Decade

Noun. A period of ten years. A set, series, or group of ten.

Origin of decade: Middle English, from Middle French décade, from Late Latin decad-, decas, from Greek dekad-, dekas, from deka.

First Known Use: 15th century
My first real understanding of decade was my tenth birthday. It was only a shallow usage of decade since it wasn’t yet pluralized until my twentieth year. The third decade hurt quite a bit as I felt that youth was truly lost, but I greeted the fourth decade with renewed invigoration. I declared it the birth of my midlife crisis and the death of my misspent youth.

Decades stung again as I hit the mark of being out of high school not one, but two decades. Then it was college always a couple years behind. The second degree came a decade after the first and makes me feel just a little younger if I ignore the first stint. I finally marked a decade of work with the same company. Then two years later, marked a decade in the same department. The more things change, the more some things stay the same.

I didn’t quite make it to two decades of my life being spent in Maine as a child. I’ve surpassed the one decade mark here in California, but it will still be a while before I surpass my time in Maine and make it to two decades. After my childhood home, I moved around a lot. I’d spent so much time not going anywhere that I felt burdened by familiarity and thus constantly threw myself into disarray by upending my life and starting over multiple times.

This evening, as I looked around to make sure that everything was closed up and ready for bed, I had to sit down as I realized that in just a couple months I will come upon the 10th anniversary of living in my current location. I looked around the rooms and thought about the transitions that have happened over the last decade. The bathroom and kitchen remodels with kitchen cabinets that my grandmother and friends helped me paint. The carpet that was old when I moved in and that a whole decade more of me and the pets trampling on has not been kind. The summer I decided to paint the whole place myself. The time Fuckin’ Hipster and I turned off the breakers and replaced all the outlets under the glow of candle light. That it took me eight years before getting patio furniture. The series of furniture that has passed through my home. The Ikea furniture I got when I moved in that is miraculously still here. The friends and family who have eaten and laughed with me over that time.

So. Many. Memories.

Mostly wonderful. Some sad. I was definitely sad early on. I’d broken up with a wonderful guy. I felt guilt. Within two months, I had ear surgery to restore some of my hearing loss. It worked, but I was pretty dizzy for a few weeks. I didn’t really feel alone until a few months later when Meine Schwester moved away. I remember the pain of feeling physically isolated, although my pets were there. Mitsy would rub her head against me and give her condolences. Pablo looked at me with sorrow, though mostly wondering if I would continue to feed him. Perl has never really known what to do with emotion. Like owner, like pet. 

Now it is a decade later and all I can think is how did all that time pass with so little change? But as I reflect on it, most everything has changed. Not just my physical surroundings, but I no longer feel alone, although with Mitsy and Pablo both gone and Perl already a decade and a half old, I am dreading the sense of alone that is inevitable. The surgery I had on my ear a decade ago became useless three years ago, about the same time I learned about mortality and lost a dear friend. Some day those losses will be a decade of memories away.

And in a few more decades, I’ll reflect instead about how I keep track of time in scores now. 

Soul Cleansing

I spent almost five hours today steam cleaning my carpet. I could have hired someone to do it, but I needed the release. I needed the time with no talking, no music, no tv—nothing but my own inner thoughts. I needed to clean. I needed to purge the memory of butt-bumping a full glass of red wine. I needed to remove the images of Perl passed out on the floor, her little heart not pumping enough oxygen to keep her conscious. I needed to relive Pablo’s last night as I slept on the floor, waking any time he moved so I could hold him up so he could drink water.

I needed a chance to say goodbye again. 

New Normal

  
Today I had to make the hardest decision I’ve ever made. I euthanized Pablo. Over the last two weeks, his systems started failing. I spent the weekend sitting with him, petting him, carrying him to the bathroom and holding him up while he drank. I slept on the floor with him so I could wake when he did and help him because he could barely lift his head by this morning. So really I felt that it wasn’t much of a choice. I couldn’t watch him drag his limp body after me when I walked out of the room. I couldn’t bear to see him in so much pain.

Pablo has been an integral part of my life for more than 17 years. I said my last goodbye to Pablo this morning. It felt like I was ripping my heart out.  

Today is the beginning of my new normal. 
There is no more screaming in the morning trying to wake the deaf dog and deaf human.

There is no more announcing a poo, walking out of the bathroom indignant that I’m not already there covering it for him.

There are no litter boxes and pee pads littering the bathroom floor.

I don’t have to pick up the bathroom rug after my shower.

There is no cat hiding next to the toilet.

I can close the bathroom door without retribution.

I can leave the nightlight off in the bathroom.

There are no cat dishes on my kitchen floor.

There is no chatter as I get breakfast and dinner for my small overlord.

There is no gate keeping the dog out of the kitchen.

There is nothing constantly trying to trip me while making dinner.

There will be fewer and fewer white cat hairs on my black clothes, and couch, and bed. 

I could sleep on the other side of the bed, sit on the other side of the chair if I want.

I can keep both my arms under the covers while I sleep instead of cradling the monsters in the dark.

There is no guard cat greeting me at the front door while the deaf dog sleeps, or there to block Perl from entering the condo.

There is no warm bundle of joy lying next to me in the chair as I watch tv or stretched out on the couches on the back deck.

There is no white ball of fluff blending into my bed linens waiting for me and purring next to my head as I go to sleep.

It is too quiet. It is too clean. It is too lonely. I don’t like the new normal.

Bad UI: Key Fob

It has taken me 12 years, but today, as I walked into the parking garage, on approach of Myrtle, I took out my key fob and thought W. T. F.?!

  
Yes, my key fob is well worn. Myrtle is 12 years old. I switched between my two key fobs, but that was probably six years ago. The other is just as well fondled. Let’s ignore that.

What I do want you to notice is

1. Where the unlock button is.

2. Where the silver push button to eject the key is.

Think about it.

Wouldn’t it make sense for the unlock button to be as close as possible to the key release? When do I ever lock the car and then need the key? Every day, multiple times a day, I press the unlock button and then they key release so I can start the engine. Every day, I hold the key fob like this:

  
And then I have to flip the key around like this:

  
Note bene: I’m not a hand model.

It has taken me 12 years to realize how ridiculous this is. I might have to finally give Myrtle to Sparkles and Brother K. I don’t know how long I will be able to deal with this without going mad.

Euphoria

Went to dinner on Murphy Street with Perl and some friends tonight. I was grateful that in 63° they were willing to wear appropriate clothing so we could sit outside and the dog could join us. Perl loves Murphy Street. She paces—Perl has two states: moving and sleeping—while watching people pass. Some of the children stop and gawk. Some run over before their parents can stop them. The adults who aren’t giving her a wide berth try to steal a pet while no one is watching. I bring her a roll-up bed that she never uses and a half-eaten chew stick she leaves untouched. I fill a water bowl that I hide under my  chair—within reach of drinking, but out of reach to dump over—and pull secret salami from a stash in my purse. She watches. She jumps in hopes that someone has something to give her even better than salami, like the pepperoni she gets from Vito’s Pizza or the fresh turkey she gets at the Bean Scene, or the steak bites she gets at Lilly Macs.

Tonight when we arrived home, she lept out of the car before I could contain her and sprinted around the yard. She dashed here and she dashed there. She wasn’t fast, but even at her slower speeds I can’t catch her.

Euphoria. Pure euphoria. 

I remember this state. Mitsy the Cat did this before she passed. The heart medication made her feel better, so she would sprint around the house, doing laps. I have a feeling that Perl feels the same way on her meds. She is so much happier than she was a few months ago. Our walks are short, but in the mornings, she sprints around the house without passing out. I stand there, as I did tonight, and helplessly tell my deaf dog, “You’re going to kill yourself. Literally.”

And she will eventually. Her little heart will give out, like it did Mitsy. I hope it will be swift. And I can only hope that when it happens, she is sprinting and that the last thing she feels is euphoria.

Death

It happens to all of us. Every. Single. One. Of. Us. No one escapes it. I think about it a lot recently and wish I didn’t.

The first funeral I remember was that of my friend Zoe in 1991 when we were in high school. She had gone on a Girl Scout trip to Southern California. The bus she was on lost its breaks and fell into a ravine off the side of a mountain. She might have been carried up from the carnage by Sonny Bono that day, years before he was viciously attacked by a tree while skiing. A few people heard that a girl from Maine had died in the accident and thought it might be me because I’d applied to go on the trip as well. The funeral was closed casket. It is excruciatingly painful when the young die. Even more personally when it could have been me.

Bumpa, my maternal grandfather, passed away in 1998 after learning he had cancer. It was a rough summer. I’d had surgery and had to wear dresses for months. Meine Schwester had just gotten out of a cast and was learning she wasn’t invincible. Bumpa was our first direct family member to die. It was hard, but we had time to say goodbye. Meme has been alone for seventeen years. It was really hard on Great Grandmother who had seen her husband pass years early and then had to watch her only son go. She wasn’t particularly good at expressing herself.Family012

Great Grandma left us in 2001. She was born in 1900. She lived a long, prosperous life. However, I was under the impression for 30 years that she would die at any minute. From the time when I could first remember things, Great Grandmother had said that this would be her last Christmas because she wouldn’t be around next year. When I’d stay over at her house, I would stay awake as long as I could, listening for her breathing to make sure she didn’t die on my watch.

Since then, I’ve lost my Uncle Chris and my Aunt Laura. Nana and Grump, my paternal grandparents both passed. While I was lucky enough to have four grandparents much longer than most of my friends, Meme is the only grandparent who remains. I call her every Sunday. I’m sorry I had to move so far away from home. It is hard on her. She is 91 now and has survived the deaths of most of her friends, her grandparents, parents, sisters, aunts and uncles and cousins. Outliving friends and family can be seriously traumatic.

Two years ago, I lost my dear friend, Houda to breast cancer. We didn’t see each other often, but when we did, we had the best conversations. I learned and grew so much just by knowing her. However, the moment that remains in mind was one where nothing was said. It was about a month before she passed. I was visiting in Morocco. After a fantastic meal, we adjourned to the bedroom for a nap. There were two twin beds, one on either side of the room. Before falling asleep, we laid there, speechless. Whenever I remember Houda, I remember the knowing look in her eyes. The pain, the love, and the acceptance. I hope some day to be as strong.

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While I am the first to admit that pets are not humans and aren’t even close, I’ve had three living with me over the last seventeen years. Mitsy was the first to pass three years ago. She had survived six years of hyperthyroidism and a freak brain fungus. Her last few months, her heart was failing and she was on medication that made her feel young again. She had a heart attack in the middle of the night. The day before, she had been running around the house as if she were five years old instead of fifteen. She was happy.

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Perl seems to be the next in line. She just turned 15 in August, but she has been going down hill fast. It started with her first “episode” in May where she passed out for half a minute and I thought it was the beginning of a seizure. After a lot of time and money with the vet, and a few more episodes, it seems that her little heart is failing too. She is now on heart meds which sometimes makes her feel much better than she is and she strains herself. But all I want is for her to die happy and quickly, like Mitsy did. So when she wanted to walk the mile to pizza tonight, we did. She gorged herself on ham and pepperoni. When we got home, she wanted to keep walking, so I let her. We walked about three miles today. It was a good day. Most days have not been good lately. Every time I wake, or walk through the door, I stop and stare to see if she is breathing. She has gone deaf, so she doesn’t hear me come home. And her breathing is shallow, so it is hard to tell. Then she pops up as if to say, “I’m not dead yet” and runs around the house.

It could be weeks, it could be months, it could be a year. It probably won’t be thirty years, but it will come. Death always does. All I ask is that it is relatively painless. That is all I wish for anyone, but it hasn’t always been the case. Death seems to torture some. It is cruel.

I joke that at seventeen years old, Pablo is going to live forever. He has really bad arthritis. He overcame diabetes and my accidental insulin overdose. But even he will succumb someday. Just like all of us. Death is inescapable.

Philosophina

Recently, my friend—the ex-Mormon, mother of four, making up for lost time, high school friend of mine—has been blogging. It reminds me of me years ago. Back when I questioned everything. When I wondered why I was single. When I questioned my faith. When I was trying to find myself.

In the last few months, I’ve felt bored with myself. Now I realize why. I found myself. I am embracing my singleness. I am comfortable with my atheism, although I do love the new Pope. He rocks! But it won’t get me to go back.

I know who I am now. I’m comfortable. I’m happy. And that makes my life boring to write about. People have commented on how they have missed my ranting. But I have nothing to rant about. Although there is an election coming up, so I might have more fodder. But as far as life goes, I am content. I am no longer searching.

So it has been refreshing to read Philosofina. Andalindsia is going through all of the things that I went through years ago. I love reading her work. You should read it too. She is discovering herself, her sexuality, her spiritualism. She reminds me of me.

I will try to write again. But until then, read her work. You will enjoy it. I promise.

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