Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Ghost in the Machine

Can I just say how cool Pandora is?  I've created some cool stations, like a one of fast beats based on "Just Dance" by Lady Gaga.  I'm building another one of female calming music based on "Mercy" by Duffy.  Right now I'm listening to one that I seeded with Michael BublĂ©.  It's mostly him and Norah Jones so far, but I've heard some Sinatra and Dean Martin.   Even cooler, it's on the Blu-Ray player playing over the TV so that I'm not taking up any of the computer to play it.  (So I can still watch little videos and stuff.)

Things are... weird.  I'm still processing the death of Carol yesterday.  And today we had a memorial service at the start of our weekly chapel at work for the (now seven) murdered Pakistanis who worked for World Vision Pakistan.  They were all Muslims, mostly residents from the area where the office was.  They were working on programs that benefitted the people who lived through a major earthquake a few years ago.  Estimates were that as many as 4 million people were left homeless as a result of the quake that killed over 70,000.  The programs they were working on were devised by people in that community, a coalition of local governmental leaders and Muslim faith leaders (since the area is predominantly Muslim).  So these attackers, striking a blow against the American imperials were really dealing a blow against their fellow countrymen.  So stupid.  One woman who I think was only injured, it was her second day there.  Five of the seven were younger than me and one, my age, had a one-year-old.  He and his wife had tried for eight years before conceiving him.  We listened to an audio recording accounting the work they were doing, how the office was decorated in bright colors and how the attackers came in and shot up the place and then as they were leaving detonated a bomb that destroyed even those wonderful colors.

So death's been on my mind a lot lately.  I can't imagine what that was like there that day.  I've seen a few dead people in my life, but they've all been nicely laid out in coffins, dressed nicely and looking at peace.  I have seen people under sheets on TV, I once saw a guy on live TV ram his minivan into the back of a semi, killing himself, but you couldn't see anything.  And once after a bank robbery I saw a man dressed in body armor and a mask carrying an automatic rifle down the street in Hollywood -- while the helicopter hovered overhead -- take a shot to the head, blood spurting as he crumpled to the ground.

And then there's animals.  I've seen dead birds, all manner of roadkill, a dead dog at the end of a long blood trail (our Jr. High school bus drove on the wrong side of the road for the length of it and we all stared not realizing at first what we were looking at until we got to the dog) and I've even seen the head of a dog alone on a California freeway.  I remember my frustrated and harried mom dealing with Zachary as he was dying, putting him into a box and putting us all in the car.  I think he was gone before we made it to the vet's office.  All of that has bubbled back to the front of my brain as I've thought of the lifeless eyes of Carol and Tinsel once their life has ebbed away.  Lori says I was there for Morticia as well, but I have to honestly say I don't remember it.

But the ever-practical me has also started thinking of the more practical considerations.  I think in some ways, I've been bracing myself for Carol's death for months if not years.  I knew she was going to pass and all the messes I was cleaning up in the laundry room were never fun.  And it became even more clear once she had to start getting the pills twice a day.  I wouldn't say I resented it, but I knew things would be easier once I wasn't having to force them down her throat twice a day.  But I worried - would I be able to grieve?  Could I mourn?  Could I be empathetic?  I was relieved to learn that I could, crying several times yesterday, my face mangled up in anguish as I waited outside the vet's office for Lori and Rachel and Ben to arrive with Carol.  (I do not want to ever be videotaped in that state, it's gotta look downright horrific how twisted up my face gets.)  So in some ways, I guess I had been prepping myself for a time when she would no longer be with us.

But I also feel guilt.  Because our flock had grown so large, we didn't spent enough time with all of our pets.  That was one of the reasons we surrendered Barkley.  It was a vicious cycle.  She spent too much time cooped up in her kennel, so when we let her out, she was really full of energy, which made her hard to be around, so she'd end up nipping or jumping on you and suddenly she'd find herself back in her kennel.  We're told she ended up on a farm with a much smaller dog.  I just hope she didn't eat that other dog.

I feel guilt because Carol didn't get enough attention.  And as a younger kitten, she was also couped up, living for a year illegally in a an apartment where I hadn't told the manager I had bought a cat so she was never allowed up on windowsills and lived in the massive walk-in closet during the day when I was gone (it was bigger than my kitchen in that apartment).  And because when I got her she was so tiny that I was afraid I'd roll over on her, I never let her sleep on the bed with me when she was little so she never really learned how to do that.  Also, according to the vet, the people that had the kitten mill had probably weaned her too soon (she was probably only 3 weeks old when I bought her) and she had never learned to cover her business in the cat box, but occasionally just went elsewhere when she felt like it.

But I still remember the day I got her.  I stuck the antenna of my ridiculously large Nokia 100 (it was 1997, afterall) into the cage and she jumped for it immediately.  I carried her up against my body out of the mall instead of putting her in the box.  And halfway home, I had to pull off the road and find her because she had crawled under the seat and I was worried she was going to come out and get in the way of the pedals.  I'm gonna miss that cat.  And I'm going to do better with pets from now on.

Starting with Cash.  When I was there with Carol on Monday, I asked if we were due for anything on Cash and they looked him up and said they had no vaccination records for him.  We had used a couple of different vets since we moved here, but is it possible that between all the sickness of the other pets we somehow failed to get him his vaccinations at all?  Pure negligence.  Sometime in the next few weeks we're going to get him in for all of his shots and then schedule him for a yearly checkup.  We do that for ourselves (well, at least dental.  I'm not so good personally on regular checkups.), our children and our cars get regular oil changes.  If we aren't willing to spend the time and money to have our pets regularly checked out, then we don't deserve to have them.  It's time to start being responsible with them since they are like associate family members or something.

Anyhow, back to the practical.  So there's Carol's special food to toss because it probably wouldn't be good for Cash.  There's her stuff in the catbox (it's been almost 11 years since I've only cleaned the catbox of one cat), and there's other stuff to unwind as well.

So one other weird one.  I was playing on the Nintendo Wii tonight. We put Cash and Carol into the system when the Wii Fit Plus version came out and we could do Pet Stats.  As soon as you sign-in, we all run in (Lori, Rachel, me, Carol, Cash) and Ben crawls in.  (That was how we realized the other day just how much weight Carol had lost.)

And if you move your cursor over the cats, they meow.  They're just little avatars, you have about 16 possible combinations - 4 markings types and 4 color choices.  So there's a little all black "Cash" and a gray tabby "Carol."

Anyhow, I was doing the Island Cycling and I rode past a cat and it meowed at me.       So I pressed the button to ring the bell and Carol started running alongside me.  As I approached a flag, I rang the bell again and Cash ran ahead and tripped the flag for me.    

And it hit me.  I had planned to remove Carol from the system in the next few days.  But, what if we just left her in there?  Sure, every so often it will say "I haven't seen Carol in awhile." and that will be sad, but if we leave her in there, then we'll see her running along the track during running (she can even lead you if you run past the human trainer), and she could help us in the Island Cycling and Segway Balloon Popping game.  So in a way, a virtual version of Carol can live on.

I know that sounds a little weird, but right now, the idea is comforting.