Rusty Girl

It’s been two weeks ago today, Sunday, two days after Christmas, that we took Rusty girl to emergency vet.

Rusty and Dusty arrived with their mother after being dumped up here just after we moved in.

Dusty, Rusty and Chloe, 10 years ago

Dusty, Rusty and Chloe, 10 years ago

Chloe actually had three kittens. The third kitten was part Siamese. He was probably a Seal or chocolate point if you’re familiar with the breed. He looked all Siamese except that the tip of his tail was white. He was so different from Rusty and Dusty. They were partially feral but he wasn’t. He was so friendly and they were so shy. I am a “cat” person and wanted to keep all but we were able to find him a home. We went through years and years of animals being dumped and finding homes for them. It was mostly dogs rather than cats but we did have some cats.

Last summer Rusty had a persistent cough so we took her to the vet. She had not been to the vets in ten years, when they first showed up. She got her first and last set of shots then. I felt like when we took her last summer the vet just threw it off as allergies. He could have done a blood test, but he didn’t.

rusty lying

Rusty was such a sweet, shy, timid girl who wouldn’t hurt a fly. She and Dusty wanted to come in but were afraid. I felt sorry for them having to be outdoor cats. I fed them daily and watched over them for ten years.

rusty and dusty

Two weeks ago today Rusty, who I knew wasn’t well, had come around to the front porch and jumped on the railing that morning. I told Mark I didn’t see how she had the strength to jump that high and far. Something about her told me it was time to take her to the vet.

After the summer event at the vets I decided to go to another veterinarian. She diagnosed Rusty with Feline HIV. I couldn’t believe it. Where we live most of the cats are mine and the others are so far away I couldn’t figure out how she could have been infected. The likely culprits, Smokey and Sylvester, both tested negative. We have to test Chloe and Dusty next, but I doubt that they are infected.

The poor, little thing had a temperature about 10 degrees below normal and her breathing was labored. The vet said there was no hope for her, so of course I agreed to put her to sleep. I know she was in pain. So I did. I guess she’s in “kitty heaven” now. We buried her in the yard close to the cat house where she stayed so much.

Rusty on her house

Rusty on her house

I feel so sorry for Dusty now being alone, so I’m constantly going to see him and comforting him, trying to get him to come in. I hope by the time we move he will be coming in and giving Sylvester and Smokey hell for all the crap they did to the both of them for the past seven or eight years!

Smokey, not chasing Rusty and Dusty for a change

Smokey, not chasing Rusty and Dusty for a change

She was precious. I miss her.

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Rusty and her mom

Rusty and her mom

One of her protected perches

One of her protected perches

Rusty, finding shade in the early days

Rusty, finding shade in the early days

Monster in the attic

My brother and I found this note stashed away among pictures and documents that my mother had saved. It’s from my mother to my father, who was called Vaughan, his and my middle name, by family.

notetovaughan2

It’s a little hard to read, so here’s what my mother wrote:

“Vaughan

We have something in the cabinet over the stove or in the attic or in the vent pipe. It sounds big.”

Then, after the drawing of some kind of sharp-toothed and –clawed animal with a yawning mouth, my father replied:

“You think I’m going in the attic if it sounds like that?”

This note was from some time in the 1970’s I think. It was written on a little pad from the Celanese plant where my mother worked. I remember the incident; it was a mouse that had somehow fallen into the stud cavity in the kitchen wall and was unable to get out. We first heard it, then smelled it after it died. I fished it out after it became mummified.

I also remember adding the “something” in the drawing.

I don’t know exactly why my mother saved the little note along with so many other more understandable things, but I’m glad she did.

Sisyphus had it easy in my opinion

I haven’t been working on my tree-cutting/path-building project for the last few days because a completely unrelated project jumped to the front of the priority list. The real estate agent has found a buyer for the house my brother and I have had on the market since my mother died last year. We had done some cleanup but had left a lot of stuff in the house for two main reasons. The first is that we wanted it to look lived in. The second is that we are procrastinators. The buyers want to move in on April 15, so now we can’t procrastinate any longer.

We actually got a reprieve. The buyers originally wanted to move in on April 1.

My brother and I have been making trips to the house every so often. It’s easier for me than for him because he lives more than an hour away in Chattanooga.

My father, who died back in 2000, was a collector of stuff. It’s really hard to categorize a lot of it any more narrowly than that. He had a lot of tools, including some that look like they were designed sometime around the turn of the last century. He also liked to get power tools. Among the tools he bought was a stand-mounted drill press. It’s about as tall as I am. Its height is appropriate, because it weighs about what I weigh, too.

Now the Parises seem to have a thing for living on hills. My wife and I live on a hill, my brother lives on a hill, and so did my parents. Unfortunately, my father’s workshop is halfway down the hill from the front of their lot.

My father’s drill press is not only heavy, but also awkward to handle. It’s extremely top heavy, with a big electric motor mounted to the top. I had a hand truck, but when I tried to strap the drill press to it, it was so top heavy I couldn’t keep it upright. I had to take the cast iron base off and carry it upside down on the hand truck.

The next problem was that the ground is covered with a layer of dead leaves and pine straw, which makes for poor footing. There are also a couple of sets of steps my father built from concrete blocks. Did I mention that this thing is heavy? Well, it is, even with the cast iron base removed. I was not at all sure I was going to be able to make up to the front of the yard.

Suffice it to say, I got the thing all the way up into the carport, and here it is, still upside down.

The drill press in the carport, with stuff

The drill press in the carport, with stuff

My brother and his wife came down Saturday and we worked for a while going through other stuff. The hospital bill from my brother’s birth in 1947 (it was under $75, with a room rate of $7 a day). My mother’s high school diploma. Letters from my father to my mother before they were married. A nice note from my mother’s high school glee club instructor. The admission pass for a Civil Service exam my father took right out of high school. A box full of cameras. A set of notebooks with my mother’s budgets from right after the war. All the things people save for their children to go through after they die. Maybe I’ll write about a few of them later.

Letting go

folding chair

I go over to check on my mother’s house every so often now that no one’s living there and it’s up for sale. There is still some furniture there, and the power and water are still on. Sometimes I sit down on the living room sofa and look for ghosts.

So far I have not seen any. My mother is not stirring in the bedroom or in the kitchen. My father is not puttering around in the basement. I do not feel their presence, and I don’t expect to turn around and see either of them coming around the corner into the living room.

My father died 14 years ago. I felt his presence strongly for a long time after that. I was building our house then, and when I did something I was particularly proud of, I found myself thinking that I had to show it to him. That feeling faded over the years. I was used to having my father around for 50 years, and my internal model of the world still contained him after he died. But in the last 14 years, my internal world has changed to accommodate his death.

My mother’s case is different. She died only about a year ago, but her last years were not like the previous ones. She had serious balance problems, and thus falling problems. She had urinary tract infections and blood clots. Her world shrank to basically her bedroom, her bathroom and her living room. When we went to visit, we never knew whether we were going to find her lying on the bathroom floor, standing at the kitchen counter reading the paper, or snoozing in her recliner while NCIS reruns played on the television. She wasn’t the self-reliant, smart woman she had been, and her declining health lasted long enough that the old image faded. And then she spent nearly a year with my brother and sister in law in Virginia, and after that the last few months of her life at an assisted living facility. I didn’t get a chance to form a really strong new image of my mother in my world.

So by the time my mother died, my internal model of the world didn’t really have her or my father in their old roles. And so their presence doesn’t echo in their house.

What I do find is that various things evoke memories. My father kept his tools in a corner in the basement. Most of them are still there, and when I see them, I think of my father. My mother’s jewelry and art glass are gone, but there are still things in the kitchen and in the bookcase in the living room that make me think of her

I have a few of those things that make me think of them at our house. One of my favorite sets of memories is of going with them on a few long RV trips. They started traveling with an Airstream trailer in the early ‘70s before they retired. They started out towing their trailer with their 1966 Buick Wildcat coupe. They continued RVing until the late ‘90s, and for a time in the mid-90s I was able to go with them for a couple of months at a time.

They traded for various RVs, including other brands of trailer and a couple of motorhomes, but they always kept a pair of folding chairs that they bought early in their RVing lives. They were solid, high-quality chairs. They used them outside for sitting under the awning, and inside if they needed extra seating at the dinner table.

Now those chairs are in our garage. I see them every time I pull in, lying folded up against the wall. We have a travel trailer, but we don’t need or use the chairs, and, to tell the truth, they aren’t all that comfortable anyway. But there they sit.

The associations with my parents and with good experiences with them are so strong that it’s hard to think about disposing of them. But we don’t really need them, and we don’t need physical objects to remember my parents. I guess it’s time to let them go.