Saying Goodbye to my Life Partner

The end is coming soon. Mouse, my BFF, is 14 years old. The vet told me she has a mass on her heart, and there is nothing they can do. I just have to try to keep her comfortable.

Mouse arrived on my doorstep in 2007. It was a turbulent time in our life. My husband and I had just divorced months before, and the whole family was struggling to adjust to our new life.

A tiny baby kitten, The Mouse* simply, “arrived.” There was no indication how she got there, or where her mother was, or any clues about who she was. My son, who was 11 at the time said, “Mouse is a gift from God.”

Of course, we took her in and fed her. We noticed she walked with a limp. She did not have use of one of her hind legs. The vet said she had nerve damage and that he could amputate her leg, but he recommended we wait and see what happens as she grows.

Mouse grew healthy and strong as a young cat. Yet, she walked with a limp, and therefore could be labeled, “disabled.” But her disability never got in her way. She would jump 6-ft fences, and run around the house oblivious that she had a physical handicap.

Somewhere along the way, I realized Mouse and I shared that in common. I, too, had a lifelong disability, but it didn’t prevent me from enjoying my life and pursuing the fun things I wanted to do.

Mouse and I have been on a long journey together. She has been at my side moving from NJ to Texas; seeing my kids graduate high school; moving from Texas to Florida; seeing the kids graduate college; moving from Florida to South Dakota. She’s comforted me through many difficult transitions.

She has really been the only sentient being that has been anchored in my life. Always present; always loyal. Never asking too much and giving her love freely.

As her small spirit travels back to where it miraculously came from, I will miss her dearly and continue to be grateful for her loving presence all these years.

Sweet , amazing, very best friend. Thank you for a life well-lived.

*My daughter Amie, who nursed her as a baby, named her formally, “The Mouse.”

Update: I found this photo when she first arrived. It’s dated July 13, 2006. That means she is 15, not 14. It also means she arrived weeks after the divorce. A gift, indeed.

Sweet baby.

The Pace of Progress

My first job at 14 years old was working at a family-owned franchise root beer and burger stand. Stewart’s Root Beer was iconic at the Jersey shore. It was a 50’s style drive-in.

When you started at Stewart’s, you were stationed at the fryers. It was the lowest job on the totem pole. You had to endure the hot (un-airconditioned) kitchen for long shifts in front of the fryers. I remember my face, hair, and white uniform and apron was filled with grease when I left for home after those long shifts. Disgusting.

But that part-time job, even at minimum wage ($2/hr), paid for a full year’s tuition at the local Catholic High School. I saved all summer, and was able to pay for my tuition and a 10-speed bike.

Of course, in those days social mobility existed, and kids like me knew Stewart’s wasn’t a career. It was an entrée into the workforce. Almost all the kids I knew took part-time jobs. Many of them worked on the Seaside boardwalk.

I am conflicted about this pace of progress. Spending my career in technology adds more weight to my angst. Experts predict 80% of today’s restaurant workers will be replaced by robots.

According to recent data, the majority of fast-food workers are women. And the average age is not 14; it’s 28. There are three and a half million people employed in fast food restaurants.

Now, in my golden years, I make no excuse for taking full advantage of my in-home robot services (Siri, Alexa) to turn on my lights, play my podcasts, tell me the news, and create my grocery list.

Acknowledging that technology and globalization are the fundamental drivers for income inequality, I do find myself wondering (worrying about) what will happen to those at the bottom of the income scale who have no social mobility options.

The Slow Walk of Healing

Man, did I have a bad year in 2019. I remember having to “call a friend,” when she posted on one of her social media accounts that anyone could reach out to her if they were having suicidal thoughts. That was me. I was literally suicidal in 2019. It was bad, really bad.

I lost everything that year. I lost professional relationships. I lost friends. I lost all my income. I lost my apartment. In some ways, I even lost my kids. I had to put all my worldly belongings into storage, pack up the cat, some clothes and drive to (fucking) South Dakota and stay in my sister’s attic. What a shit show. I hit a cruel rock bottom without any of the upside of the raucous good time that normally accompanies an addiction. My life was effectively over.

It got a little better over the summer of 2019 as I started to relax and enjoy the beauty of the high plains. But, by the fall, I realized I had to take care of my financial affairs and head back to Florida. A series of extremely unfortunate events occurred when I did, and thus, 2020 began almost as badly as 2019 had… and then… the PANDEMIC.

WTAF.

So. As I rolled into 2021, drained of my savings, my IRA, all my worldly assets, even without a car, I had to rebuild. Alone.

But I did rebuild. As I’ve done time and time again in my life. This time, I had the luxury, the privilege, of not having to support anyone but myself (and my trusty comfort cat).

I invested in my mental, spiritual, and physical well-being. I took the opportunity to finally explore the dark depths of my life experience and begin the healing process than I had suppressed for all my adult life. Two words: complex trauma.

I started an intense, regular regime of therapy. I made a commitment to lose the weight I’d gained over the pandemic (done) and continue on my path, and I opened my heart and soul to the Universe.

I recently described myself as “Christian+.” I was raised a Christian, yet I find there is something magnificent going on out there that cannot be explained by any religious dogma. It has links to science and it is beyond human comprehension. I fall in with Albert Einstein here with this thinking:

“One thing I have learned in a long life: that all our science, measured against reality, is primitive and childlike. We still do not know one thousandth of one percent of what nature has revealed to us. It is entirely possible that behind the perception of our senses, worlds are hidden of which we are unaware.”

Albert Einstein

I started writing. Really writing. Writing stories from my life. Writing features in magazines. I began taking photos and now consider myself an amateur photographer. I started a film production company that is meeting with some success. I became engaged in civic responsibility and am serving on a few boards where I’m making a contribution. I consciously made the decision to Marie Kondo my social network. If a person I’m connected to is not sparking joy in some way in my life, I quietly disconnect. I aligned my priorities around “what matters.”

Unless the health market spurs a breakthrough in affordable, adult longevity, I realize I only have a couple more decades on the planet. My goal is to live out the rest of my days enjoying my best life.

Today– heading into the fall of 2021, I’m centered, strong, grounded, and connected. I’m traveling to the beat of a different drummer that maybe only I can hear. And I’m okay with that.

Namaste.