There is a story Spousal Unit and I like to tell. We were newlyweds, living in our cute newlywed cape cod on a cute newlywed-ish street. Almost all of those cute cape cods have been razed, replaced with McMansions. That’s another story for another time. For now, we focus on the early nineties when times were easy and houses didn’t have their own ZIP codes.
We had the best neighbors. Spousal Unit and I have been lucky that way. Everywhere we’ve lived, we’ve had superb, Lake Woebegon-esque neighbors. The women are strong, the men are good looking and all of the children are above average. The neighbors to our left were particularly so.
He was a transplant surgeon and she a physical therapist. They were easy on the eye and had lovely antique furniture. They were friendly, funny and easy-going. In other words, to my newlywed eyes, they were freaking perfect. They moved away and we lost touch, but I imagine they still are.
She had just given birth to their third child. Being the nice southern girl I am, I took a casserole to them. I wasn’t at the “I’m gonna have babies” stage of my marriage. I was at the “There’s no way in hell I’m gonna have babies” stage of my marriage. Their house smelled like baby poop and peaches. Even perfect babies’ diapers stink.
Like the nice southern girl she is, she thanked me for the casserole, then told me the story I tell to this day. Her husband had come home from work earlier that week after a day of important doctoring. He had probably transplanted a liver or two and maybe saved a life or six. He walked in to his comfortable abode to see his house in a mess, his toddlers with goopy dirty toddler faces and his wife splayed on a chair, holding the newborn. She was still in her pajamas.
As brilliant as this man is, he still didn’t have much common sense. He asked her, “What on earth have you done all day?”
I imagine that her head swiveled 360 degrees, her pupils turned red while green vomit spewed from her and she growled, “I. Kept. Your. Children. ALIVE.”
Thank heavens Spousal Unit had the benefit of hearing this story before we jumped into the procreation pool. Of course, he has asked other equally stupid questions, “How could you spend $600 at Costco?” “Don’t you think those pants are getting a little tight?” And “Does our daughter REALLY need a pony?” But he always saw the wisdom in knowing that simply keeping creatures alive is a full time job.
Right now, we are keeping a seven-year-old cat alive. In true southern tradition, I can only say, “Bless her heart.” This kitty has been at death’s door since Girl Child picked her out at the shelter seven years ago. As we were paying up at the shelter, the volunteer looked at the kitten’s gaunt body, watery eyes and mucus-covered nose. “Are you sure you want this one?” Third grade Girl Child nodded her head yes. She was in love. The volunteer shook her head and took my credit card. “We don’t give money back.”
That kitty refuses to die, despite T.O.D. proclaimed a couple of times by the World’s Best Vet. “Time of death, 1420…oh wait.” At six years old, she decided to have kidney failure right at the time of Girl Child’s final exams. I whispered into her little cat ear that she HAD to live through exams. She must have heard me incorrectly and thought I meant Girl Child’s Ph.D. dissertation and not ninth grade exams. She’s still alive. Of course we have to inject subcutaneous fluids into her four times a week, and suffer bodily harm when we give her a pill every night, but we are keeping the cat alive.
Boy Child also has the instinct to take nearly dead things and keep them alive. For instance a 1949 Packard struggles for breath in our carport. Multiple bicycles from the 30s to the 70s lean upon one another in our garage. His stereo system is a multi-generational resuscitation that would impress Dr. Frankenstein, as well as any audiophile.
And then there’s Daisy. The old girl has more rot than the FBI body farm in Knoxville. It seems as if she lists to the side a little more each day and cries rust from her windows. It will take so much more than subQ fluids to keep her alive. Those with common sense advise me to let somebody else have the project. I feel like third grade Girl Child holding a sickly kitten, advised to just go find another kitty. Like Girl Child, I clutch Daisy close to me and shake my head no.
Keeping things alive is keeping hope alive. As long as the cat has a high quality of life, commanding us to give her water from whatever facet she’s near, yelling at red fuzz balls, flipping off the other cat with her attitude and hiding from Spousal Unit when it’s Pill and SubQ time, she will remain alive.
As long as Daisy continues to hold hopes, dreams and possibilities, she, too, will remain alive. I still imagine a writing getaway. I still hope for giving food donations from her during the holidays. I still picture her parked on a beach. Spousal Unit may come home to a messy house, dog hair floating in the air and me still in my pajamas, but I will have kept the camper alive.