Salute to General Phaelen

Salute to General Phaelen

It was small and colorful and spikey. It ran across the floor as one big poof ball. She was cute and immediately found a place in my heart.

phaelen-spike

Spike

Her first trip to the vet informed me that she was not 8 weeks as I had been told when I rescued her, but probably closer to 4 or maybe 6.

It would take me almost 2 weeks to get the name Spike off the list. Lucky for her (or me), I waited til she showed her true colors.

The caterwauling would come from all parts of the apartment. Not the cute mewling new kittens do, but high pitch gut wrenching caterwauling. There was no rhyme or reason for it, but every time I would go running to make sure she was ok — after all her sister was a couple months older than her and Sneakers was probably trying to kill or maim the calico runt.

Luckily for the runt, the apartment was small and I could rescue her quickly. The problem was, she didn’t need rescuing — like ever.

Like all sibling rivalry — she’s touching me — took on a whole new meaning. I threatened to name her Wolf if she kept screaming for no reason.

One day, amid the most horrendous screaming a tiny spikey runt could utter, I ran into the bedroom only to find the calico on the bed on one side of the room and the small gray kitten on the floor on the other side of the room.

Sneakers is picking on me

Sneakers is picking on me

I looked at Sneakers sitting calmly on the floor and she looked at me like, “What? I’m just trying to figure out what the problem is myself?”

Well, needless to say Wolf stuck — sort of. I didn’t actually care to name her so obviously and I like unique names. A friend of mine told me that Phaelen was Gaelic for Wolf. And that is how the runt came to be named.

Over time her spikey hair grew out enough to lay flat so I was happy that I had not chosen Spike. Think of all the explaining I would have to do with Spike.

For the next 20 plus years she would be a part of my life. She would snuggle in bed, walk the banister railing of the loft (22 feet over the living room), balk at being tossed into 4 feet high snow, and literally climb the brick wall to come back inside.

Yeah, she wasn’t much of an outdoor cat. People, couches, and beds, that was her thing. Oh, and trash. She was a foodie from the git go. Maybe it had something to do with being abandoned by her mom pretty much from birth.

I learned to lock up the trash early on since she was fond of getting into the trash can — which almost resulted in her being thrown out — to eat whatever left overs she could find.

Years later, Toby (Golden Retriever) found a soul mate in Phaelen. They would often collaborate on the best way to get into the trash for tidbits. I never could tell who was the instigator and who was along for the ride, but they were foodies at heart.

PCS (permanent Change of Station) orders came down early in 2015 and Texas became our new home. It was during this acclimation period that I made friends who picked up on my military vernacular. After some recon missions the WTF Unit was formed. As the rank and file fell into place, Phaelen became the General due to her vast field experience. She lead her rag tag band into several recon missions and reaped the rewards of chicken bits, cat nip, and salmon.

Phaelen Recon

Phaelen Recon

Up until 6 months ago she was a healthy and sturdy cat. Slowly her body started to give out. Like most people, high blood pressure, hearing problems, eye problems tipped the scales and she started to show her age.

Phaelen Aim High

Phaelen Aim High

One thing always remained constant: food.

If salmon is present watch you limbs…anything between her and salmon and you would be bringing back a stub.

She helped me cope with life when I first rescued her and she made me calm as we grew older together.

In the last few years she helped me again cope with life. It was nice to come home to someone, to feel her small warm runt body curl in my lap or lay on the pillow next to mine purring. It was great to be needed and wanted and loved unconditionally when I was at some of my lowest points in life.

A few weeks ago entered the Foodie Free For All stage. She was not supposed to have salmon or tuna because of her failing organs. As life has it for all of us, there comes a point where it doesn’t matter. All you need is substance and it doesn’t matter if it’s good or bad.

Good night my sweet girl — I love you and will miss you, you will never be forgotten.

Salute!

Phaelen Portrait

Happy Birthday 23

Dad Merchant MarineMy father would have been 93 today — had he lived. He was born after the first world war, but before the second. He started out life with 23 and ended it the same way.

He was named after George Washington because they were both born on February 23. My father however, despite all the teasing of being born in the 1700’s was actually born in 1923.

2/23/23 — see the pattern?

At the end of his life, I moved him into an Independent Care facility. The room they put him in was 223. You can’t help but chuckle over that.

My father was not an easy man to love, for a lot of reasons. He was a quiet man with bouts of anger. I think mostly, in hindsight, it was easier to be angry than ask for help, to show vulnerability.

He could charm the ladies and tell a tall tale without a hint of a smile or a glimmer in his eye. His laugh was deep and contagious.

He liked to be alone, but not out of touch. Fox News ran 24/7 in his place, up to and including his death.

He liked football, he loved the ocean, and remained loyal to the Navy.

He was my dad and today is his birthday. Happy birthday day. I miss you.

Creating a Writer

It wasn’t until I stood up at my mom’s service to speak, something I was not planning on doing, by the way, that I realized something.

It took ten years for my mother to pass as she had predicted, she followed in her mother’s footsteps – exactly. Ten years of misunderstandings, of bitterness, of laughs, of love, of drinking.

It was after the slow death occurred that family from around the country came. It was the confrontation of the past that allowed memories to form and connect that the realization came, that the writer found a home.

You see, through no fault of the humanity called family it occurred to me that my mother gave me the greatest gift of all time.

As I listened to the eulogy given my brother, followed by a speech from my stepfather and then a reading of my mom’s poetry by my sister, that I felt I should speak. After all I was the oldest child. I should say something right?

It was not what I wanted to do, it was not something I had prepared to do.

While public speaking does not bother me, it is something I have to prepare or outline, at least in my head. I can write gangbusters and spin tales like nobody’s business, but speaking eloquently on the spur of the moment is not my forte.

As I stood there and all words fled my mind, leaving my tongue and throat dry, I wondered what made me stand, why did I walk to the front of the room to look at all these people.

I frowned briefly before explaining that my mom and I never talked much, especially while growing up. I left out the part of her changing from a happy and fairly social person to one that harbored resentment and anger at the slightest misstep due to her celebrating daily in champagne. I told how I had issues talking to people, for asking for help. I struggled with finding the correct words at the right time.

I started writing things down and left them on the corner of my bureau before leaving for school. It wasn’t like I was asking for an answer or trying to take the chicken way out, so I was surprised when I returned home to find that someone had left an answer.

It may not have been proper way, but I was spurred on by a response. It became a daily habit after that. I would write something, leave it in the morning and by late afternoon a reply would follow my words.

They weren’t always complaints or great thoughts of wisdom, but they were words of encouragement and advice. It gave me the time I needed to formulate my thoughts and express myself eloquently when I lacked the quickness of mind to find the right words in the heat of the moment.

The letters went on for months and it taught me to write…it taught me to be creative.

One of my few regrets is not having the maturity of knowing I should have kept those written conversations. Those precious mementos of childhood, of a mother-daughter connection.

In the end my mom gave me the greatest gift: she created a writer.

Letting Go

I’ve never been a big proponent of letting go. I’m not good at saying goodbye. Mainly because I’m afraid to let something go that I want…or need…or may need again…or I love unconditionally even when that love is not returned.

For the most part, despite all the trauma/drama of my younger years, I don’t think of my life as horrible. Even the “bad” things have a place and have made me stronger. Yet, I still have issues letting go.

My family, small as it is, and I are not close. I wonder if we ever were. It’s not that we don’t love each other in a distant respectful, well we have to cause we’re family, kind of way…it’s just we are different people.

As diverse, and as old, and as old fashion as my father and grandfather were, they both accepted me for who I am. There was no coming out speech, no loud arguments. I was just who I was and lived my life and introduced my girlfriend at the time like it was no big deal.

That didn’t mean my father and I agreed on anything. I remember one argument as a child where if he said the sky was blue I would say it was green. We were just two different people from two vastly different generations.  Dad Merchant Marine

He grew up in the depression; I grew up in the economy boom. He thought white males were supreme; I thought everyone was on equal footing. He grew up in the Appalachians; I grew up in the burbs.

I wanted for nothing growing up while he struggled to stay alive and make his way in the world. We rarely saw eye to eye on anything.

I often wondered why, but at the end of the day, we were just two different people.

We weren’t close as father and daughter should be. He was mostly a negative person, and I’m a realist with bouts of optimism thrown in to drive him crazy.

Toward the end of his life, I did my best to take care of him, despite the fact that we probably had not talked much or seen each other in many years. Holiday visits mostly. Sporadic talk about politics which digressed in the ultimate arguments. The best conversations were after football season started. Rabid Eagles fans the both of us; yet even that could turn into an argument if I didn’t agree about the current quarterback.

I moved him closer, not to live with me – the trial run of that was a dismal failure of epic portions – but closer with staff to help him and me. My sanity was preserved and I was obligated to visit him more often. The arguments popped up like hot fires. It depended on the Fox News cycle spin of the day, his opinion of it, and how patient I was.

In the beginning I treated him like I always did – argumentatively. Somewhere along the line I logically figured out I was debating with a man who had dementia. What was the point? Would he remember? Even if he did, what was the point?

I learned, through clenched teeth, to agree with him. It didn’t matter that he was mixing past memories with new ones, or that what he remembered was just plain historically wrong. I agreed with it all which ran counter to my understanding of what was accurate. It was one of the hardest things I did, agree with things not right.

Through it all, I saw and talked with him more in the last two years of his life than I had in the previous ten years. I learned more than I thought about him and from him. But to say we were close is not ever going to be accurate. I think that’s what surprised me most on my trip to his favorite city.

I lay in Texas preparing to drive the eight hours to New Orleans. I couldn’t move, I couldn’t breathe. My father’s ashes lay on the counter not far from me. I had carried a part of him from the east coast to Midwest to the tune of When the Saints Go Marching In. It pounded in my head and strangled me, making me more immobile than anything I had ever experienced.

I couldn’t let go of a man I barely knew. I was an orphan when most of my friends still had both parents and in some cases, grandparents to keep them together.

My father was not an easy man to love, but he tried in the best way he knew how despite the fact that I think deep down he was happier to be a loner. The exact opposite of what I ever longed to be.

The trek was not easy and if it wasn’t for synchronicity, I’m positive I’d still be laying in that room in Texas. Despite a few panic attacks, random conversational distractions, and the surrealness of it all, I managed to take one tiny step toward letting go.

I had it easy when mom passed. The resting places that mom wanted fell mostly to my sister helped along with my uncle and aunt.

The last journey with my father was by far the hardest thing I had to do, but for a change, I not only got the last word, but I also got no argument.

The Beginning of the End

2015 is nearing the end. Little bells of doom are popping up with each step toward Christmas. The death knell is being heralded by every store front Santa.

This year seems different from the rest. It is unseasonably warm across the country, no sign of snow, no jack frost nipping at your nose. No, this year we are in shorts and laying about at the beach — in December.

This holiday season is filled with a lot of mixed emotions. It was a year of firsts for me from beginning to end — stops and starts.

I’ve worked hard at not becoming melancholy in the last couple of months and have mostly succeeded. The warm weather has helped greatly in not feeling like Christmas. So Christmas pasts are doing just that — staying in the past.

I have kept busy and enjoyed the parties and social scene that I have created for myself. A last minute invite has me going to Connecticut for Christmas proper. I think a white Christmas would be fun, but not sure mother nature has that in store for us. 60? in New England in December?

Well, I was looking for warmer climes so I guess the universe is cooperating on a big scale no matter where I go to ring in the last of 2015.

I haven’t spent Christmas in New England since before my grandmother passed away. The last time we were there I was not even a teen. The walls of snow were taller than me. We mucked around is snow boots and parkas. My grandmother’s house was too warm.

We put together puzzles, ate too much food, and had the required family meltdown in the middle of the trip.

I cried all the way home from the moment we left my grandmother’s driveway until we entered our home in south Jersey hours later.

I know this trip will be vastly different in every aspect, but I am looking forward to every minute of it. From the plane ride out there, to visiting family, to remincing over past Christmases.

Who knows, maybe Santa will grant me my one gift of a White Christmas — or a heat wave from Mister Heat Miser.

Anyway way you shake it, it shall be a grand way to spend Christmas before my seeds sprout in the new year!

I’ve felt on the verge of everything and nothing for all of 2015 that finally, 2016 holds promises of seeds ready to bloom. I can’t wait to see what kinds of flowers and colors await me.

I hope that you and yours get everything your heart desires and Santa is good to you. Merry Christmas!