To my non-U.S. friends, don't worry — I don't rank Thanksgiving all that highly, to be honest. I've never been a fan of turkey, cranberries, or pie, so for as long as I can remember, I've stocked up on the sides. The starchy, starchy sides. One Thanksgiving as adults, Sam and I had been on a low-carb diet and we were vegetarians, and we were invited to eat Thanksgiving with some friends. We had a policy to eat anything presented to us, as a facet of being hospitable. But even we quailed at seeing a feast of solely meat (turkey) and carbs (everything else). We did what we could, making "mmm" noises and feeling dizzy. When dessert was announced — bread pudding, I kid you not — we suddenly remembered something else we had to do urgently and bowed out. To go lie down and recover.
This year, we're going to my sister-in-law's again. Usually Sam vetoes about half her ideas for dishes and they split up what they decide on making. This year, he gave her carte blanche to make what she likes, and she settled on something like eight dishes, all of which she's making herself. For three adults and one three-year-old. And, trust me, it doesn't matter that one of these adults is "eating for two" — it just means that even though my morning sickness has mostly passed (very thankful there), my stomach's already displaced somehow and I get full about twice as quickly as I expect.
I'm always a Scrooge of sorts about Thanksgiving (too much food, too many family members), but this year I have added reason not to feel like celebrating. Our cat was put to sleep yesterday. She'd been sick the past week, and I tried bringing her in to the vet earlier, but the icy roads prevented me from driving safely there. Now I'm glad we had a couple extra days and that Sam and Mikko were able to come along after all. I had thought maybe she'd have some subcutaneous fluids, but the vet told us she was definitely on her way out — that her kidneys were almost fully shutting down. We could have prolonged her suffering for a few more weeks at the most, but we couldn't have explained to her what was happening. So we said goodbye, and I think it was for the best. I really appreciated the vet we used — except that the tissue box was across the other side of the room. Mikko was completely oblivious to the whole thing, playing with trucks they had and inspecting the Dutch door (you know, like they have in church nurseries) so he could climb on a chair and play peek-a-boo with a presumably much healthier dog who had come into the waiting room. Mrs. Pim lay on the table the whole time, under a blanket, not moving. It was that final step that convinced us beyond doubt we had made the right decision. Our cat never, never, never let us put anything on top of her. She was done.
She was only 10, but she'd been diagnosed at 6 with kidney disease, and the prognosis even then was grim. In cat years, that's something like being diagnosed at 25 or 30 with kidney failure but making it to about 50 years old despite it all. It was a blessing to have those extra unexpected four years with her, and that she declined quickly instead of suffering long term. So for that I am thankful.
As we were driving home, the questions began. Mikko wanted to know where the cat was. "I miss her. I want her home." We do, too, kid. If I gain any insights into talking with preschoolers about death through this, I'll have to let you know. So far, I've been telling him the kitty was very sick, and his response is that animals should not get sick. I remember when I used to feel immortal, and when death seemed like an impossibility — an intrusion into the reality that should be. I'm sad he'll never really know her, might not remember her at all, and that the new baby will never meet her.
Early cosleeping practice
We don't suppose we'll get another pet — or not, at least, until the kids start begging for one. And then maybe a frog or gerbils or something like that. We found ourselves being kind of pathetic pet owners as soon as we became parents. In some ways, it coincided with Mrs. Pim's normal aging patterns, not wanting to play actively as much anyway. But I did have this feeling we weren't as attentive as she deserved. Yesterday, though, Sam pointed out to me that when we adopted her from the shelter, at age 2, she had already been there several months with no takers. In some ways, she was slated to die at 2, and we had given her eight more cushy years with us. So there's something to be thankful for, too.
Sam's and my first pets as a married couple were a pair of gerbil brothers. We used to joke that they referred to us as the Giants. They hated us. They didn't associate us with sunflower seed treats or cleaning the doots out of their cage or pampering them with new tubes and plenty of waste paper to chew. No, they just ran and hid whenever we approached. We still thought they were cute. They lived for three years, which for gerbil captivity is no record but within the expected range. One died a week before the other. I didn't know it was possible for a gerbil to die of a broken heart, but that seemed to be exactly what happened. It's how I imagine I would shrivel up and die if someone close to me did. Although it's probably never really that convenient.
We had kept the first gerbil in the freezer, wrapped in many layers of paper and plastic and extra bedding. When his brother joined him in death, we took a surreptitious trip out in the dark to a far Dumpster in our apartment complex and ceremoniously (no, truly) tossed them in, sending leftover treats in with them to ease their way into the afterlife and fluffing autumn leaves on top. We weren't sure what else to do. Apparently, cat remains can be handled in a more adult manner.
So, yes. Being thankful. Sam and I were talking recently about how Mikko appreciates almost nothing we do for him, just takes it as his due that we spend our days and lives caring for and entertaining him. We were wondering when that stops. And then realizing we have never been especially grateful little children ourselves. Maybe it's one of those things that passes to each successive generation, and you pay for your previous ingratitude once you become a parent. The best advice I've been able to find is to model gratitude yourself, so that your children can see it.
So here are some things, little and big:
- I made a fire in the fireplace last night, for the first time in my life. It was pretty, and warm.
- I have a three-year-old who gave me spontaneous hugs and kisses all last evening, whenever he saw I was sad.
- We're no longer snow-bound.
- I can start playing Christmas music without feeling sheepish about it.
- Sam is writing a new novel that's very entertaining.
- I have so many words to make up on NaNoWriMo that I have become adept at lengthening contractions, adding in unnecessary descriptions, and generally writing like I'm being paid by the word. You might have noticed this new trend.
- We have a lot of nice cat things to gift to someone who needs them; let us know if anyone in the Seattle area comes to mind.
- I swear to you, my former aunt told my uncle she wanted a divorce as they were driving home from putting their beloved dog to sleep. I am thankful this didn't happen to me.
- I am going to eat a bunch of starchy things today.
- After an awkward encounter with one midwife's receptionist (she told me to call her at home, then seemed put out that I had called her at home), I started looking for more recommendations online and have a couple other midwives added to my list to contact and interview, and I already feel excited that I'll like one of the new ones better. I probably should set up a prenatal appointment some time this trimester…
- I have a post scheduled for tomorrow on my experience with the new TSA groping procedures. Scheduled! As in, all ready to go, without any further tinkering from me! This never happens.
- I have good things to write, good things to eat, good family around me, and good friends online.
My favoritest people
Happy Thanksgiving, friends. Whether you're officially celebrating it today or not, I hope you have plenty to be thankful for.