Coming Back

For those keeping score at home, yes, I’ve been gone for about a week.

I blame the usual suspects: nothing to say, no desire to say it, a complete giving over to the desire to become a blob in a comfy chair at home and appreciate the American dream of total laziness.

You’d think it wasn’t that hard, writing a blog here every day. I mean, it’s basically just opening up the brain and letting something I’ve thought about, seen, read, heard, eaten or cooked just fall right out into a field on a screen which then gets formatted and presented to you in the nice prettified presentation.

I try to view writing this as an exercise and duty, all at the same time: an exercise in creativity, proving to the world that I can indeed crank out beautiful prose or meaningful nuanced thoughts that all can consume and appreciate. But it’s a duty because I want to try to fill your head with all the crap I can five days a week…

Ah, well. It is what it is. There are something like three of you who read this on a regular basis, and the screaming doesn’t increase or decrease if I miss a day. Or two. Or a week.

But I had something to say this time. Besides lamenting my horrible skill at keeping up with a blog that I often wish was bigger and better than it is.

It’s funny how things work sometimes, memories or references to souls long gone popping up without reason at odd times. Today the memory of Pippin came back to me a couple of times already in totally unrelated ways: one was the weekly visit to another blog I read, by James Lileks, whose 19-year-old dog passed away last week. And the other just comparing how our current cats sit to how Pippin would sit.

It’s weird how those things just start the dominoes tumbling, recalling the disinterested, regal stature of Pippin, and then one of her predecessors, Katushka, both of whom were probably either reincarnated queens, or truly felt they deserved everything that came to them in that life and more.

Etta could have that stature, but she’s still just a kitten at heart who desires attention completely on her terms: doing figure-eights around Jenni’s feet as she’s doing her hair and makeup in the morning, or following me around incessantly after dinner, yet not usually spending much more than 20-30 minutes on my lap. She just stays somewhere she can keep an eye on me or sleep nearby, as if she just needs to know for sure that the day is over when I head to bed.

Pippin could spend hours on my lap, even as a kitten, purring and kneading and sleeping the day away if necessary. I don’t know if that was just her, or if it was born from sitting on my lap during the countless hours of pre-law or economics paper writing during college. I’d like to think it was just her, but I think it’s both: Etta sits just a few feet behind my desk chair or just under it when I’m in my dean, and she’ll follow me whenever I leave the room. Again, just keeping me in sight.

But I read Lileks’ blog entry from last week, relating the long slow decline of the family dog, and the decision to put him down because life was becoming such an uncomfortable struggle for him.

And I cried.

I wrestled with that decision with Pippin–everything just seemed to abruptly but quietly shut down for her. And her last few days were spent sleeping, drinking very little, and drifting in and out of a haze of consciousness. She’d been there every day for 21 years. And for those last few, I felt horrible because I couldn’t really do anything for her except watch her fade away.

As you advance through life, more and more of it is just memory, packed into your head. Joys, sorrows, regrets, friendships, loves, and feelings, all stacked up as vignettes that only come back when prodded by some event that ever so briefly passes through your life. It’s interesting, though, that even with the memories that hurt or make us sad, we still strive to build more memories that add to that feeling of wholeness we have as we grow as a person.

Etta’s a different cat than Pippin, though there are some similarities. Gus is totally not like any cat I’ve ever had. And yet, I enjoy my life with them. Just as I did with Tito, and Pippin, and Katushka. All of that experience and feeling just keeps coming back. Because that’s what memory is.

See you tomorrow.