The abrogation of self

stories of a self-cannabalistic mind…just another wordpress web blog

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allowing death

Posted by mneme on November 19, 2006

Tomorrow I shall let Egan die.

I wanted to write, tomorrow I shall kill Egan, for that is what feels true. Whether or not it is truth, it is horrible, it feels horrible and I am in a strange void built upon such a vast accumulation of pain that I find myself in moments almost acting normal. Of course, there is no one to witness it, but if someone were to find a window into which they could gaze and observe me, my little actions, the tone of my voice when I speak, it might appear quite normal.

But I feel far from normal. And in these days that I’ve fallen deeper into this well, and grown accustomed to the new environment, I’ve somehow separated from even the things I love. Like Egan.

I know he is suffering, well, I don’t know, that’s the problem. He presents all the signs one can give which translate the message of suffering but my empathy is off kilter. How strange I can’t feel the extent of how much his little body hurts, how his stomach curls in on itself from starvation and how cold he must always feel. I know all these things, for I’ve watched many a wild thing through the last stages of life, during this transition to death. I know the signs, when they slowly lose interest in the small acts of life, when only their favorite treats hold a slight temptation, when water becomes like dirt to swallow, when you’ve gotten so cold that you can’t even remember what warmth feels like. I know this stage well, for I’ve nursed more wild things, beloved pets and human loved ones through this stage and beyond the veil than most people will ever have to. At least, more than the fortunate ones.

But in the past, I felt it so acutely. I was hyper aware of when the breath became laboured, the stomach resists even the easiest things to digest, when the body starts to reach the point of chill that reaches down into the soul. I’ve always been able to interpret, to hear them, when that moment came that they wanted to be assisted across the bridge. I was there with them every step, and I couldn’t get away from the intensity of it no matter how I wished I could. It would follow me into haunted dreams, it would rise up and swallow me into that half-life world with them, and because of this skill, this overly acute empathy, I was a very talented nursemaid to the terminally ill. I suppose I refined it in those hours at Harriette bedside when she’d clutch me with an almost super strength and insist if I loved her, I’d be merciful and kill her, but I digress…

Yet this time, I am so removed. I see Egan. I feel his body, how the flesh hangs from the bones like it does from the ancient being only days from the grave, and I know he’s not getting enough nutrition to sustain him. I see how he crouches into corners and starts away from any movement I make toward him, how the wild instincts return as his awareness dims and he sees every shadow as threat of predator from which his body’s instincts still seek to escape. I see how he finally does know me, moves to my hand outstretched with bits of favorite treats and he sniffs them, he reaches to them, but some part of his little brain tells him it’s not worth it to continue to eat. I observe how he crowds as near to the space heater next to his cage, even when the room is over-warmed. So I know he is always cold. And I see how his brother rejects him, tries to escape his presence, as wild things do when one of their own is near death. It’s a natural instinct, but exhibited normally only when a sick member of the family is beyond hope. It’s preservation of the family, and were Egan sick with anything infectious, i would isolate him. But he’s not, so I leave him in his home.

So the signs are there. As it is, I’ve already pulled him back from the brink once. A vet gave a “guarded” prognosis, not knowing me, not knowing my connection to critters and my empahty and ability. Guarded to me gave some hope, at the time I estimated 30% or less, but still, I’ve worked with worse odds. But she had never worked with me yet and so was surprised when Egan and I appeared for our follow up visit a week later. And at that appointment I found that all his teeth are bad, not just the little front incisors, and the back molars get pointy which cause little cuts in the soft flesh of his mouth, which lead to swelling, pain and infection and make eating a torment. And as with all caviomorphs, the teeth grow continuously, so even trimming gives an extra few weeks, or an extra month at best. It cannot hold back the inevitable for long.

It’s so difficult working with exotics; very few vets have experience and there is so little common knowledge to draw upon when an illness or injury occurs. It’s not like a cat, where even unusual ailments have been seen a hundred times or so and then something, some treatment or hint of one, can be found among the annals and records. There is always some better specialist, some person with more skill or education of rare diseases to be consulted. But with exotics, with creatures that have not been fully domesticated, creatures who only have a hundred generations or less in captivity, there are very few experts at all. So each new symptom, each new ailment, is at best, a learning experiment. And each time, I am perplexed how I keep getting talked into adopting these rescues no one else will care for and finding myself swearing on all that is holy that this will be the very last time.

And at this time, for my empathy to fail me. I cannot seem to make a decision and I float in this limbo. Every night, I continue our ritual of pureeing any vegetable or fruit he might eat, knowing that anything which might tempt him isn’t the proper nutrition anyway. His species only eats grass and leaves and bark. His little kidneys can’t handle sugars or starch and his liver will fail with too much protein. But he hasn’t been able to masticate hay or grass for weeks. He picks up and chews endlessly on a small pellet of his normal diet, but upon examination, he doesn’t appear to be able to chew it enough to swallow. Of course I soak his pelleted food and create a thin gruel, but without the addition of the forbidden peanut butter or banana, he quit accepting that gruel a good 2 weeks ago. And so, with each meal I successfully tempt him to taste, I realize I am killing him in yet another way, by malnutrition, by foods which would hurt and sicken him over the long haul.

But Egan hasn’t had a long haul to worry about for a couple months now. So I quietly ignore the voice in my head which knows better, that tells me it’s ridiculous to prolong this torturous time for both of us, and I puree him peas with applesauce and move on to sweet potatoes with corn when he tires of the first.

I made a pact that this time I wouldn’t force feed him. I wouldn’t resort to SubQ fluids if he refused to drink. I would only continue this charade as long as he made attempts to eat, even if I had to hold him wrapped in a towel and touch the food to his lips several times until he became aware and lapped at it on his own. What’s strange is how some days, and even some hours within one day, he will eagerly consume food only to take a few bites and refuse anything else. And some days, some hours, almost nothing will tempt him.

And yet I cannot tell if he has reached the thresh hold, that place we all cross when the will to survive is overcome by the recognition of the release of death. At that moment, euthanizing is a mercy, and many animals have given me a sign just before they finally released, that I did help them, that I’d heard them correctly, that they had wanted to die and I simply saved them hours or days of intolerably cruel suffering. It was never easy, no, it hurt like hell no matter how much everyone realized the futility of fighting any further, but I could always feel it with them and I knew when they knew and so I could make the decision, even if I didn’t want to.

But I feel nothing and I’m caught. I feel this separateness and when he starts away from my hand, I don’t pursue him. I’ve always given the dying whatever they desired and while a few have wanted to crawl into a favorite hiding place and be alone to die, most have wanted to stay with me, to be held and sung to through the last hours or day or however long it took. And as an adult, I learned about the mercy of euthanasia, and I’ve always communicated to them I would assist them if they let me know. I was so good at that, and I always overcame my own tears and pain and listened to them.

But I don’t hear this time. I am so immersed in my own chasm of suffering, my life has become such a sinkhole of pain in so many areas and I’ve lost any will to care even for my own self, that I only feel a cold void when I try to ascertain what Egan needs, what he wants, what is best and most merciful. I feel nothing and I shrink from him like a coward and a cheat. I grow angry and short tempered when it requires several treats, when he comes to my hand but turns from anything I offer. I find I just put all the food there, on the floor next to him and I walk away in a cloud of confused non feeling. When I offer to groom his fur, now matted from neglect and wet food, I can only manage it until he first turns from me. I don’t follow or persist as I should, I simply give up and return him to his place in front of the heater. I have become as cold as the spectre which hovers near him but refuses to pounce.

I wish he’d just go in his sleep and not make me make this horrible choice for him. I wish he’d stop vacillating, one hour desperate for food the next refusing it. I wish he’d consistently decline, instead of these ups and downs, these moments of brightness where he seems his old self and feeling better only to find an hour later he’s forlorn in a corner and wild again, hiding from predators which don’t exist. And why, oh why, won’t that great predator Death just come and finish it?

Death, you damned cold spectre, how you’ve followed me my whole life. How you’ve taunted me, taken the lives around me, the people and the creatures who’ve loved me. You who’ve shown yourself as a dark cloud, a giant bird of prey and those cold, eerie green ghost hands which crawled so close to my flesh when I was only nine, but chose instead to strike my father with a strain of meningitis not seen before in this state. You, you sadistic bastard, who have rejected me time and time again, brought me to the brink with unidentifiable tropical diseases, with injuries and sun stroke in the foothills of the Himalayas, why do you so hang upon me like an over-sized cloak but never consume me? And why now, why when I call to you, for one who needs you, for one to whom you’d be a mercy, you will make me beg and crawl and seek a needle which will stop his heart!

Is that it? Is it because now I want you to take the responsibility of choice from me that you hover but will not pounce? And when will you finally come for me? Perhaps that is it, perhaps because this time I am so ravenously jealous of Egan, knowing he is hanging in the gaping maw of you, teetering so close to falling into you and that soon, no matter what I do, you will come for him, even if I have to drive him into you with a bulldozer, perhaps that is why you linger. My very jealousy of his fortune, seeing so close for him that final moment of suffering, that moment when the brain sees death is absolute and releases those endorphins and finally, completely, totally removes the pain of living and releases you into the next great adventure, is what keeps you at bay. Just at bay, just close enough for my fingertips to brush your darkened velvet coat, to feel the nap of it almost rough and still soft and deeply cold against the very tips of my fingers if I stretch with all my strength. But just slightly too far to grasp. You hover, just in that space where if I close my fingers, if I try to crook one and use it to catch upon some fold of your velvet coat, I only push you slightly further from reach. Like a small envelope on a high shelf that slips beneath your grasp as you stand tippy-toe and reach into that dark closet, I can only manage to push you just a little too far to grasp.

But I know you are there. I feel nothing else, but I feel you. And tomorrow, I shall force you to take my little Egan, I will stuff him down your throat if I must.  But I will do the choosing.  I will take his life, not knowing if he desires to release or if I steal it from him. But this will not be one of my merciful moments of empathy, for I feel none.  For the first time, I will kill and I will taste the bitterness of self hate sting the back of my mouth because I cannot discern if I feed him to you because it is his time and he wants the release, or if it is because it is me who longs to slide down your throat and into the seething blackness to be digested in the acids of eternity’s stomach.

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I would sing an aria of pain to your endearments and wiles.

Posted by mneme on November 12, 2006

I’ve already done a lot of ‘writing in the raw’ tonight, maybe something publishable will come of that writing. But D.W. suggested the kernel of my idea is more suggestive of a short short, something SciFi or the like and now I find myself faced with writing pure (or mostly) fiction verses the lands I normally dwell, creative non fiction leaning toward memoirs or analytical articles of persuasion. I haven’t written pure fiction, well not and finished it, in years.

So, the experiment, yes. An old site I’ve enjoyed once again proved to offer up an odd bit of language which felt inspriational. The Surrealist Compliment Generator gave me what you see in the title line. Now I shall try to write something, anything, which arias of pain inspire.

Ahhh, it appears this experiment shall have to hold till the morning, my officially domesticated ex-feral Tomcat has just come to drop himself at the door between the computer room and the bedroom. He chastises me for introducing him to the joys of house living, especially potent catnip and a bed with a heating blanket, and then pushing him deep into withdrawal by continually letting the dark hours seep by seated at my computer. Ahhh, he was a night owl once too. Perhaps too soft a bed has been the demise of many artist’s before???

I’ll see if the sticky juices of creation are still dripping between the grooves of my brain and stirring up in their process anything of interest still. Tomorrow then.

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But it’s okay to let the non-Christians starve?

Posted by mneme on November 10, 2006

Notes about this entry: This was a post I wrote for a local community board a few weeks back. It appears “food cupboard” is a local term for a place which offers free, staple food items to low income people, or people experiencing a temporary financial crunch. Some are organization specific, intended for the members, while others are “public” as long as you meet their guidelines.

Also, Lifeline 211, is a local phone number where people can call for a variety of referrals including poision control, suicide or abuse hotlines, emergency clothing or shelter referrals for the indigent population and, as I utilized it, for referrals to charity organizations for food. Many of these charities are sponsored, housed and/or run by volunteers from a specific church but offer services to the public.

RG&E is our local gas and electric monopoly, which I’ve recently learned is one of the highest priced energy suppliers in the nation. They’ve also adopted some very strict guidelines this past Sept. for people having problems paying their bills; the new rules mean a lot more people face having their utilities shut off this winter then ever before, even in the middle of severe weather and cold. Many people have been wondering publically whether these new rules are going to force them to choose between eating or heating in what has been forecasted to be an early onset winter with a lot more snow and much colder temperatures than we’ve experienced in a few years (basically, since the energy prices here skyrocketed).
Here’s the article:
Last week I made a very difficult decision, I contacted a food cupboard to request a little help. Now, bear in mind that the Bethesda Church food cupboard is listed both by Foodlink and Lifeline’s 211 as a food cupboard open to the public. I was advised I’d have to prove my financial need and meet conditions such as being within their territory (which is usually determined by zip codes).

Today, over a week later, I finally got a return call. If I would like to avail myself of the occasional opportunity to acquire a few extra food items, I will need to attend their church; at a minimum, I need to agree to go to church in order to be fed.

“We have conditions you must meet in order to be served. You need to prove your need, bring identification and attend our church services.

“I need to attend your church in order to receive any help from the food cupboard you listed with 211 as a public food cupboard?”

“Yes. You need to at least attend the Sunday service on the day our cupboard is open, then you can get food.”

“But to do so would conflict with my own spiritual beliefs.”

“Then you don’t qualify and we won’t help you. Goodbye.”

Now, I’m expecting someone to flame me and go into a graphic and most likely misspelled diatribe of how I deserve to starve if I’m too lazy to make money to purchase my own food. So go ahead, get your kicks, I’ll simply ignore you.

But here is my rant, how is it an act of Christian kindness to offer charity with conditions? If you’re not a Christian and not willing to consider converting then it’s okay if you starve? Are only Christians worthy of life in America?

After I recovered from my incredulousity of being denied food because I deny Christ, I become indignant. Then, I remember back and find myself standing on the other side of the line; I am the one begging to the Christians for a meal and turned away. I was once on the other side of this line. When viewed in the continuum of my life story, it’s irony befitting of the moral parables often hidden in western literature. It seems more the punch line of an evangelical bible tract or a poorly thought out parable; a grave warning the heathens of the dangers of life without Jesus. It’s like the prodigal son without the happy ending. If I weren’t feeling so depressed, the absurdity would make me laugh.

I was a Christian growing up. I saw tv commercials requesting donations to feed starving children in Africa and at 5 informed my mother I would become a millionaire so I could buy helicopters and food and go feed them myself. I came from a low income family, but we worked hard and made honest money. We believed in giving food to the homeless, taking in troubled foster kids on the weekends from St. Joseph’s and always offering help to anyone in need. I earned money selling greeting cards and making baked goods for neighbors. I worked in one family business or another from the time I was old enough to reach the mechanical stapler in the print shop, about 6 or 7 years old. My father got saved when I was about 8, and my Christian beliefs grew in furvor as I heard of opportunities to go overseas and making a difference, just as I’d always dreamed.

I spent my summer vacations going overseas with church youth groups (with money I raised all year to pay for it) as a Christian missionary. I rolled bandages in impoverished third world hospitals, helped build a church in remote village, handed out first aid supplies to the poor, taught drama, music and English to children in villages where not much other education was available, and of course, spread the love of Jesus to anyone who would listen and helped force feed it to those who didn’t care to. I wanted to make the world a better place by improving the conditions of the lives of the people in it.

I believed the Christian church and I had the same ideals; making every life we could reach better for having been touched by us. I thought they meant it when they spoke of giving your shirt to the stranger and idealized the Good Samaritan as the epitome of Christianity. By travelling and living amongst poverty I’d never imagined, I came to realize that the bodies and families of the poor needed a lot more than Jesus; they needed food, clean water, warm clothing, shelter and simple medical treatments much more gravely than they needed to have their soul saved.

Converting them to my religion became secondary to my mission, but not to the various churches which sponsored these trips. Their primary mission was to save eternal souls, then and only then, would they attention be given to the fundamental, human needs. I watched people in ragged clothing, with faces gaunt fram malnutrition and children with crippled limbs sit and listen to an hour or more of sermon, then personal evangelizing sessions, all for a single hot bowl of rice and lentils and fruit juice and clean water. I watched others turned away after a few meals because they didn’t seem to be “getting the message” and turning to God. I watched people with no other options listen to fat, healthy, happy American Christians tell them how much better their lives would be if they became a Child of God; I watched some accept, but I didn’t see a single one get a better life because of it. Against orders from the leaders, I spoke privately with many of these people and offered my mailing address to write me when I returned home. Inevitably, I got heartwrenching letters of these newly minted Christians trying to continue to believe in God after their village got hit with flood, fire or famine. No one else in my missionary groups got penpal letters and continued with their religious delusion they’d helped people get a better life, and I’d broken the rules maintaining contact and would be censored from other missions if I let it be known.

At 18 I questioned this practice. I stood up to the board of the seminary training school and voiced my belief that the withering bodies of the sick and malnourished were a more urgent a need than where the soul spent eternity. I stated I would first tend to their needs on earth regardless of whether they would listen to my proselytizing. The response? I was asked to leave seminary training and re-evaluate my commitment to God. I was informed, by several other ministries I applied to, that my radical thinking disqualified me from service. After several years, I quit applying. I was told I sought too much self glory and not the glory of god. My own church leadership said I was too mired in sin to even have the ministry of sweeping the floors after services. Then it was discovered the pastor of our church had been privately counseling the women of the church one on one, against advice of the counsel; one day, his 12 year old daughter accidentally walked in on a session and discovered the pastor doing something more than counseling. I had longed since given up on being a missionary, after this, I slowly gave up on being a Christian too.

I chose to go into public service and travel overseas as a diplomat and help people that way. I entered a community college and won a coveted position as an adult transfer student into both Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service and George Washington University’s Elliot School of International Affairs. I was offered generous scholarships but had to earn my own boarding expenses and supplies.

I took a year’s deferment at Georgetown a set a goal to work hard and save enough money. But life decided I needed to understand the less fortunate more intimately and during the months I was working to save the money for school, I lost my home to a fire, my job and my health in one strong swoop of fate.

It took me years to rebuild a life and I had to give up the deferment placement as college was now well beyond anything I could afford. Since then, I’ve worked the types of jobs open to people without a college degree; baking, restaurant help, customer service, telemarketing and others even less glamorous. I make do, I get by. I found happiness where I could and continued to educate myself on various subjects with library books and discarded textbooks I found at library book sales. People have often mistaken me for having a Masters degree or being a teacher, but without the degree behind it, the knowledge has a lot less monetary value in the job market.

Then, a couple years ago, the health issue returned with a vengeance. I’ve become too fatigued to hold even a part time job. I’ve been given Disability and told by the government I will probably not be able to work full time ever again. I’m not certain I want to accept that fate. But for the time being, I accept it in order to get the medical help I require and without which, I have no way of reclaiming a full, healthy life.

I’ve trimmed the fat to make ends meet; I’ve found other homes for pets and rarely go out to socialize. I haven’t attended the RPO or any other concert which wasn’t a gift from a friend in years. I came from a poor family; I’m amazingly adept at stretching pennies and not feeling sorry for myself because of it. I turn the heat down to 60 and wear warmer clothes. I cut wherever I can and make up for the lost luxuries with piles of books and great music borrowed from the library. However, now even quality, nutritionally dense foods are becoming a luxury. The energy surges are burgeoning prices of fruits, produce, whole grains and low fat proteins. Yet, nutritionally empty foods such as Mac and cheese, hot pockets, instant rice and potatoes and other “instant” foods are what are available to the financially challenged.

Friends suggested food cupboards, if only to supplement the staples so that I can stretch my budget and afford healthful foods. I’ve already had to succumb to assistance with medical bills as my private insurance ran out long ago, but I had always given to food cupboards, not requested help from them. This was a difficult and humbling request to make. But healthy food will enable my health to return, which may enable me to work again, climb out of the murky trenches of poverty and even contribute to society once again. It is a major stepping stone to becoming a whole person; pride has become too costly a luxury for the urban poor and I must accept that I rank among them.

But the food cupboards are run and organized by Christians. And I’m turned away because I don’t want to be evangelized by the Christians. I respect my own beliefs and theirs to some extent, to act hypocritically for a handout. I could lie and pretend to listen, pretend to share their faith or have the potential of ‘being saved’, in order to obtain the healthful food I need. But I find it disrespectful to pretend something for my own gain; it’s a type of deception I can’t stomach.

But I say to you, Bethesda Church Food cupboard, Boooo! Shame on you. What good is a fed soul with an empty, withered body to house it? Of course, demanding I become a reflection of your spiritual beliefs is much more compassionate on the eternal level. But I won’t lie to you, not even if it means I starve. And you promise me hell? Well, should I wither and die, perhaps I will find myself in the eternal hellflames where, according to you, my current suffering of hunger and illness will seem trivial. And don’t forget, in hell, I can look forward to being warm in winter without the nagging worry of how to pay the RG&E bill.

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Idealist a dirty word?

Posted by mneme on November 2, 2006

I knowI’m supposed to start with a little bit of “getting to know me” info, the whys and hows of my blog; such was the plan. But my main reason for starting this blog, as demonstrated by the current title, is simple. I am looking for a reason to live. Somewhere, somehow, in a childhood mostly cloaked in blackouts, I lost that. Before then, teachers, family and youth group leaders would look at me and speak grandly of great promise, of prodigy, of talent and abilities certain to lead to greatness. “She’s special.” So many said it I remember feeling choked with the fear of it.

I’m 37 years old. My first attempt at suicide was a few days before Thanksgiving when I was 8. Since then, except for a couple recent years just passed, I’ve lived with this gnawing, ubiquitious desire for an ending. Sometimes it’s every single day I find myself finding reasons, excuses, responsibilities which require me to exist for the next week, the next few days and sometimes, even just the next few minutes. I’ve used everything from religion, ethics, politics, family, friends and pets as reasons I need to hold on just long enough for this particular little “bout of sadness” to pass. I’ve distracted with humanitarianism, studies and learning, love, and even visions of grandiosity as a plausible reason to not give in to this ache for an end. I’ve been in therapy, I’ve been hospitalized and I’ve been medicated most of my adult life.

Sometimes, I’ll get a few weeks of respite. Occasionally, I’ve found large enough goals and causes to distract me for months. Somehow, graciously, the “Universe” gave me almost 2 years of connection and joy to beauty, art and music which gave me my first understanding since my forgotten childhood of why anyone would actually WANT to live. I was convinced I was “cured”.

I made plans, big plans and started down roads which required long journeys to completion, and it was good. I had people who believed in me and were willing to stake their own careers on that belief. I was fulfilling dreams; I wrote and published, I affected and changed the lives of people around me, and my deepest dream, performing music professionally was suddenly, tantalizingly almost in reach. It would require devoted energy, drive, work and money, but the first two I had abundantly, the working was so pleasurable as to be addictive and I was confident I’d find a way to get the last. Now that my shadow was lifted, everything seemed possible.

About 2 years ago the shadows began to return. First it was bouts, then it was periods. Somewhere, in the past 8 months, it’s become the small companion which rides on my shoulder. It haunts my dreams, making them nightmares of pain. It wakes me mornings and causes me to stay awake late into the night, knowing it gets louder when my mind stills for sleep. It speaks to me when I drive, it shouts at me when I falter, it mocks me when I stumble from exhaustion and make foolish mistakes. But mostly, it asks me why. Why do I keep fighting it? Why do I struggle?

So there it is. I’ve told bits of my life story to many people. Even I recognize that some things I’ve done and experience have bordered on fantastical. I’ve seen magic and miracles. I feel if I could break out of this black spell, I could do something that would make the world a little bit better of a place. I’m doing this because many people have told me I need to write my memoirs, I need to tell my story, that in doing that I will help others and I will finally find an answer to that little voice and it’s persistent, “Why?”.

And so I’d planned more of a prolouge, more of an introduction and slightly more upbeat way to say, “hello blogging world, here I am and this is me.” But today was one of those days that knock the last gasps of wind out of my lungs, and I need to write. I need to put a verbal tourniquet around this gaping wound or bleed out. So forgive me if I jump right in, but here goes…

Is idealist a dirty word?

 

Today has been one of those days which make me wonder why I keep fighting. They are becoming all too common; I’ve pondered, of late, do I only continue to fight because I don’t know how to not to? Is it that I know nothing else? …an odd question to be asking oneself.

Sylvester died today. The sweet cat from a few weeks ago, the rescue a gaggle of tear stained neighborhood kids begged me to save that cold night in the rain. I got a call from the adoptive family, when she mentioned she had bad news, I assumed she meant they couldn’t keep him. Disappointing, but common in rescues. I wasn’t prepared.

He had Fel. Lukemia and Feline Aids, they found him this morning in a puddle of his own urine, next to his food bowl. The small bite wound on his neck, when those children deposited him into my care, that was most likely the source of the Feline Aids and the combination of those two ravaged his immune system in under a month. He was approximately one year old.

That hurts, but it’s not the thing which torments me the most. I should have known better. I’ve been working with animals my whole life; I know better than to spend 48 hours with an animal, especially a cat whose species is notorious for hiding illness until it’s too far progressed to continue to hide it, and assume health. I remember a haunting voice, a whisper, the day I dropped him off, asking me “what the hell? This cat hasn’t been checked for Fel. Luk. and you’re putting him into a household with 3 family cats?” I presumed the new family would set up a partial quarantine, they’ve assimilated new cats into existing families before, but when they plopped him into the same room with the house cats, the warning bells went off and instead of insisting they be cautious or refusing adoption, I worried about what I’d do if I couldn’t find him a foster home. I skipped the vet check because I couldn’t find a vet who’d do it at discount and I decided, this one, I’d try to save spending the money I couldn’t afford with caution that has never proved necessary in the past. I brought a highly contagious and deadly combination of disease into a house and I didn’t do the routine check because I’ve been too exhausted, too stressed to think ahead. And when I did remember, when I knew I should stop and insist, I worried more about how I couldn’t afford a vet bill.

And my dear Tux, the feral I’ve been socializing, my godsend, my solace and my closest companion these past few weeks, is most likely infected. I’m fairly certain he is Sylvester’s father. I suspect Tux was the cat who bit Sylvester for attempting to come into his territory (my yard) for food. The entire community of ferals in this neighborhood is insular and fights which result in bites and blood are common, however, the Feline Aids was a recent infection for Sylvester and that bite was almost certainly the source of transmission. Even if Tux didn’t bit him, Tux is the patriarch and oldest feral on the block which means Tux is most likely infected. There’s no cure. The death, when it comes, is agonizing; the onset is sudden and unpredictable. He could be outwardly fine for a week, a month or even longer only to find him lethargic one evening and lying in his own wastes by morning. If the tests are positive, if he’s ill, my only humane option is Euthanasia. And preferably sooner, before he suffers.

And I have no idea where I’m going to find another $100 to get him in for the tests. Much less the fees for putting an animal down and disposing of the body, should that also prove necessary. I’ve already spent all my Christmas money and more on the degus, I dipped into the house budget and still can’t find enough for the x-rays Egan needs. How do you triage need like this, choosing who gets care based on the balance in your checkbook?

And my friends and neighbors, who took me in and offered me this apartment, they have a cat. Once, just once, Tux got into the common area and had a brief interaction with their female cat. He displayed dominance by biting her, not enough to break skin, but saliva was transmitted. That’s all it takes. If Tux is positive, my friends now have 3 months ahead waiting to see if their pet tests positive too. 3 months of pain and heartache that I brought on, in return for the favor of letting me stay here while I try to save enough money to make my move away from Rochester.

And of everyone, I should have known better. I’m the one who studies viruses. I’m the one who tracks these things. I’m the one who has worked with sick and injured animals since I was a child. I’m the one who knows the risks and was always so overly cautious, too cautious maybe, until now. I’m the one who saves animals because I can’t save myself and I brought all these people, and their pets, into my coping mechanism. I should have known better than to be doing resuce when my judgement is impaired by stress and this damn insomnia. I know better than to let money be a factor of putting other animals at risk. Even though the warning whispers in the back of my head didn’t register until late, I was the one who only feebly mentioned them, I didn’t insist. I know better but I didn’t. I didn’t know what else to do, I worried about money, I justified to myself that it’s never been necessary before and probably would be okay. I should have left Sylvester on the streets, I should have said no to those kids and never let their tears and sad faces override my common sense. And my bad decision could bring death to 3 homes. No one else is blaming me, everyone tells me it’s not my fault. That makes it worse, because I know it is.

When I was about 5 years old I saw a charity fundraiser on tv for children in a famine in Africa with hunger bloated bellies and flies crawling around their crusty noses and those bulging staring eyes devoid of tears from crying for a mother long dead. When my mother found me balled up in my room crying furious tears, I raged that I would grow up and be a millionaire so I could send money to the charities which brought them food and medicine. She tried to comfort me and explain that charities spent too much on tv ads and staff to help them, I rallied and told her I’d buy my own helicopters and fill them with food and fly it there myself. She tried to explain that war and soldiers in corrupt governements stole food and would steal it from me. Furious, I told her I’d buy the stupid goverment then too.

Finally, she relented, she realized I was too young, too naive to learn the lesson that one person couldn’t save the world. She probably assumed life would teach it to me soon enough. Even though we’d have that battle many more times in my life, and I’d win, when I wanted to do missionary work overseas in my teenage years.. and we’d have it, and she’d win, in my early 20’s when a relief organization requested I train and serve as their bush pilot, delievering medical supplies to remote villages in Central and South America, I didn’t learn. I’ve lost the battle with several aide organizations who demanded I spread their spiritual or political memes ahead of compassion at threat of expulsion; I always left voluntarily with a burning conviction that somewhere in this world, some organization would want to help just for the sake of helping. Many people would utter “idealist” in my direction as though it were an ugly expletive; I’d hide the hurt and how it made me indignant but my contempt and pity for their callous, self serving nature, that was harder to hide.

Many people have tried, unsuccessfully, to get that message through my thick and obstinate skull;
“Christina, you can’t change things. You let it bother you too much. Grow up, you can’t save the world.”

Today, I think it’s time I listen.

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Hello world!

Posted by mneme on November 1, 2006

Please forgive any clumsiness, I’m a neophyte blogger.  For the moment, I’m getting the lay of the land.  Once I am able to stand a wee bit steadier, I’ll write a proper introduction.  Anyone with suggestions to this world of blogging please step up to the podium;  I feel a bit as though I’ve stumbled down a rabbit hole.

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