Just over eight years ago, Grey did 170 chores in order to earn the right to get a cat. This cat was preordained to be Data, for reasons that made sense to an 8 year old. When we went to find Data in the shelter, we looked at all the pretty cats and the young cats, but the ones that grabbed our heart were the friendly cats. It was a pair of brothers – 8 years old and therefore very hard to adopt. One was all black – he became Data. One was a veritable tank of a cat – hefty and friendly and assertive of his desires. Sticking with the incredibly subtle Star Trek theme, we named him after a fellow confident pudge – James Tiberius Kirk. He also looked a bit like a Roman emperor on a bender. So Tiberius he was. (You can read the welcome-home post here.)
We had not had Tiberius home for a month when we discovered that although he scarfed his food, he also immediately barfed it back up. He was in liver failure and only the application of vast wads of cash (and feedings through a neck tube every four hours) kept him alive. Eight years ago last week, he was within 12 hours of me deciding that he wasn’t going to make it. But then he perked up, started holding down food, and healed. And earned the nickname “Tube-erous” for his feeding tube.
These two cats have spent the last eight years knocking things off counters, eating any unguarded food, learning to open cat food containers (and trash cans, and cupboards), and walking through my unfinished watercolors. They sleep together in ying-yang patterns on the chairs. At this very moment, Data has decided that there is enough room on my lap for a laptop AND a lap cat. He is sitting on my arms. The guys have been the friendliest, snuggliest cats in the world. They want nothing more than to snuggle (and steal your Cheetos). They’ll flop on their backs and show you their bellies – and will actually not claw you to death should you succumb to temptation and put your face in their fuzz. They are really people-cats, and want to be with you and get scritches. (Now Data is grooming Tiberius). They lay on legs. They stand in front of tvs. They join us at the dinner table, because they are part of the family.
Two weeks ago, Tiberius started yowling. We took him to the vet, who found a grapefruit-sized tumor in his increasingly emaciated belly, and gave him two weeks to live. He is a sixteen year old cat. Options for surgery or treatment seemed cruel rather than kind. So he’s had two good weeks with anti-nausea drugs (probably the longest our floor has gone without cat vomit) and pain medications. And he’s definitely fallen off in that time. Not that Adam didn’t JUST pull him out of the trash can, but he’s spending most of his day sleeping and he’s light as a feather. Most of his weight is now tumor, and he trembles when he jumps from the kitchen table to the sink to see if anyone HAPPENED to leave anything tasty there. We won’t let him fall all the way to suffering. On Friday, we’ll say our last farewells and bury him beneath the plum tree, to the left of the pawpaw planting.
I am so grateful that we had the company of both these cats during the long internment of the pandemic. Their sweet affection has warmed fearful days. Their purring company drives fears away. Their soft fur has been a consolation to young and old in this household. Their mischief – considerable as it is – has been both exasperating and charming. I so wish for more time, but mostly I’m so grateful for the time we have had together.
I’ve been procrastinating on writing a year in review post for over a week now. It feels a touch overwhelming to actually think through the past year, never mind coherently present it. But I put a link to my Christmas card to my blog with a promise that you might be able to replace the stunning content of the Christmas letter with the blog, so here you go.
Thane at 5:
Thane is astonishingly still in preschool. With an October birthday, he’s spending more or less the maximum sentence in preschool. My youngest son is incredibly bouncy and exuberant, with flying limbs and bouncing feet. At 90th+ percentile in height, he continues to outgrow his gross motor coordination. Happily, he couples this with a durability, toughness and focus that shrug off all distractions, such as pain and parents. He is a picture in persistence. He loves Legos, and forces his fingers to make the most intricate Lego creations. I think one of my favorite things in the world is to listen to him sing to himself as he puts together a puzzle or a sculpture. He always wants to help me cook, and has laserlike-focus on understanding particular questions.
This year, Thane did swimming lessons (which he did not like), soccer (which he did), aikido, cooking classes, science classes and Lego League (he was too young, but I snuck him in anyway). He prefers unstructured time to activities, so I’m careful about how much I ask of him in terms of following rules and toe-ing the line. He has begun reading slowly – very phonetically – which he finds hard work. He loves macaroni and cheese, Scooby Doo and his dear Puppy.
Thane is sweet and funny and affectionate. He thinks hard about the world around him, and asks questions to understand it better. He is wholly a delight!
Grey at 8:
This year has seen a great flowering of Grey’s skills and abilities. He was irate that on our Christmas cards I included my blog, but not his Wacky Wonder Comics blog. He’s arrived at the shores of an age where he can do some things better than I can. He can certainly draw better. Of all the many interests he pursues, his drawing is the most persistent and pervasive. He makes Pokemon cards, comics, doodles, sketches, etc. He spent his Christmas money on some “real” art supplies – an easel that takes up his desk. After a time playing with one of his friends, I discovered a collaborative art project the two of them had created – without my help.
We are still looking to see what Grey’s great abiding passion may be – perhaps art – and are exposing him to many things. He enjoys outside activities more than his brother, which makes it easier. This year we tried basketball, swimming lessons, aikido, guitar lessons (still doesn’t want to practice!), baseball camp (a surprising success), soccer (Greece had a great year!), Lego League, and a Scratch programming class. Grey had a really tough spring, but over the summer and fall he rediscovered his emotional equilibrium and grew his resilience.
Grey likes lots of things. Legos, screens in all their many capacities (especially video games), art, rough-housing with his friends, games, books (especially comic books) and some sports. He has done stop-motion-Lego movies, comic series and extended card games of collaborative creation. At afterschool, there is a complex social society of Lego Houses, where the kids have in depth discussions about proximity, gear, style, creation and welcoming.
Grey is a very complex, joyful, fun kid. I find myself very interested in his thoughts, and what he has to say. I look forward to being superseded in more skills every day!
I had a really good year this year. A lot of the changes for me were at work. I got two promotions, and am in a role now which requires my full capabilities and energy – and travel. It’s actually a great feeling to have a job that needs all you have to give, but that gives you the support to do it. I was trying to remember everywhere I went in 2013. I think the list looks something like this:
Troy MI (Detroit) 2x
Montreal (for fun)
I think that’s it. Many of these trips were for only a day or two – the one-day-red-eye to California being particularly notable that way. On the home front, we also took shorter trips to New York, Connecticut and went camping three times!
My personal life is just about as full as it can be. If I add anything (like say exercising more) it comes at the cost of something else (like socializing, sleeping or seeing my kids). There is very little optional relaxation I could cut out, so new years resolutions become like a zero sum game. I must stop an activity to add an activity. That said, I worked a lot on guitar this year, although I’m not notably better. I enjoyed cooking some pretty terrific meals. We gamed more or less weekly this year – we were a bit better than normal about it! I took a lot of pictures, but I do feel my blogging has suffered lately. I’d like to be a bit more consistent in the new year. I attempted a new blog – Technically Pretty – but it required too much research for me to keep up with it. I was less active in church than usual, which is likely to change in the coming year as we seek for an interim pastor.
I’m also taking a four week course on photography, which has already improved my skills! I can hope it will continue to do so and provide some ready-made blog fodder for the next month!
The biggest news of Adam’s year was the closing of the dojo. Sensei became a father. Running a dojo, being a dad and having a day job were one thing too many. Adam earned his first kyu in aikido prior to the closing of the dojo. So there was much aikido until July… and then there was none. We’ve all been enjoying having Adam around so much more, but I think the new year may bring a new activity. He wants to do ballroom dance, which I think sounds like a blast. Adam continues to run our weekly game, and is raising two very fine gamers.
Adam also built out an addition to our porch to make it much more usable. The windows are very high, so a person seated in a chair could not see out. Adam constructed a gorgeous maple bar (with help from Grey) to which we added some stools. Both Adam and I have loved working and gathering there! He also launched a mobile application at a company sponsored forum which was a serious success, and of which he is very proud!
Data and Tiberius
Grey spent most of the spring and summer earning 170 “Chore checks” in order to get a new cat. The house seemed empty with the death of Magic and Justice, but I wanted Grey to have ownership in a cat, and to actually do the work of pet ownership, so we set a high bar so he could actually show me that he would be capable and consistent of cat care. The moment finally came over Labor Day, when we went to a shelter and found a bonded pair of brothers we really liked. The name Data had been pre-ordained. When we met his swaggering, over-confident, rather corpulent brother, the name Tiberius suggested itself. (There are two kinds of people, the kind who automatically know why Data and Tiberius might go together and the kind who, when the relationship is explained, cannot believe that anyone knows that.)
A few weeks after we brought the boys home, we brought Tiberius in because he wasn’t looking well and discovered that he had a very serious – life-threatening – condition. It would require massive effort and outlay, but if we made it through, his prognosis was to live a full and rich life again. I wrestled considerably with the right solution to this issue, and we did end up having the procedure. After that, he had to be tube fed up to 5 times a day for about a month. He threw up a lot. It was a grim period, and he came within a day or two of me deciding that his quality of life was not worth his suffering. But he pulled through and now is a completely happy, healthy cat with some odd bald patches that are already growing in.
Data and Tiberius are excellent cats. They’re outgoing, friendly, and have wonderful litter box compliance. (It’s the little things in life that make the big differences.) Tiberius is always in the middle of the action, and Data would happily reconstruct his life to be Adam’s scarf. We’re enjoying them greatly.
That’s where we are at the turning of the page of the year. Where does the new year find you?
Peace or…UTTER DESTRUCTION…it’s up to you.
— Kirk in ‘A Taste Of Armageddon’
Yesterday morning, I took Tiberius to the vet because he wasn’t eating well and seemed a little lethargic. I was expecting maybe a fluid injection, an appetite improver, or a statement that I was crazy and he was fine. In my mental worst case scenario, his preference for eating weird stuff had gotten something stuck in his digestive tract and he’d need surgery.
Instead I discovered that he lost THREE POUNDS (on a cat!) since I brought him in a month ago. He was down 6 pounds since his original owner surrendered him. (no cat And he was jaundiced. He has heptatic lipidosis (fatty liver disease). This is often fatal. The good news is that he was still strong and responsive. He actually looked pretty fine, so I was rather gobsmacked. After some extensive testing, we signed him up to have a feeding tube installed, and several weeks of helping him eat. The surgery to install it was last night, and seems to have gone ok. They’re doing blood work and getting his electrolytes in balance. I’m hoping we can bring him home tonight, or maybe tomorrow.
Then it’s tube feeding, four times a day, for weeks.
It’s hard to figure out the right way to care for an animal. This will end up costing around $4000 – if this is it. I don’t believe – for people or animals – that the right answer is to throw everything at the problem at all cost. I care a lot about quality of life, prognosis and all those other things. But Tiberius is youngish, still strong, and may make a complete recovery. I feel very lucky that I can pay for his care without worrying about groceries or mortgage payments this month. But it certainly still stings. It’s not just the cost, either. About an hour and 20 minutes every day for the next month will be spent helping my cat eat. That is a significant sacrifice.
With the hard decisions made and my sweet Milkstache in recovery, now we just cross our fingers (or paws) and hope. Please keep your fingers (or paws) crossed too!
I’m sure you all remember a few weeks ago, when Grey earned the 170 required checks to prove to us he was responsible enough to get a cat, who he was going to name Data. We came home a little early from camping, and Monday morning of Labor Day we were ready to go find Data. The only shelter open on Labor Day was the Northeast Animal Shelter, so that’s where we went. It was a really lovely shelter. The cat rooms were fantastic. I almost felt badly about taking the cats away from such perfect, lovely rooms!
Oh right. Cats. Plural.
Well, we found Data. He was this beautiful, friendly, affectionate seven year old black cat. (His original name was Salem.) He was perfect. Just one thing, he had a bonded brother, Simon. They were a team, and only went together. Now you might think that putting two cat carriers into the car was an admission on my part that I thought this might happen, and you’d be right. Simon, or Tiberius as he quickly was dubbed (for, you know, James Tiberius Kirk), is a big, outgoing, adamant orange tiger.
In case you were wondering, the cats’ full names are Tiberius Milkstache Flynn (seriously, check out his moustache coloring!) and Data Android Flynn.
They spent a week in Grey’s room. The cats are apparently unaware that cats should eat cat food. They have turned their noses up at the very high end wet and dry food with which they have been provided. But Tiberius especially likes to eat bran flakes and pretzels. (Not that we let him, but that’s his preference.). Neither is particularly interested in playing with cat toys, but (of course) Tiberius loves playing with computer cables. I’m hoping we can eventually convince them to eat cat food and play with laser pointers and little kitty wands, but these things take time. The two of them are finally comfortable enough to be annoying in that way that cats are uniquely skilled in. They seem to be very good with kids, although Data doesn’t like to be put into a dark room.
I have to say, it’s really nice to have cats in the house again! And Grey HAS feed them every day. Win!