The Cat Who Stayed

Did you know that I am part witch? My mom was a full witch, but I seem to have inherited only half of her powers.

She could make awesome parking spots suddenly appear in crowded lots. I can also make awesome parking spots appear, but my timing is off and usually the car ahead of me actually gets the spot (you're welcome!). She could change traffic lights from red to green with a twitch of her nose. For me, the trick works about fifty percent of the time.

Mom's presence always strengthened my witch powers. Together, we could make two or three parking spots open up. Together, traffic lights were always green when we needed them to be.

One of my witch tricks is that I can spot stray cats. I see them huddling in bushes or under cars. I glimpse them running in ditches, strolling through parking lots, darting across busy streets.

But my witch powers have never been strong enough to actually catch any of these stray cats. They don't know that all I want to do is help them, give them a little food, a soft place to sleep, a chance to find a forever home or to reconnect with their humans. They see me coming, and they run, slipping away into the tall grass or around a dark corner, and I am left with nothing but my good intentions.

Until now.

Meet Ruddy, the cat who stayed.
On a warm evening exactly one week after Mom died, as my cats enjoyed a fresh breeze through the screen of our deck door, I heard a long, low moan. I instantly recognized it as the kind of "greeting" my cats use with unfamiliar cats. I found Clara standing at the deck door, staring into the darkness. And sure enough, there were two glowing eyes staring back at her.

To my surprise, the cat let me approach. I picked him up. He began to purr. I carried him to the neighbor's house, knowing that they have an orange cat who often sneaks outside. I was pretty sure this cat wasn't their cat, but I had to make sure. Nope, they didn't recognize him. And this whole time, the cat stayed calmly in my arms.

We gave him some food. He hung around for awhile, weaving between our legs, jumping on our laps, letting us rub his belly. Then he went back to the screen door, where Clara was watching him closely. He must have gotten too close for her comfort, because howls and hisses split the night as the two cats threw themselves at each other, with only the screen between them. The cat quickly ran off into the darkness.

He didn't come back for two days. I figured once again, my witch powers had failed me. Or maybe, I hoped, he'd found his way back home. But Sunday evening, there he was. I held him again, and he nuzzled against my cheek, purring loudly. He nearly fell asleep in my arms.

We didn't want to expose our cats to any diseases, so we kept the cat in our garage. Meanwhile, we tried to find his owners. We checked with more neighbors. I took pictures and posted them on Facebook, Craigslist, and the Animal Humane Society. On Tuesday, we took him to a vet to check for microchip. There wasn't one. The vet verified that he was a male, about 1 or 2 years old.

Nobody came forward to claim him. But we started feeling guilty keeping him out in the garage. He had food, shelter, and a soft bed. He was safe, but he was lonely, even though we visited him as often as we could. 

We decided our best option was to provide a foster home for the cat. That way, he could get vetted and checked for diseases. If he ended up being a good fit for our family, we could adopt him. Or maybe another family would adopt him. Either way, he'd get the forever home that he deserves. 

On Friday, we contacted Mending Spirits Animal Rescue. Arrangements were made, shots were given. We named him Ruddy, in honor of my mom. (Ruddy was her maiden name.) On Monday, April 25, after a week of living in our garage, he came into our home. 

Will we keep him? To be honest, I'm torn. On one hand, we already have three cats. We had talked about getting another one this summer, but we were thinking more along the lines of a kitten. Besides, Clara, Darwin, and Zora have not been very welcoming. I haven't seen any all-out, fur-flying fights, but I've heard plenty of growls and hisses.

On the other hand, Ruddy is a sweetheart. He loves to cuddle. He's gorgeous, too, with a fluffy tail that just won't quit. 

But most importantly, he's the cat who stayed. He showed up just one week after Mom died, and he stayed. I can't help but think that Mom has something to do with all of this. 

Whatever we decide, we helped this cat. That's all I've ever wanted to do.

Thanks, Mom. 


Beware of Trump! a.k.a. And Now for Something Completely Different

Eliza created a treasure map, and she and Troy are on a quest for the treasure. They've crossed spikes, lava, and dangerous waterfalls in their search. But they must be very careful. The treasure is being guarded by the scariest monster Eliza could think of: Donald Trump.

A Closeup of Trump Guarding the Treasure

Our Intrepid Explorer

She found the treasure! (and Trump is nowhere in sight--thank goodness!

Why the Long Face?

The evening before Mom's last ambulance ride, she asked me to come over to help her get ready. I fetched washcloths, towels, tubs of warm water, and ointments for her. I helped her wash her back.

Later, my brother, my mom, and I were sitting together in the Red Room (that's what we call the little room that basically serves as the den at Mom and Dad's house--it was there in her recliner where Mom spent almost all of her time those last few weeks).

Mom ran her fingers through her hair and wondered out loud what she could do about her hair. "I don't want to scare the ambulance drivers when they come get me," she joked.

That's one thing about Mom. She was very sensitive about her hair. When chemo caused her thick, auburn hair to begin falling out, she shaved her head and bought a wig.
(See here: Being Kathy Dorn or I'm so vain, I probably think this blog is about me: No Rhyme, Some Reason: and here: Being Kathy Dorn or I'm so vain, I probably think this blog is about me: Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow.) When her hair grew back, it came in gray and curly. But more recently, it had started to thin a little. This aggravated her to no end.

My first suggestion was to go get one of the wigs she kept upstairs for the grandkids' dress-up adventures. I think this lovely purple wig is still up there in the bin. Purple has always been a good color for her.

Or, I said, what would be totally awesome would be if she had one of those realistic horse face masks. Imagine the medics coming in to find a woman with a horse's head sitting in the recliner. I got out my iPad to show her a picture of what I was talking about. Mom said she could just hear them asking her, "Why the long face, Kathy?"

We had some good laughs as we checked out other possible masks. Laughs that I'll cherish for the rest of my life.

The dinosaur: "I told you I was old!"
Rubie's Costume Co Men's Jurassic World T-Rex 3/4 Mask, Multi, One Size Rubie's http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00TO6EKFM/ref=cm_sw_r_pi_dp_2Syexb0F8CJ3G

The fish head: "My skin seems a little more scaly than usual." or "I'm having a hard time breathing."
frank the fish mask - Yahoo Search Results Yahoo Image Search Results

Or maybe the squirrel: "I'm feeling squirrely." or "Got any nuts?"

As I left that night, I made a mental note to order a mask or two. You know, for her next ambulance ride. But there was no next ambulance ride. In the end, she didn't wear a wig or a mask. She didn't really need one. 

But I'm still considering ordering some masks anyway. We could wear them in her honor at the celebration for her life. Or the next time we order a pizza. Or, you know, on an otherwise ordinary Tuesday.


Sign, Sign, Everywhere a Sign: Part 1

I'm on the lookout for little signs from Mom.

Last Friday, on our way back home from the hospital after Mom died, Dad noticed (because he always notices such things) that the price of gas was nearly 10 cents cheaper at a gas station on Madison Avenue than it was at the Kwik Trip behind Target. He drove past anyway, but then had second thoughts and went back. He's never one to pass up a good deal. After he filled up the tank and went inside to pay, he came back out with a slight smile on his face. There was a gas station attendant following close behind him. As he got back in the car, Dad said, "We got here just in time. She was just about to come out and change the price." Sure enough, the price increased right before our eyes.

Thanks, Mom, for stalling that attendant just long enough for Dad to get a good deal. Feel free to guide us to any other bargains.


You Start by Lifting Your Head Up

I went back to work today. It was an exhausting day. I held myself together until the end of the last class of the day, then the tears started flowing. 

At home, I retreated to my bed and slept for several hours. I had basically decided that I just wouldn't ever get out of bed again when Eliza came up to wake me up. She wanted me to help her find a computer game. I had to get up.

I started getting out of bed, then suddenly collapsed again. The bed covers felt so soft and cool that once again I was contemplating how I could live out the rest of my life from that spot. 

"What's wrong, Mommy?" Eliza asked.

"Oh, honey. Sometimes it's just really hard to get out of bed."

She contemplated that for a few seconds, and then very seriously said, "Well, you can start by just lifting your head up."

You're right, sweetie. I know I just need to keep lifting my head up, and eventually it will get easier to get out of bed. 

That's my plan for tomorrow morning. I'll start by lifting my head up, and see how it goes from there.


The End

Mom spent her last days at the University of Minnesota Hospital. She rode up by ambulance on a Tuesday morning. Her transplant doctor wanted to see her as soon as possible. This was the only way. Dad and I drove up separately and met her in her room, room 402 on 5C. 

Doctor after doctor came to see her that afternoon. I tried, but I couldn't keep up with everybody's names. There was the guy who came to do her bloodwork, and then her nurse, Hyen. After that came somebody to do an ultrasound on her kidney and her legs. Around 2:00, Ken came to do an EKG. She was then poked and prodded by the kidney team--two men and one woman. Brandon came to do an ultrasound of her heart. I think there was a CAT scan or some such mixed in there somewhere too. Oh, and they put in a pick line (I'm not sure if that's how you spell it) at some point too.

Then her transplant doctor, Dr. Vercellotti, arrived. "Hello, gorgeous!" he said. "I'm so glad to finally see you!" He asked her lots more questions, and then told her that he thought he could fix this.

I went home that evening with high hopes. But by the next morning, things weren't good. The stuff that Dr. V. had thought would work hadn't. Mom's kidney was failing. (She only had one kidney, because she donated her other kidney to her brother several years ago. That's another story for another time.) At this point, she told Dad that she knew she wouldn't be going home again. 

I was with her again by midmorning on Thursday, April 7. By this time, she was sleeping most of the time, getting harder and harder to wake her up. But when she was awake, she responded to people around her. She reminisced with her brother Johnny and her BFF Maryetta about some of the trouble they used to get into. 

There were more doctors and more nurses, but by this time I had given up trying to remember all of their names. Dad probably knows.

My dad made an effort to meet every single person who came into the room, from nurses to med students to attending physicians. Whenever possible, he asked them about themselves. Where did they come from? What was their specialty? How many more years of med school did they have left? How many years have they worked on this floor? How long are their shifts? Some of them, he even remembered from past visits, even when Mom had her transplant four years ago. "That's Fadumo," he'd say. "She wears the most beautiful scarves. She once told your mother where she bought them, and the next chance we got, we went to the store and got a couple for Mom." 

My dad also made an effort to thank every single person who came into the room. I was impressed by his gratitude for everything they were doing to help my mother. 

Thursday evening, my sister brought her girls to the hospital, and we had a camp-out in the family lounge. There were no couches or cots. The girls brought blankets and pillows and slept on the floor. My sister and I both started out on the floor, but eventually pushed benches and chairs together to create makeshift beds. It helped a little, but I didn't get much sleep that night.

About 5:30 in the morning, I gave up trying to sleep. Dad was up by then, so I went back to Mom's room. She was sleeping, and we took turns rubbing her arm and patting her head. Dad sang songs to her. For a little while, she seemed to be groaning a bit, so the nurse gave her some more pain reliever. After that, she was peaceful. 

I went to the cafe upstairs for breakfast. I had a very disappointing cold, rubbery breakfast sandwich. I remember "Ain't No Sunshine" was playing in the background as I forced myself to eat.

The next hour or so is a blur. A gentle snow had begun to fall. (Snow in April--that's Minnesota for you.) At some point, for some reason, I decided to walk down the hall to watch the snow fall over the river. That's where I was when Dad came running for me, saying to come quick.

That's where I was when everything changed. It was 8:30 a.m., Friday, April 8, 2016. (4/8/16--she would have liked those numbers.) As the snow fell, my mother left us. I was lost. 

How It Really Feels To Lose My Mother: a Carefully Worded Essay

Warning: The following post is not safe for work or for children. Discretion advised.


Caulk Blocked

I am surprised by the little things that set me off.

Friday night, while going to the bathroom, I noticed the disgusting, dingy caulking around my bathtub. I have been putting off fixing it for years, hoping that Mom would feel up to fixing it for me.

So much for that plan. Cue the ugly crying.

Then I thought about how my mom was a master when it came to caulk, and that my dad would probably agree with that statement.

It's a joke my mom would have appreciated.

So there I sat on the toilet, sobbing and laughing at the same time, trying to be quiet because I didn't want to wake up Kyle, nor did I want anybody to feel obligated to come console me while I was on the pot,

It wasn't a pretty picture at all.


The last conversation I had with my mom, I asked her if she was frightened. "No," she said slowly. It was very difficult for her to speak. "I'm... confounded." 

Confounded. What an interesting choice of words. The doctors and nurses had said that some of the medications she was taking could make her feel confused about what was going on. But I don't think that's what she meant. She seemed too clear, too resolute. I like to believe she meant she was confounded by this thing we call life, and this other thing we call death. Confounded. Amazed. Bewildered. 

After a few seconds, she added, "Tom is guiding me."

"Can you see him?" I asked. My heart raced. Were we having one of those Hollywood-type deathbed scenes?

"No," she said.

"Can you feel him around you?" I asked. She looked at me like I was just a little bit crazy. But then that could have been because her eyes were dry and she couldn't see very well.


"So how the hell is he guiding you, Mom?" I said, trying to lighten the mood a little. 

Mom took another deep breath and explained, "I keep thinking about how he died. So peaceful. That's how I want to go."

She got her wish. Dad was in the room with her. I had gone down the hall to watch the snow falling. Bekah was with her girls in the lounge. Chris had gone home to sleep. According to Dad, Mom took one deep breath. He waited for the next one, but he suddenly realized it wasn't coming. He called a nurse and came to get me. By the time we got back to the room, the nurse told us she was officially gone. I ran to get Bekah. We called Chris. 

The rest is a bit of a blur. I'm confounded. 

Mom and Tom


And Then a Bunch MORE Stuff Happened...

I am certain that nobody reads this blog anymore. Can't blame 'em. I haven't even checked in on it for a few years. Still, I feel like before I jump back in (again), I should somehow account for all the missing time (again). There's no way to cover everything. Here are a few highlights (and one really big lowlight, I suppose)....
  • I got a new job. I am now a paraprofessional at the middle school, the same school where Troy teaches. I am surrounded by 8th graders on a daily basis, so some of my sanity may be slipping.
  • Kyle is 11 and in the 5th grade. Next year, he'll be at the same aforementioned middle school.
  • Eliza started kindergarten. She loves school and is learning very quickly.
  • We currently have three cats, but not the same three cats we had last time I wrote. There's Zora, who really is my mom's cat but came to live with us when Mom got sick. Then there's Darwin, a black and white tuxedo cat. And finally, we've got Clara, our youngest cat, still close enough to kittenhood to be completely crazy.
Clara and Darwin

  • We took some trips to Vegas and Disney.
  • We bought a new van.
  • My mom got really sick. She died two days ago. Friday, April 8, 2016, at 8:30 in the morning. That's why I'm resurrecting this blog. I need someplace to process my feelings and share all the wonderful memories I have. I'll write more about all of this soon.

Don't worry. I don't want this place to be a total Debbie Downer place. My other reason for writing here again is to give a depository for all the new memories I am making with my family. I've enjoyed going through all my old posts and being reminded of things I had forgotten. I regret that I haven't chronicled Eliza's exploits in the same ways I did Kyle's. Now is the time to start making up for that.

The perfectionist in me needs to make this disclaimer: the posts that follow may or may not be coherent or polished. They may be random observations and off-topic ramblings. I have to give myself permission to just write without worrying whether it is perfect. You understand, right?