Saturday, July 26, 2014

Our Biggest Issue

Boris, in his comfy chair
Last weekend, amidst all the turmoil in this world, Boris--our beloved little 18 year old cat--died. We woke up early last Saturday morning, fully expecting to be greeted by Boris's usual "where's my breakfast?" meows, followed by him ignoring our dogs while boldly drinking from their water bowl, and then sauntering over to his comfy brown chair for a nap. Instead, we awoke to find him lethargic, confused, and very weak. Thinking Boris might have suffered a stroke, we immediately took him to the vet. The news wasn't reassuring. Although Boris hadn't had a stroke, he was severely dehydrated; his labwork revealed that he was in renal failure. The vet recommended a trial of intravenous hydration. Feeling this was a reasonable course of action, and knowing that either Boris would respond or he wouldn't, we left Little Buddy in the doctor's capable hands.

Ria's peach pancakes=pure comfort
Funked out and in dire need of some comforting familiarity, Spartacus and I hit Ria's, our usual Saturday morning breakfast spot. In between talking about Boris and guzzling strong coffee, we discussed a conversation I was involved in on Blog Catalog (BC). BC is a worldwide blogging community with an active discussion forum. I've befriended people from all over the world there, several of whom are kindred spirits that I'd love to meet in person someday. I've shared some of the most intimate details of my life on BC, things that most people don't know about me. The topics of discussion are endless. We talk about our blogs, personal lives, culture, nature, religion, politics, philosophy, history, technology, art, poetry, music, pets, travel, name it. Occasionally, the discussions get heated or trolls stop by to visit, but fortunately, the forum moderates itself pretty well. In my three years of involvement on BC, I've learned a tremendous amount about communication, how to talk open-mindedly with other people about complex or emotionally charged issues and perhaps most importantly, how not to take things too personally or myself too seriously.  

Anyhow, back to the discussion. It was centered on the observation that no one on the forum was talking about the current turmoil in the world, namely the bombing of that Malaysian Air passenger plane over the Ukraine or the Israeli-Palestine conflict in Gaza, the question being whether this lack of interest was an isolated phenomenon or reflective of society at large. In other words, were the world's big issues somehow less significant than our personal lives? Shouldn't we be more focused on things bigger than ourselves?

Visiting with Boris
Later that afternoon, we visited Boris at the vet. A tech brought him into the visitation room, swaddled in a wooly green blanket. He didn't seem seem bothered by the IV line above his paw. He meowed in recognition when he saw us, and we took that as a sign he was responding favorably to the hydration. He surprised us by wriggling out of his blanket to explore the room. I took lots of pictures of him and Spartacus. It was a very good 45 minutes. Feeling somewhat reassured, we went out for dinner, both of us thinking Boris would be coming home the next day.

At 7 o'clock the next morning, the vet called. Boris's condition had deteriorated overnight and he was now minimally responsive. He wasn't going to make it. We jumped out of bed and headed over there, hoping that Boris could hang on long enough for us to cuddle him one last time before saying goodbye. 

Anguish and letting go
They brought him out, wrapped in the same green blanket, but this time he looked terrible. Ragged. Worn out. Breathing hard with his mouth wide open. It was awful. Spartacus and I both wept inconsolably. Even though Boris was very old and we knew this day would eventually come, we still weren't prepared for it. What a profound experience it was to cradle this majestic, fiercely independent living creature who'd brought so much joy into our lives as he breathed his last few breaths. Boris lived a good life and died a gentle death. I'm grateful that he didn't suffer through a prolonged, painful illness and that we were able to comfort him in his final moments. 

I'll be honest. The only big issues in my life concern the people (and pets) I know and love. I am much more interested in sharing experiences and connecting with other people than worrying about what's going on in the world. That doesn't mean I deem war and suffering as insignificant or that I lack compassion. It means I understand that the only control I have is over myself and my own actions in life. Kind of like that old TV commercial which went something like, "We don't want to change the world, we just want to change your oil." Being an agent of change isn't about changing other people anyway. We're all constantly changing the world through our own spheres of interaction and influence, just by being here and living life. Nearly all of the problems in the world result from fear generated by people minding other people's business instead of tending to their own. Human behavior hasn't really changed much throughout the millennia. There has always been war, hatred, famine, torture, and poverty. It's just that now there's no escaping the nosy neighbor media. 24/7, it's there in your face, like Gladys Kravitz on steroids. As long as people concern themselves with what everyone else should be doing, instead of focusing on doing what good they can in their own lives, there will be fear and judgment and conflict and injustice.

L-->R: Me, Nick, Jim, & Rory
Monday, the day after Boris died, was my sons' 24th birthday. Back in May, Nick bagged his first wild turkey on a hunting trip with his dad, Jim. This was the first time Nick had hunted since high school, and his birthday wish was for us to have Thanksgiving in July with roast wild turkey and all the trimmings. By us, I mean his twin brother, Rory, Jim and his girlfriend, Glenda, his friends, Chad and Tiberius Funk, Spartacus, and me. Quite a crowd, huh? Coincidentally, Nick's been struggling with a lung infection that hasn't responded to oral antibiotics, pretty typical for someone with cystic fibrosis. So, on Monday, while I was baking birthday cake and roasting his gorgeous 15 pound bird, Nick was at Emory, getting a special catheter placed in his arm for a couple weeks' worth of home intravenous antibiotic therapy. Such is life. That evening, amidst all the turmoil in the world, Nick and Rory celebrated their birthday, surrounded by family and friends whose only goal was to thoroughly enjoy ourselves and each other, our biggest issue being whether or not to have a tiny sliver or a bigass slice of German chocolate cake.