Jan 29, 2017

The Invisible Cat

Pom Pom. What a name!
It all began when I was considering a new roommate. Laura's passing left such a black void in my world, a dark and cold hole that only the spirit of another living, breathing being could begin to patch.
We have had cats before - or cats have owned us, I should say. In our eleven years in the cabin only two have resided with us. Gomez-the original and Gomez two. The original Gomez was a black and white kitty who was the last born of a litter. I wrote about Gomez before and won't go into detail here.
Gomez Two was found in a hollow log by two great friends who had come by the cabin for a visit. While we were not in the market for a new cat, this little abandoned fellow sorely needed a place to stay. After placing the kitty on Laura's chest, and the kitten's paws wrapped around her neck like a hug, Laura said yes and a kitten had a home. We charged Fiona with naming the new kitty. "Gomez two"
Gomez Two was insane - not the 'I'm a cat' type of insane. He took it to a whole new level. Scratching paint from the walls; jumping from the balcony to the floor below. Then, he escaped to the outside one day and suddenly he was an indoor/outdoor cat. Bad for us because, no matter how many flea collars and treatments that we applied, he brought the fleas in the house and they attacked with a vengeance. After that, he was an outside cat. Bad for him and Gomez the Original as our area has coyotes, hawks and other cat-unfriendly predators. We last saw Gomez Two one morning before going to work. We placed his food and water in the bowls, gave him a pat on the head and we were off. Gomez Two was not to be seen again.
Laura said "No more cats!"
I was in agreement with her. You get them, they become a part of the family and then you lose them. Not a good location for a small, outside animal.
So I decided, after Laura passed, that a live female presence was needed in the home. While trying to decide what kind of fish or hamster I would acquire, granddaughter Fiona told me that I needed a kitten.
So - a kitten it would be!
The lovely Peggy heard about this and took it upon herself to arrange it. She called me up and asked me to meet her at a place called Pawmetto Lifeline. - an animal rescue facility. I heard from the adoption specialist there that most of the kittens are rescued form 'Death Row', and my kitten was no exception.
I met Peggy, daughter in law Catherine and Fiona there and we started shopping kitties. Peggy had observed Pom Pom when she first arrived, a playful Calico mix with the softest fur that I had ever had the pleasure of stroking. After picking out three kittens to interact with, they brought Pom Pom to the room first. I think Fiona had already made up her mind that Pom Pom was to be the one. She even told the specialist that we didn't need to see the other kittens. I asked Fiona what we should name the cat. "She already has a name. She's Pom Pom". So we packed 6 month old Pom Pom in the carrier and drove the 40 miles back to the cabin. As soon as we opened the carrier, Pom Pom skedaddled! She found a hiding place under the sofa and there she would stay. Later in the day, we were able to pull her from under the sofa and we took her to the bedroom. There, Fiona placed her under the covers and crawled in with her, petting her and talking to her. Pom Pom seemed to like being under there...for a little while. As soon as Fiona lifted the covers, the kitten made a run for it and was gone. This time, under the china cabinet. Earlier, before we took her to the bed, I had shown her where food, water and litter box were located. As the days progressed, Pom Pom was an invisible cat. I could see the effects of little Pom - cat bowls almost empty, litter box used, etc. But no sighting. This went on for weeks. Every day I fed and watered her and kept an eye on the litter box. Every day I looked high and low for her. She was not to be found. No noise, no bumps in the night, no purring, no meows. After three weeks, Fiona visited again and we went on an adventure - find Pom Pom. We moved furniture, looked behind clothes hanging in the walk in closet, upstairs in the bathroom, underneath everything that we could think of - no Pom Pom. "She'll eventually come out granddaddy" I knew that Fiona was right. I was, however, getting a bit tired of feeding and cleaning up after what appeared to be an invisible cat.
"Maybe she has powers like no other kitten" I told Fiona.
"What powers?" she asked.
"Like Wonder Woman, maybe she has invisibility powers. She may be sitting right there in front of us but we can't see her".
"Maybe so, granddaddy. Maybe so".
And another two weeks went by.
One night as I came in from work, I saw through the window a golden blur which crossed the visible area between the walls of the foyer and disappeared just past my line of sight. Wow! I have a visible cat!
Two nights later, as I turned over in my bed to go to sleep, I felt a slight thump on the bed. Turning back over, I looked up to see a kitten standing on my bed. She slowly made her way up to my face and purred. I petted her, talked to her and she reacted by pressing her nose to mine. She stayed on my bed, jumping, playing and chasing my hand which was under the covers. When I would move to get out from the covers, she would run. So, for the next few nights she was a night time visitor. When I would awaken, she would become invisible again. That is until...this weekend. Fiona came to stay the night. While lounging in bed, eating pizza and watching a movie the little cat that could jumped on the bed from an unknown hiding place and started playing with Fiona. This time, however, she didn't take off when Fiona moved the covers and started playing with her. She stayed and played.
Next evening my family came down for a visit. "Look up there. A cat is hanging out of that rolled up carpet on the balcony", my sister observed. My brother went upstairs and started interacting with Pom and, next thing I know, I have a visible cat! This morning she was waiting for my brother when he woke up.
I'm not sure what this poor cat went through before being rescued from death row, but I think that I've finally passed the audition with her. Welcome to Fort Reid little Pom Pom!

Jan 22, 2017

Five Stages

The five stages of grief- denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

Denial - did that one in the moments before and after she passed. No way! Laura could not die, not on my watch! I still have those moments, although they are fewer and farther between. 

Anger - okay...at whom? God? Myself? Laura? The world??
Sure, I get pissed at the hospital and the doctor that allowed this to happen. Fact is - they tried their best to prevent it, or so I'm told. Laura had been much sicker than she even suspected. The thing that killed her moved slowly through her body, causing her blood sugar to rise at the same time. With a highly elevated blood sugar level, you become delusional and your brain does not process any situation correctly. Whenever I would ask her if she needed to see a doctor her reply was always the same-"no, I think I'm finally getting over this. Just let me rest a while longer and I'll be better". She didn't have a fever until way too late.
I get pissed at myself for not making her go to the doctor. I would ask, she would say no and that was it. Should I have insisted? Maybe. In hindsight my answer is "hell yeah - take her now"! But that didn't happen. And I am so truly sorry for that.
Pissed at God? What good would that do? I'm told that he has a plan. Not long ago on the Facebook thing, someone posted one of those memes which had a picture of a park bench with the caption 'if you could spend one hour here talking with anyone who would it be?" I answered "God". I have quite a few questions for the almighty.
Pissed at Laura? Not really - if she had been aware, she would have been the first to tell me to seek treatment for her. I did find myself, early on, screaming inside of an empty home "Why did you leave?"
Out of our hands and a moot point now. Acceptance of that, at least.
The world? Why bother. The world has enough problems, and like my friend James said about the year 2016, it didn't give a shit about how I felt. So that's wasted time.
So there is anger, but it's directionless - without a rudder. It's more harmful than good, so let's try and squelch the anger for now.
Bargaining - never really understood this one. All the bargaining in the world won't bring her back. So let's drop that chip and move along.
Depression - that's where I'm currently residing. Anti-depressants take you so far - but the "I don't really give a crap about much" attitude is strong. And this is where I get into trouble. At work, I tend to speak my mind before thinking about what I need to be saying. This may cost me this job - but right now, I don't give a flying rat's ass. 
I do appreciate the love and concern of my family and friends, who constantly check in on me. I was able to go to the coast yesterday and spend a few rainy, windy hours with my buddy James. It was good to get out of the house and go somewhere like the coast. The ocean always reminds me of the timelessness of life here on earth, and how we are but a grain of sand on the shores of life (this statement is so fucking lame, but true).
Acceptance - Hell, I don't know. I've accepted as best I can, but don't like it one little bit. I miss her, I miss her every single day, and I know that her memory will, for a long time, be at the forefront of my thoughts. I cannot move something from one place to another in the house without thinking of how she might have felt about it. When I do a project at home, it's usually one that she had asked me to do last year. I remember her instructions very well and carry them out. After all, it is her house-she just allows me to live there.

That's enough for today.

Jan 16, 2017

47 Days

47 Days.
I've noticed that each day without Laura is an anniversary, of sorts. Not a good, celebratory type, but another lonely day and night wondering just what the hell happened.
My doctor prescribed an antidepressant - it does help me to sleep but I'm afraid that it doesn't allow me to really touch the pain and grief. I learned the lesson from losing our daughter RuthE that to cope with the pain, you need to touch it. It's okay to put a bandage on it for time, but you really need to peel it off every once and awhile and  check on it. Soon, I'll wean myself off this medication so I can check on things.

I'm still working on the house, trying to make it ready to convert some of it to an Air BNB. It's a perfect situation - out of the way, in the woods, log cabin. I'm hoping to attract interest since there's not another AirBNB in Newberry, SC. The view from the upstairs bedroom is wonderful! Pond, woods, stone chimney just outside the double windows. The area is relatively quiet, except when my neighbor's hunting dogs go on a tear. But that doesn't happen very often. For a weary traveler, it's a great place to get a good night's rest.

My friends keep checking in on me. They knew Laura and are totally in tune with the love that Laura and I shared for 40 plus years. They have been totally supportive and helpful. My family has been trying to make sure that I stay busy. We have a couple of projects under our belts and a couple more lined up. This is always a good thing.

My nephew is studying in England and has kept me occupied with his and his brother's web page, checking out photos of their travels. Over the holidays, they rented a car and drove through a good portion of Europe - stopping in Paris long enough to light two candles in Notre Dame Cathedral - one for Laura and one for Ruth E. That was very, very thoughtful of them.

Every day. Every single day I tell Laura I love her and I miss her. I imagine that I'll continue to do this for the rest of my life.
My God, how I miss that girl!

Jan 11, 2017

It's Just Stuff

Boxes, bags and bins.
Full of stuff.
Projects to be revisited. Memories stored away.
Old newspapers herald national disasters and national triumphs.
Old magazines proclaim "The Year That Was".
Craft projects that were interrupted by life, awaiting the maker's completion.
Holiday decorations for each season, all packed neatly away, waiting for it's season to shine.
Half a room full of stuff waiting on a decision from it's owner as to it's final destination.

George Carlin said it best - a house is just a place to put your stuff.
And man - did we ever accumulate stuff over 40 years!
I once thought that it was mostly Laura's stuff. I was wrong.
I have so many tools spread around that it looks as if I ended up with two of everything. (Should have opted for the garage instead of the free doors and windows when we bought the home package).
Video production gear-OMG-out the wazoo!
Books - hell, you'd think that we were starting a library!
All this stuff. And now I'm touching it, sorting it, going through it and trying to make decisions.
But I can only make decisions on my things. Laura's is strictly off limits. Too raw right now.

After the financial crash of 2000whenever, Laura and I began going through this stuff. She wanted to keep all the craft magazines, the craft materials - anything craft. Her goal was to knit and crochet in her golden years, making place mats and coasters and what-nots to give to unsuspecting relatives.
She was a fantastic cross stitcher. We have a cross stitch of the Biltmore House on the wall, which took her a year to complete.
I have a painting that she did on multiple layers of glass that, when stacked together, is a grouping of roses. Beautiful!
Most of our place mats for the table were lovingly crafted by her hands - a set for each season.
She also collected cookbooks, recipe books, recipes, etc. Shelves full of cookbooks. I must admit, they are coming in handy for a novice chef such as myself. After bff Pamela taught me a few culinary skills, and nudged me to a healthier diet, I have found recipes in these books which challenge me. My friend Stuart is constantly posting pics on FB of the gorgeous meals that he prepares for himself. I aspire to obtain some of his skills.
The only plus about the financial meltdown and the subsequent loss of employment that was dealt to us was that we couldn't accumulate any more stuff. We started selling some stuff. Not enough - but a few things.

Now I'm going through the remainder of this stuff. And as I touch, feel and admire the beauty of it I try and make those permanent decisions of it's fate. Now that Laura is gone, it's easier now than it used to be.
Most of my projects were for her anyway. I can now make decisions on my stuff. Hers - not so much right now.

But, it's like Laura always told me - it's just stuff.

Jan 8, 2017

Laura and Gary

This is the story of my beloved wife and my younger brother Gary.

When Laura and I married in September of 1976, my younger brother Gary was just days away from turning 17. Laura liked Gary from the first day that they met and always saw him as a little brother-not a brother in law.
Back then, I was working at the Parker Plant, a JP Stevens affiliate, and my job required me to work 12 hours a day for 5 or 6 days a week. I had the 8pm to 8am shift, which had me leaving for work at 7:30 pm and returning home at 8:30 am. Because we had two small children at home (this was in the fall of 1977), Ruth E. was 2 and a half and Michael was only 3 months old, my brother didn't like the idea of Laura being home alone with those two children - especially in the neighborhood where we lived.
We had rented a small 2 bedroom home on West Hillcrest Dr, just off North Main St in Greenville. When you make the left off Main onto West Hillcrest Dr, your first thought would be "wow-nice neighborhood!". After meandering down the street where we lived, the neighborhood became, shall we say, less desirable. Growing up in Greenville, I didn't have an issue with the hood. Hell-it's where I grew up, sort of. In the mid to late seventies, home invasion and crimes like these were very few and far between in our area. And, as a young, brash 19 year old kid, I never really gave it much thought. That is until one evening Laura, the kids and I were returning home from a visit with her parents. As I was walking in the front door, some dude was walking out the back door with our guitars. I gave chase and yelled at the guy. He dropped the guitars and ran like hell. While nothing else was taken and he had dropped the guitars, the police didn't even want to take my report. After that, brother Gary was a constant presence in the home.
I would call Laura on my lunch break from the pay phone in the break room at work. "What ya doing?", I would ask. "Just trying to watch TV with Gary", she would answer. Or she would say it was Gary and Dwayne, or Gary, Dwayne and Larry D. My house was party central back then - a safe place to drink (or whatever) and not drive. It was always, always after the kids went to bed. Then the games would begin. Rummy, poker, blackjack - all played at the dining room table. We even took a Game of Life, used the play money that was included with the game and would place bets on the spinning wheel (almost like roulette).
The TV that we owned was an antique-a gift from an uncle. A black and white tv which would work for 5 to 7 minutes before you had to shut it off for 5 to 7 minutes - then turn it back on. One night that I called, Gary and Laura were trying to watch the movie King Kong, the old 1930s version. Laura let it be known to me that the TV situation would soon have to change. She couldn't deal with the constant on and off thing! I would eventually buy her a new color console, but that was a year away.
Gary and Laura also teamed up to give me grief about almost everything. From the TV to the car that we were driving, from the fact that I didn't own a mower and my grass in the yard was ass-high to constantly running out of heating oil during the winter - Laura and Gary gave me crap! I was working 60 to 72 hours a week then and didn't take the time to do some of the household duties to which I had been assigned. Gary, although he was still only 17 years old, would make sure that the wife and kids had heat. Laura would call the oil man and buy 25 to 50 gallons (whatever we could afford that week) and Gary would crawl under the house and light the furnace. I couldn't tell you how many times my brother did things like this for my family.
After giving my job 60 to 72 hours per week and believing that I had job security with them, the layoffs began. Seems that they lost the contract that was assuring us the great hours and, since I was one of the last to be hired in that department, I was the first to be layed off. This was mid 1978.

The Greenwood Move
1978 was a tough year for a young married guy with two kids to find employment. I searched the newspaper, went to employment services and asked everyone that I knew for leads. No one was hiring. Most were laying off workers-some long term workers were even being let go. It was a scary time.
I took a temp job with a guy that my brother knew who was a handyman for a doctor who had a farm above River Falls. Our job was to run a barbed wire fence for almost 5 miles around the property. Hardest job that I have ever had! After digging the post holes (thank goodness for a tractor with an auger), we had to throw  the posts from the back of a moving pickup truck to where they were to be placed, then go back and set them in the holes and make them secure and plumb. After that, we would start pulling the barbed wire and staple it in place on the posts. We averaged about a half mile per day. After this, we had to load the pickup truck with hay and throw it into the pasture for the cattle. By then the sun had set and I would almost fall asleep on the ride back home. When I arrived home, Gary was usually there, either trying to watch 5 minutes of tv with Laura or the gang was there playing spin the wheel roulette.
Wasn't long before my temp job ended and I was again faced with finding employment. Laura, meanwhile, had gone to Greenwood to visit her parents. She decided to stay with them until I could find meaningful work. One day after a fruitless day of searching for a job, Laura's mom came to visit me. This was a shocker since she had never visited alone. We sat on my front screened porch and she convinced me that I would be able to find a job if I would only move to Greenwood. A week later, Laura and I were loading a UHaul truck with all of our belongings for the move to Greenwood. It was the last time that Gary and the gang would have to keep Laura company while I was at work.

Gary Gets Married
Just a few months after our dad passed away in 1981, Gary and Susan were married in a big church wedding.
Laura and I attended-I as an usher.
We would only see Gary every once in awhile when his business would bring him to the Greenwood area or at family gatherings. It didn't matter the length of time between visits. Laura and Gary still managed to give me crap about something whenever we were together.

And The Years Roll By

It was March, 2002.
By now, Laura and I had been married for over 25 years.
Ruth Elizabeth passed away and Laura and I were distraught. I have written about this time and the importance of our family during it.
I have also written about the house and our building project, which Gary spearheaded.
I won't go into all the detail here. This is about the close relationship between Gary and Laura.
If he called needing or wanting anything, Laura was the first to say yes. If we were all together, Laura and Gary would constantly team up against me (in a playful way, of course). We would all go camping, Gary and Laura would give me grief about my lack of fire-building skills, or over my contracting skills, which I was attempting to put to use during the home build.
When Laura and I were having marital difficulties, I would talk with brother Gary about Laura and my issues...he would always reply with "I don't have anything bad to say about Laura - she's always had my back". He was right. She always did.
When Laura passed away, my entire family was in shock. It was so sudden, so unexpected. Most were unaware that she was even sick. It came about on Thanksgiving day and she was gone the following Wednesday.
Gary told me later that he had lost a sister and a close friend. I'm not sure if he's even thought about this, but he's also lost an ally - in the ongoing battle of giving Larry hell.
Don't worry Gary - she still does give me hell. After being married for over 40 years, I know exactly what she would say in a given situation. And I'm sure that, when you give me hell about the way I build a fire, she's standing over your shoulder, putting her voice in my head, in total agreement with you. And she's wearing that little smile that I loved so well.

Jan 4, 2017


When granddaughter Fiona was born in August 2009, you should have seen the look of pride and joy on my Laura's face! Although she had never once mentioned to me that she hoped to have a grandchild after Michael and Catherine were married, it was an unspoken desire.
There are pictures of her holding little baby Fiona at the hospital with Laura beaming with a Cheshire Cat grin and a look of pure, unadulterated contentment. She was an even better steward of Fiona since Laura had long since raised her two to adulthood, and the experience level she had achieved was superior.
As Fiona grew into a toddler, MaLa (Grandma Laura) was always anxious to keep her, helping her to navigate some of her first steps at Fort Reid. She played all the baby games like patty cake, hide and reveal, funny faces, etc. She ooohed and awwwed whenever Fiona would discover something new and show it to MaLa. She played in the floor, on the bed, on the coffee table - wherever Fiona would wander to, always with MaLa in tow. She would turn on the music channel on TV and they would dance and laugh and laugh and dance for awhile, and then rest for a while. Fiona would turn her attention to me and I would then ride her piggyback on my shoulders and then she would ride horsey on granddaddy's back. Then I would rest for a while, handing her back off to Laura. Then, Fiona started talking.
First words she said to me were "want dat" - pointing to one of her small toys. MaLa lost it when she heard these words. "Did you hear that?" she asked. "Yes babe. I did. She's talking now".
Time seemed to fly after that. We would get Fiona about every third weekend for awhile, alternating between her "Gan and Dadoo" Peggy and Roger and home, with the occasional stay at Uncle "Ry Ry and Aunt Chachi's" house. This was one, happy and well-rounded child!

Each summer Laura would take Fiona swimming every chance that she got. Whenever possible, Laura and Fiona would jump in the truck and take the ride to the Y, or to Peggy and Roger's pool, or to the country club, or to Martha's "Cow Palace" with their bathing suits and towels, noodles and goggles and a picnic lunch. I have pictures of the numerous times that they went swimming together, Fiona always in the pool up front and MaLa right behind her. Fiona learned to swim at the Y, but I like to believe that MaLa played a very large role in teaching that girl to swim like a fish and to not fear the water. Our friend Sue Summer saw them at the pool one day and recently wrote me a line about it. ". Laura and Fiona were a joy to watch together. When she was teaching her to swim, I was in the pool with my folks--and Laura's love and patience were evident in every word.". I love looking at these pictures now. Before, I would look at Fiona and smile. Now that I look closer, I can see the care and tenderness in Laura's eyes when she's looking at her granddaughter. She adored that child!
After Laura passed, Fiona was at the house and we had to go to town. I decided to take Laura's truck. Fiona got in the backseat, as usual, and asked "Granddaddy - what will you do with MaLa's truck?" "I don't know", I answered. "Guess I'll sell it". "You cannot sell MaLa's truck! How will I go swimming?"
On second thought, I'm keeping the truck.

In 2015, son Michael had an opportunity to move to Houston, TX for work. Fiona and Catherine stayed in SC a few more months, giving us the opportunity to spend more time with Fiona.
On her last day in SC, I picked her up and we visited Fort Reid for awhile, then went for a frosty at Wendy's. I then took her to Laura's workplace. Laura hugged her very tightly and reminded Fiona to write as many letters from Texas as possible. When I dropped Fiona off with her mom that day, I went home and cried like a baby. After Laura got home from work, her exact words to me were "when you and Fiona left, I went outside and cried like a baby". I wasn't a bit surprised.
Fast forward one year. Michael receives a better opportunity back in good old SC and takes advantage of it. Laura and I were ecstatic! Our son and his family were coming home - to stay! Michael flew me out to Houston to help with the move. After picking me up at the airport and showing me around Houston and Galveston, we left for their apartment in Kingwood. As soon as I walked in the door, Fiona was hiding under the covers on a chair. I walked to her room, calling her name. Then I walked around the apartment calling her name. She jumped out from under the cover to scare me, but then jumped into my arms and held me tight! Later that evening, I called Laura and told her what had happened when I arrived at the apartment. "Get my children home soon and safe!" was her reply.
After settling in to their new home in Columbia, Fiona continued to visit us and we would visit with her. I had not seen Laura so happy as when Fiona was back home and visiting with us. Time and again she would thank me for "bringing her kids home safe".
My memories of Laura and Fiona mostly revolve around cooking. Each and every time that Fiona would visit, Laura would take her to the kitchen, pull up Fiona's step stool and proceed with the baking of cakes, cupcakes, fudge and other delicious desserts. Usually, a birthday cake was made because Fiona loves birthdays! I can't tell you how many birthdays that her two bears (Mr Bear and Buddy Bear) have celebrated with party hats, balloons, decorations and a birthday cakes! My birthday would only come around once a year, but those bears had one almost every other month. I guess stuffed bears age differently.
Since she was two years old, Laura would help her hold the hand mixer to mix up the batter and then let her lick the spoon and the bowl. Happy times! I was so glad that I took video of some of these shared baking times that Laura had with the apple of her eye. Fiona will see these one day and, hopefully, those memories will come flooding back.
There's so much more that I could write about the love that Laura had for that child. I'll have to leave that for another time. Or maybe I'll sit down with Fiona one day, holding her children on my lap and tell them about MaLa. We can look at photos and watch video and remember just what a very, very special grandmother Fiona was so fortunate to have...if only for awhile.