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Mittens Toonces Simon

Mittens Toonces Simon
a.k.a. Mitty
(1989-2007)

My kitty-cat died Friday morning.

She seemed a little “out of it” early Thursday morning, but mostly she wanted to lie around … which, honestly, wasn’t too different from her usual slackful routine, and with cooler weather arriving, I suspected she was going into “hibernation mode.” I thought perhaps she had an upset tummy or maybe needed to cough up a hairball, and that she’d be fine in a few hours. Late that night, though, she was barely moving; I knew something was seriously wrong because every time I’d check on her, she’d moved further under the twin bed back in her room.

As soon as the vet’s office opened Friday, I took her in.

Dr. Clark told me Mitty’s heart sounded OK and her tongue was good and pink. When he took her temperature, though, he found it was lower than normal. “That’s bad,” he told me, and then he checked her ears and her eyes. Her pupils were different sizes; she’d probably had a stroke, he said.

And: “She’s in some pain.”

I asked him if we could put her down. He said yes, if I was prepared to do so.

As suddenly as this all occurred, it was something I’d thought about, occasionally, now that Mitty was getting on in years. And especially a couple of years ago, right after Chico died.

I never wanted her to suffer. Ever.

Dr. Clark shaved Mitty’s left forearm (shank? forepaw?), wrapped some rubber tubing around her leg to bring up a vein and then injected her with … I think he said it was a sedative, I don’t remember, all I know is that I was rubbing her side and then, a few seconds later, I felt that her heart was no longer beating.

And immediately, I missed my kitty.

Eighteen years is a long time to spend with anyone. Or any cat. Actually, I’m not quite sure how long we were together because I can’t remember if she came to me — by way of Arkansas! — in 1989 or 1990. She was a “grown-up” kitten by then … her and her six-toed paws that resembled boxing gloves; hence the name she’d been given, Mittens. (I gave her the middle name “Toonces” as an homage to “Toonces: The Cat Who Could Drive a Car,” and “Simon” in honor of my first cat, a slightly psychotic Siamese who bit every one of my friends — except Patti — who ever came to visit!)

I had various nicknames for Mitty: Mittenski, Middon, Mitty-Mitty-Mitty-Mitty (said in a very high pitch, usually when I couldn’t find her), Middle.

She was always here with me, and she was always purring.

Unless, of course, she was sleeping.

She was a good cat.

I took that black-and-white photo of Mitty shortly after I moved into this house (October of 1990). She was sitting on the easy chair, cleaning herself, with some kind of satin-covered toy lying in front of her. I interrupted her and got what I consider to be one of my best animal portraits ever.

Here are a few more recent shots — including one of Debra, Mitty and me, taken using the self-timer on my camera (and, naturally, Mitty refused to look at the camera):

Mitty in the Window

Mitty Eating Sketti

Delra, Mitty & Me

(You might not know it to look at me, but I was COVERED by poison ivy when this picture was taken — I just didn’t know it yet!)

Needless to say, Friday was an almost unbearable day — in no small part because I had also planned to attend the visitation for Jennie Nimtz, a 34-year-old woman I met about seven years ago.

Back in 2000, I was working with Jennie’s mom, Lynn, up at RLC and found out that Jennie, who’d been born with cerebral palsy and had battled several medical issues throughout her life, had recently returned from a trip to California. She had gone out there hoping to see a taping of her favorite TV show, “ER,” and ended up getting to be ON the show!

I spent an evening with Jennie, talking about the trip and the show, and also learning about her life. She was so intelligent and enthusiastic, and I came away from that interview feeling as if I had just met someone who, despite any of the limitations she had been given, truly knew the meaning of enjoying every minute of her life.

I felt inspired, and I felt blessed to have gotten to spend time with her … and, on Friday, my eyes filled with tears when I walked into the funeral home and saw the article I’d written about her mounted and prominently displayed amongst the photos and other memorabilia.

In-between the visit to the vet’s office and work and the visitation, I had returned to my house. For the first time, ever, without my kitty being here. For some reason, I needed to hear “The Last Song” by Elton John … which, to me, is one of the saddest songs ever, but also one of the most uplifting, somehow:

The Last Song

Yesterday, you came to lift me up
As light as straw and brittle as a bird
Today, I weigh less than a shadow on the wall
Just one more whisper of a voice unheard.

Tomorrow, leave the windows open
As fear grows, please hold me in your arms
Won’t you help me if you can, to shake this anger
I need your gentle hands to keep me calm.

’Cause I never thought I’d lose
I only thought I’d win
I never dreamed I’d feel
This fire beneath my skin
I can’t believe you love me
I never thought you’d come
I guess I misjudged love
Between a father and his son.

Things we never said come together
The hidden truth no longer haunting me
Tonight, we touched on the things that were never spoken
That kind of understanding sets me free.

’Cause I never thought I’d lose
I only thought I’d win
I never dreamed I’d feel
This fire beneath my skin
I can’t believe you love me
I never thought you’d come
I guess I misjudged love
Between a father and his son.

— Elton John & Bernie Taupin

Between a father and his son … or a daughter and her mom … or parents and their child … or even a girl and her cat.

Speaking of cats:

I taught Kiddle to jump up onto my lap this morning. I think she would’ve stayed there all day if I’d let her.

Kiddle

Kiddle Comfort

The highlight of Friday was going back to the vet’s office to have Kiddle’s stitches removed. Dr. Clark said everything looked good.

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Do you ever forget what year it is? Right then, right when you’re right in the middle of it?

Ever feel like, right when you weren’t looking, someone pushed the Pause button on your life, and there you were, stuck?

Neither one of those “feelings” accurately describes what I have been feeling lately — and by “lately,” I mean, “oh, for the last three or four months (or longer)” — but, somehow, they both seem to apply. Mix in the fact that the change of seasons has already occurred (can’t you just feel the days getting shorter and shorter?) and the knowledge that winter is just around the corner (I’m sorry, Jane and Deb and everyone else with a disdain for cold weather, but it’s true!), and there you have it — and by “it” I mean “me.”

(It is all about me, still … right?!)

So, here I am, stuck in my lil’ time warp, convinced that, in the midst of it all, every once in a while, I am also experiencing something painfully similar to what my mother– and other mothers before her, and women in general long before (and after) all of them, and so on and etc., into infinity, more or less — would possibly refer to as a hot flash.

And I’m only 42.

Although, the other day (maybe yesterday?), I got to thinking about turning 43. And so far, my years as a fortysomething have never bothered me, but suddenly I was struck (stricken?) by the notion that, suddenly, 43 sounded very old. I mean, although I wouldn’t want to wish any of the years of my life away, there’s something that sounds so much better about 44 — mostly the fact that it’s a multiple of 11 — than 43.

I don’t know. I’m kinda cranky. Could be because I’m still dealing with my sinuses/allergies and my mostly screwed-up sleep patterns thanks to the congestion and the Benadryl or NyQuil or Claritin-wannabe that I’ve taken over the past two weeks. (No, I haven’t mixed or over-indulged in the medications, and I’m pretty sure I’m not dependent on any of them.) Meanwhile, I developed my mid-winter cough last week, about three months early, but I’m happy to report that it seems to be fading.

In fact, all in all, I’m happy overall … just a little out of it, I guess.

Other than that, what’s been going on?

Well, for starters, I’m looking quite forward to watching the Cubs play Arizona in the National League Division Series starting on Wednesday. Karl and I both attempted to get tickets — both of us spending 45 minutes or so in Virtual Waiting Rooms at our respective computers, hoping to get logged into the system — but we were denied. If I wanted to pony-up a couple hundred bucks, I could probably go on eBay or StubHub and get a seat for Saturday’s Game 3, which will be played at Wrigley Field, but to be perfectly honest, I can’t bear the idea of spending the weekend “on the road” (See? I told you I’ve been feeling old!) … especially when the idea of watching the game from the comfort of my couch or, better yet, viewing it on the 48-incher, sounds much more appealing.

I realize that not everyone likes baseball, but if you happen to be feeling the least bit ambivalent about which team to root for in the playoffs, I would encourage you to cheer for the Cubs. They could use all the positive energy we can muster because, let’s face it, 1908 was a long time ago … and, as I have become painfully aware, none of us is getting any younger!

In other medical news, I am pleased to report that Kiddle is doing amazingly well after having The Operation last week. I took her to Dr. Clark last Thursday — after needing three attempts to get her into the dreaded “pet taxi,” the final try leaving me with scratches all over my right forearm and a gash in my left palm — promptly at 7:30 a.m. The vet had originally said she would be ready to come home at 12:30 p.m. that day, but when we told him we also wanted to get her wormed and vaccinated, he told us he’d keep her there overnight.

Kiddle emitted a couple of mournful “meows” on the way there, but otherwise didn’t seem too upset. I picked her up at 9:30 a.m. the next day.

Diane had told me, going in, that Kiddle “might not like you anymore!” after I had crammed her into the carrier and taken her to the vet’s office (seems Patches turned against Kurt a few years back when he caught her, put her in a box and took her to the vet’s office to be treated for what turned out to be a sinus infection). However, not long after I had set the carrier on the ground and Kiddle had sprinted out of it, sure enough, she started rubbing against my legs like before.

My kitty still loves me!

(I’m supposed to take her back in a couple of weeks to have her stitches removed. We’ll see how much she loves me after that.)

In photography news, I’ve been shooting away, occasionally, but have been slacking about posting. Believe it or not, I’m still trying to get organized in ordering prints of photos from the past year or so (that’s sort of where my confusion over what year it is comes about) and am making a genuine effort to, at the very least, get some of my favorites into albums or frames.

Meanwhile, here are a few shots from the day I saw Peter Tork. I was en route to the tennis tournament later that afternoon, but a light rain was falling, so I figured the tournament was still in a weather delay. I swung by a road on the west edge of town where, the previous night, I had found some sunflowers. While I was shooting, my phone rang; it was Diane, asking me where I was (because, apparently, it wasn’t raining at the tennis courts and our match was getting ready to start) and what I was doing. I told her I was taking pictures of sunflowers, and she seemed neither impressed nor convinced that that was a very good reason to be late for a tennis match.

I, on the other hand, thought it was a perfectly understandable reason — and I’m pretty sure at least a few of you agree!

No Trespassing

3 Sunflowers

Red Ant

Kiddle

Kiddle has become my new (feline) best second-best friend (just seeing if Mittens was paying attention). Yeah, Little Kiddle’s missin’ her kittens; I can tell she’s sorta looking for them, occasionally — when she’s not rubbing against my legs or trying to trip me while I mosey around the yard. Purring all the while.

This one’s for Jill because she actually likes dragonflies … just like I do!

Dragonfly on a Stick

This is a hummingbird, silhouetted amongst the maple leaves:

Hummingbird Silhouette

(Times like these, I really wish I had a stronger lens.)

5 Kittens

The kittens are gone now. Amazingly, thankfully, we were able to find homes for all 5 of them … because, honestly, as much as we would’ve liked to have kept them: Diane already has her limit (2), and I happen to have a cat who absolutely HATES other cats (she seems to love dogs, though; go figure), so that rules out bringing another feline inside, and I live a little too close to a busy street to think all too seriously about having an “outdoor cat” of my own. Although, when The Lovely suggested I get a small doghouse and bring Kiddle and one of her kittens over here to live, I did give it a fair measure of consideration. Then I thought, again, of the street, and the poison ivy they’d be crawling through, occasionally (I’ve Roundupped most of it, but there’s still plenty that’s not dead, so I plan to spray it all again this weekend … and even though I know the cats won’t get it, I suspect I would if I wallered them the way I intended to), and decided that finding new homes for them was the best alternative.

Over the last couple of days, I’d been asking my co-workers, “Does anyone need a cat?” Because I know plenty of people want a cat (and others who don’t), but most of them aren’t going to consider getting a cat unless they’re convinced (or perhaps just reminded) that they need one.

Sheila was the first to give in. Which wasn’t surprising because she’s a little like me: Easy. She told me she’d take Blondi if it happened to be a boy. Mid-morning, I took her over to meet him (or her), and immediately, Sheila loved him (or her). In fact, she first pronounced him a “she” but then said, “She might be a boy; it’s kinda early to tell.” She was holding her (or him) the entire time, and then she found a gray-and-white kitten she liked, too.

Would she possibly consider taking 2 kittens?

“Maybe!” she said.

Later in the day, Traci heard us talking about kittens. She seemed interested, so I asked her if she needed any. “We don’t have any right now, so I’d take a couple!” she said.

“Well, you’ve got 3 boys; shouldn’t you get one for each of them?” While she pondered this, I mused, “Wait, if you take 3 kittens, and Sheila takes 1, that will leave 1 kitten all by itself. Are you sure you don’t want 4 kittens?”

Traci made the obligatory phone call to ask/tell her husband about the kittens. An hour or so later, I asked her, “What did you decide: 2 kittens? Or 3? Or 4?”

“Ah, just box them all up!” she said. (Traci, apparently, is easy, too!)

It wasn’t too difficult to say goodbye to the kittens because I had already bidden them farewell earlier in the day when I had dropped by to watch the last 3 innings of the baseball game (Cubs 2, Cardinals 1; Cubs move into first place!) — in-between taking pictures of the kittens as I, for the last time, watched them all play together.

I have discovered that the term “as playful as kittens,” while totally overused, is just about as accurate a simile as any I’ve ever heard.

I got teary-eyed when I thought about not getting to see them play together on a daily basis. I worried about Kiddle and how she would “feel” when she realized her kittens were gone. I mean, I believe they were ready — they were still nursing, but they also were able to eat everything we put in front of them (milk, wet cat food, dry cat food) — and Kiddle seemed completely famished, every time I appeared, but still: Do mama cats realize what has happened when their kittens are gone? Can they possibly understand that yes, indeed, they had done everything “right” when it came to raising their kids?

I do wonder.

Kitten & Bubbles

Kittens & Tennis Balls

Headlock

I love this next one:

Paws Raised

Pinned

Upside-Down

Kitten & Shovel

2 Kittens Eating

Kiddle & Kittens

Since I last posted, I made another shocking DIscovery: A 5TH KITTEN!

Kitten Free-For-All

Yes, as you can see, The Official Kitten Count now includes 3 gray-and-whites, 1 yellow-and-white and 1 black. I have tentatively nicknamed the yellow kitty Blondi the Brave — mostly because it’s blonde, and I altered the name ever-so-slightly in honor of my friend Mary Blondi and her family, and also because this one seems to be the bravest of the litter (or perhaps the boldest) — and the black kitty Dickey because it has a white patch on its chest, just below its chin (Mona said she prefers the nickname Tux, which is still a possibility). As for the 3 gray-and-whites: I’m tempted to go with something obvious like The 3 Stooges (“Who are these Stooges you speak of?”) or Huey, Dewey and Louie or, maybe, Tweedledum, Tweedledee and TweedleDI.

I know better than to get too attached because, soon enough, we’re going to have to let them go … but not until they’re ready and we’ve found good homes with caring humans who really really want them. (Already, one of Diane’s tennis team members has said she wants one, and Karl and Sherry said they might take a couple of them; their kidlets LOVE cats!)

In the meantime, though, I can’t help but enjoy them.

Kitty & Wheel

Blonde on Green

Gato y Gato

Kissy Face

Squeezing Through

Fuzzy

Kittens & Stairs

Nurse Kiddle

Sleeping ... Sorta

A couple of days ago, I noticed that Kiddle was hanging around the corner of the garage. So I told Diane she might want to keep an eye on the cat because she might be doing her business back there — as opposed to pooping right in the middle of the garage, as she has a couple of times (the cat, that is; not Diane).

This afternoon, Diane called me at work.

“I think Kiddle might’ve been a little smarter than we thought she was,” she said. “I saw 2 kittens back there in the corner!”

Kiddle has kittens! Who knew?!

I mean, Kiddle strayed up to us, what, about 2 months ago? Maybe a little more, I dunno. And she looked to be not that much older than a kitten herself … but, now that I think about it, she did have a somewhat oversized belly, which we simply chalked up to her not eating regular meals. Or having worms, maybe.

She never gave the slightest indication whatsoever that she was a mom!

By the time I arrived on the scene today, the “2 kittens” had increased to 3: a yellow-and-white kitten and 2 gray-and-white kittens. They looked to be about 3 or 4 weeks old — maybe older? How do you know for sure? They were taking turns nursing on Kiddle and lying in the other corner, squeezed between a cardboard box and one of those cobweb dusters.

Then we made another discovery: an all-black 4th kitten!

I managed to get a picture of 3 of them:

Kittens!

(I think I’m in love.)

So, a few weeks ago, this new cat shows up at The Lovely’s house. A couple of days later, I name her Kiddle — you know, like those “Little Kiddles” from the late-1960s/early 1970s. (I had a Little Kiddle ring with a blonde-haired Little Kiddle inside; naturally, though, I managed to lose the Little Kiddle, so I was left with this monstrous ring and nothing in it. I suspect this led to my early disdain for gaudy costume jewelry.*)

Kiddle is one of those cats who’s so ugly she’s cute. Kinda like she’s been hit by a truck or something. I adore her … except when she poops in the garage, of course.

Kiddle Panting

Kiddle Walking

Patches puts up with her, long as you make sure to put out 2 separate piles o’ food.

Patches Bathing

Patches Closeup

* — Other Di trivia: I also had a Cinderella watch with a yellow strap when I was a kid. Debra had Snow White, pink strap.

Yellow Poppy

Napping Patches

Hummingbird at Feeder

Green Dragonfly

Looks like my next-door-neighbor cat is going to be moving, after all.

I am bummed.

No one has ever been as enthused to see me as he has been. Consistently.

(OK, I know it’s mainly about the Meow Mix, but still.)

Sucks, man.

Some Philadelphia fleabane that has sprung up on its own, thanks to my back yard’s apparent inability to drain properly, and that darn cat.

Field of Fleabane

Fleabane Closeup

Carmelo & Fleabane

Carmelo & Shoe

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My Shots on Flickr

Waving

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Shed & Pump

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