Sunday, October 30, 2011


Except for Darth, I've never actually seen anyone die. My dad and grandma, I just heard about over the phone. There was still the collapse and the wailing but from the minute the person died, I started to get better.  When I was waiting for Box to die, I dug in. I told my friend, I feel like I've always been sad and will always be sad. I'm wondering what kind of coper I am. I vacillate between callous apathy: "Box is dying" to histrionic "I do not know how I will go on."
Box was the best cat in the whole world. I am biased but when I got him at the Humane Society, there was a list of Humane Society workers who wanted to adopt him. They, though, had already adopted so many animals that they were at the policy limit. Box would have been my first adoptee since I started working there so I got dibs. I don't know how exactly everyone knew he was the best cat--on the breed they typed him "orange tabby" and "exotic" so maybe it was his strange, swirly markings that drew everyone but I actually think it was the way he meowed.
He was a loud cat. Every morning he woke us up saying Ma-ma Mow and then shrieking like an unoiled door hinge.
He ma-ma mow-ed up the stairs following me to get dressed and ma-ma mowed while I took a shower. If I took a bath, he'd poke his head up over the side and ma-ma mowed at me there. And then pretended he wanted to get in the tub but obviously didn't. I guess all cats do that--just like all cats take up the whole bed when you sleep, love to sleep on cardboard.
Box was dangerous. He'd bite your toes if they were out of the covers and your hands if they were outside of your sleeves. He would knead your leg like a loaf of bread if you sat still too long. Zoe would play games with Box, dragging the string all over the house. He would follow her anywhere.
He had a lot of friends in the world. I can hear Lynn's voice saying "Box" all gravely and commanding. Ander and Megan were the only house-guests who would pet him while he ate. My mom let him stay with her over Christmas break and summer break and scratched him on his forehead. My nephew Cam, whenever Box had an owie from tangling with the neighbor cats (or possibly raccoons), would ask, "What happen Box."
I don't know. How can I convey how good he was? I'm already running the montage in my head. He loved to be outside. He was so orange against green grass. He stalked everything but ravens who stalked him. He liked to sleep in the sun on the deck and run across the 1/4 acre of grass on the house on green street.  I spent half my life looking for him when he wouldn't come in. He was allowed to go outside but not to stay out all night. I was up until 2 a.m. once looking for him on 9th Avenue, opening can after can of Fancy Feast so hear the can open, he would smell it and come running.
Erik and I had to trap the mice he would bring inside from the field next door. He was a fighter but not a killer and we swept traumatized mice into empty Kleenex boxes to return to the field next door.
He slept with me every night, no matter where I slept. He was almost the kind of cat you could trust to take camping--he would go but always come back.
Last night, I thought he'd died and I held him on my lap. Then I realized he hadn't so I took him into bed. We shared my pillow and he stayed warm, I hope. I kept waking up to check if he was breathing. I thanked him over and over for staying in the bed. I didn't want him to die cold and alone.
When the sun came up, his chest started to convulse. Then, he finally stopped breathing.
I don't know how to say how Box-y he was.  There are a hundred pictures of him in my head and images of him pulling up on his paws to look in windows or on chairs or over the bathtub but I think what really made him Box was how very loud he was. His purr sounded like a Mack truck. The house, even with Zoe singing ABC's and tickling Max, is quiet today.
I don't know how to say it well. I love that cat.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


It was spring, 1998--the spring before I left Portland for Salt Lake and graduate school. I don't know why he crawled up the front steps of our blue house. We already had four cats living with us--Rhett's cat, Smile, and my three cats, Jelly, Phaedra and Box. Maybe he could smell that we were a cat-loving people. He was skin and bones. His eyes were pools of blackness. His breathing was thick. We pulled him in the house and fed him bowl after bowl of cat food. We thought he was just hungry. That He was just the world's thinnest, stray gray tabby. We fed him some more. We named him Darth, after his heavy breathing.

Rhett's friend Noelle took him to the vet. He supplied her with fluids we could give him intraveneously. He also gave us a diagnosis. Cancer.

When Noelle got home, he seemed sicker. Diagnoses always seem to do that. We installed him on the futon in the front room. We put water and food in front of him so he didn't have to move. We learned how to insert the needle under his skin and thought, we could be nurses if we wanted.

A couple weeks later, I hosted my friend Rebecca's wedding shower at the house. I made Jello, as a you-live-in-Utah-now-and-I-will-be-there-again-soon joke, while Darth wheezed. We had other Utah food too--possibly pigs in a blanket. As we ate, our friend Julie's daughter, Calista, wondered what that noise was. She went over to Darth. He breathed at her. And then he didn't. I don't think this was the best shower I've ever thrown. It might have been the only shower I've ever thrown.

We buried Darth in the backyard, under the cherry tree that listed neighbor-ward. It happened so fast. A few days. Only two bags of fluid.

15 years later: When my sister left from her visit Monday morning, I looked at Box's eyes. He had Darth-eyes. He was thin as a stray. I fed him can after can of Fancy Feast but he wouldn't eat. I called the vet. He came immediately. His kidneys are failing, he said. I gave him fluids, electrolytes.

I said, can I give him fluids? I had a cat named Darth once. I think I remember how to do it.

He said, let's give it a couple of days.

I am slow. I thought, "let's give him a couple of days" meant "let's see if he gets better on his own." What he meant was, "This probably isn't going to work. Let's not put carts before horses or fluids into seeping cats."

Box ate a little bit of cat food this morning. He jumped up on the bed last night. Maybe he'll rally. Kidney-failure isn't cancer but they don't do kidney transplants for cats, even if that cat has ocelot-like markings winding through his orange fur, kneads your leg whereever you sit, purrs like a train, plays tiger in the grass with wayward leaves, or sleeps every night at the back of your knees.

Sunday, October 09, 2011


Today was the last day of the Flagstaff Farmer's Market. Even though I will be able over the winter to procure most things through my CSA and their market, I still stockpiled like the rapture people had called and said, no, this time, it's really it. I only had $20 cash but I also brought a brand-new checkbook. From Whipstone farms I bought the usual turnips and carrots, since Zoe eats sliced turnips and carrots in her lunch. I also bought from them kale because I'm not sure when greens season begins at the CSA. Once it does, it's nonstop greens--tatsoi, bok choy, beet greens, kale (this is the first part of a rap song that I wrote for the CSA. "Onions, turnips, rutabegas, dill" is the next line. One day, I'll finish it and force the volunteers who work at the CSA store to sing along with me. Because they don't do enough) and a head of red leaf lettuce the size of my head. $10.
I spent $54 dollars at the pork place because my 1/4 share of pork won't be ready until November ($110). I bought 4 pork chops, 1 pound of ground pork and a pork shoulder. And eggs. Green, olive, beige and blue-colored eggs. From Moonrise I bought $6.85 worth of tomatoes (brandywine, roma and a box of cherry) plus the pork share, to be delivered, soonish.
I spent $13 on coffee from Manuel Santana and 1.85 on a pomegranate and an onion. $28 dollars at Flying M for massaged* meat--flank steak, ground beef, short ribs and $15 at the chicken place for a chicken and 4 chicken thighs. The cost is a lot more. $10/lb for the pork. About the same for the beef. $4/lb for the chicken. But Erik and I are going to experiment and go out zero times in the next two weeks (well, start back last Monday when we went to Karma sushi and spent $73). So zero times in three weeks. And you'll see that the expensive meat is still less than one night of sashimi. Zoe and I made a menu for two weeks (which we forgot to put fish on! Include halibut or salmon in here somewhere! Why doesn't anyone sell rainbow trout at the farmer's market?)

So here's our tentative plan for the next 2 weeks.
Sunday: Roast chicken, mashed potatoes, turnip greens.
Monday: Roasted veg: Sweet potatoes, potatoes, celery root, and butternut squash soup.
Tuesday: Hamburgers by Erik
Wednesday: Pork chops, kale.
Thursday: (Oh, we should have fish here since the menu says, ground pork--that's too much pork in a row, free range and massaged or not.).
Friday: Spanikopita, tzikia, hummus (hopefully, Beya et. al can come).
Saturday: Beef ribs and brocolli
Sunday: Pozole (hopefully, friends can come. Or switch with Saturday).
Monday: Pizza on the grill
Tuesday: turkey tacos
Wednesday: Flank steak
Thursday: Cauliflower pasta? (Maybe. Val arrives. Menu will change with her preferences!)
Friday: Souffle and fish
Saturday: I want to have pre-Thanksgiving. Erik has misgivings (ha!) about it. He wants his tongue to be surprised by Thanksgiving but I think you can't have too many Thanksgivings.

And, that is all. We'll still have Short ribs, ground pork and chicken thighs in the fridge. Can we make it one more week? Would we want to? If I don't spend any more money on going out in October though, my birthday month might be full of delicious escapes.

Also. I'm making granola right now with flax, wheat germ, wheat bran, oats and almonds so I can save money on cereal. But last time I was at Safeway (see September post), all Quaker products were on sale: Cinnamon Life (Zoe's fave), Oatmeal Squares (what Max and I like) and regular oats. Why can't Quaker products always be two-for-one ish?  If they won't put them on sale, Quaker man will have forced me to bake my own granola, which is messy and a little burny-smelling.

*Massaged is the word we used to use with Zoe when we were talking about grass-fed, non-CAFO cows when she was 3. It's still easier although the beef is not Wagyu. That's for my next adventure: All food from D'Artagnan!