up on then-counselor Mrs. Vieselmeyer with an air horn, letting it off right next to her head. She spun around and would’ve likely knocked Mr. Baum into the next semester if he hadn’t jumped away.

On another day, I was walking through the library when a book fell from one of the shelves. As I bent to pick it up, another fell. I glanced up in time to see Mr. Baum hiding on the other side of the shelf, chuckling to himself as he pushed the books through onto my side.

As a junior, I participated in the district academic bowl. He was one of our moderators, and at one point in the evening, a question required the phrasing of a line from Oliver. Cue Mr. Baum singing “Consider yourself at home, consider yourself one of the family.”

No tribute to Mr. Baum would be complete without mentioning his cat, Brutus. There were several cats that he owned throughout the years I knew him, and each one, regardless of gender, was named Brutus. I never knew how many of them there were altogether, just that there was always one at a time, a constant companion for him.

He loved to garden during his retirement. He moved into a house down the street from my parents, one that had a lovely garden in the back that had been carefully tended for years by the previous resident. Many afternoons I could go for a walk and find him there, Huskers cap on his head, trowel in hand, continuing the work of maintaining the flowers and vegetables that were growing there.

I’ll never forget him. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that I knew him better than most. That would be doing a great disservice to the many people whose lives he touched. I knew him. That was enough.

 

I know that this is not
The end of the world,
But now the end holds
No fear for me. For I
Do not fear death,
And I now know the
Pain of losing you.

I know that this is not
The end of the world,
For I know that I
Shall not live to see
It. Nor would I want
To carry on if I would
Do so without you.

I know that this is not
The end of the world,
And I do not believe
In hell, though I
Have survived the tortures
That any hell could
Hold for one such as me.

I know that this is not
The end of the world,
Though I have raged
Against death and sorrow,
And found my only
Comfort in the arms of
Those I hold most dear.

When I can no longer hear your voice,
I will seek out your words.
If I have nothing else of you,
No lingering trace of your
Perfume, no lasting warmth from
Where your head once rested
Next to mine, I will still have
Your words.
If your face fades from my
Mind as the years pass, and the dreams
We once shared in confidence
Are forgotten in the light of days
Long gone, I will still have your words.
When all else in my world is lost,
I will still have your words, whispered,
Resounding for eternity in my heart.

I had something else that I was writing today, but I just learned that it’s going to have to wait. As Somerset Maugham said, “We do not write because we want to; we write because we have to.” I really wish that this were not something I had to say.

Where to start?

On Tuesday night, I lost one of my oldest friends. Kurtis and I had known each other since preschool. We grew up together, or at least got older together. We were good friends all the way through high school. I can’t say that we were best friends, because it’s simply not true, but we always got along, even when we would agree to disagree. In high school, we were part of the local FCCLA chapter, doing community service work, and traveling across the country. We went to Philadelphia, Chicago, San Diego, and Nashville, and came in as one of the top teams in the nation for the Parliamentary Procedure competition as freshmen and as seniors. Nashville was our last big adventure together, and we didn’t talk a lot after we went off to college. An occasional “Hey, how are you?” or “Happy birthday!” was the closest we really got.

Some time later, I heard that Kurtis had been diagnosed with cancer, but he fought it. With help from his wife, Liz, and his friends and family, he fought. And for a while, he won. On Tuesday night, though, after another long bout, Kurtis knew that it was time for him to say goodbye. I wish that I could be that brave, and that strong. I wish that I’d taken the time to talk to him a little more. Others knew him better, I know, but I am proud to have known him.