Susan's Blog

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Sweet Souls

“Sweet soul in a little cat body,” that’s what my sister Laura used to say about her cat Pushkin.  Pushkin was the first cat I ever really knew; he was Laura’s first pet in her grown-up life, acquired when she moved off to medical school in Rochester — “Ra-owr-Chester,” she called it, as if it were Pushkin saying it.  Pushkin was one of those black and white cats, whose markings formed a black cardigan buttoned down his front, and a perfect little black mustache under his nose.  He was a tiny Russian aristocrat, as dignified as he was cute.  He was lethal — I once saw him bring down a bird flying low over a garden — but hilariously adorable.

Laura getting Pushkin was a new phase for us.  He was adult life.  She had just gone and adopted him; I don’t know what her thought process was, but getting him was a statement of independence.  Younger sister that I was, I did not have nearly the same sense of independence — at least I didn’t think I did — and so I was in awe of the entire cat-acquisition-and-raising process.  How did she know what to do?  I guess she read stuff about it.   She knew to have the litter box and the food bowl.  But what else were you supposed to do?  How did you know it was okay?

I think perhaps a lot of people go into adulthood less consciously than I do and so, like Laura, maybe they just do these things without worrying about “am I doing it right?”  Until they finally meet their match, and then they have some thinking to do.  Pushkin was not Laura’s match, however.  Soon after she had him, she got Sweet Pea, who was all black, and my favorite cat in life so far.  Sweet Pea had a dumb look, because you could not really see his face, other than his always wide eyes — the mouth and nose were lost in the darkness.  Sweet Pea looked unintelligent, not smart like Pushkin, but Sweet Pea could talk.  He could communicate with his loud, enthusiastic purr and his expressive meows.  One famous family story is that Laura was upstairs and Sweet Pea was downstairs, looking for her.  Meowing, ra-owing.  Finally she heard him say, “Ra-er are you?”  And she replied, “I’m up here, Sweet Pea!”  And Sweet Pea came running upstairs to her.

Laura had her cats and then I had my baby.  I think she may have felt, perhaps unconsciously, the same way about my having Nat that I had about Pushkin, like how do you know what to do?  I remember feeling a secret small smugness that he was mine, that I had the rights to him, that it was up to me.  I think she knew about that because we once had a terrible, bloody fight over him, over who got to sit next to him in the back seat.  It blew up into the ugliest episode in our life together.  I wonder what we were really fighting about.  We were always so close.  Sometimes it felt like we were a unit, a pair.  We were not twins, but we were 19 months apart, in a Family of Four that did everything together, intensely.  She and I fought like cats and cats growing up, but also shared the exact same sense of humor and perceptions of many things.

Laura helped me make my Labor Tape, the cassette I was supposed to listen to while giving birth to Nat — I was trying to have the birth my way, but it turns out that’s only for hamburgers — and to this day those songs bring back a satisfyingly complicated blend of emotions.  Laura also attended me during Nat’s birth, with Ned on my other side.  Laura and Ned had become close during our college days, so much so that even they fought sometimes, which back then was a true sign of closeness for us, whether you could have awful fights and then totally make up moments later.

Laura was there that day when Nat first became truly alert, a few days after his birth.  We laughed and laughed over it, how his eyes were just crazy-wide open.  There are so many pictures of her playing with him and as the years go by it is hard to tell if some of those pics are of her or of me.  Recently she confessed that she used to go into his room sometimes when he was sleeping and wake him up so we could play with him some more.  Every phase of his life is marked for me with memories intersected with Laura.

There was that terrible big secret we shared, too:  what was going on with Nat?  We didn’t discuss the possibility that anything was wrong.  Our lives had not yet wandered out of that protective circle of our childhood.  We had our fears, sure, like all children, but in the morning you would wake up.  I would bring all of my questions to her about his development, as if she were a sage.  She was merely doing her big sister thing, reassuring me without really knowing anything, but just confident that all was well based on her enormous love for him (and me)  Why wouldn’t everything be well?  It always had been!  That was childhood.  That was how it went as adulthood began, too, with Pushkin.  You moved into new phases, you didn’t have to think about it so much.

Ned and I just finished our will and special needs trust last week — about time, considering Nat is now 21.  We had to figure out trustees, guardians, all of those soul-grinding questions, those scenarios with Ned and I being no longer here.  All those impossible answers.  But the answer for us was pretty clear:  Laura.  Laura who now has four cats she rescued, two amazing children, and who tears up with pride over every single thing Nat does.  Soon after he was born, and her cats were still young, she referred to Nat as a “Sweet little soul in a little Nat body,” and we laughed.  She still does, minus the “little.”  When I told her about the will, she said, “Of course,” just like I knew she would.


We did ours last spring…. tough one to do… eldest will manage, little one will need supports…. I asked my first cousin (firefighter) and his wife (nurse) – yes I know we have 3 siblings btwn us but I am not certain they are the right fit – and they took some time thinking about and talking to my Uncle and Aunt as well. I think that’s important, it’s a big commitment. They said “yes”. I didn’t realize how worried I was that they would say “no” until they said “yes”.

But it is one less worry.

— added by farmwifetwo on Saturday, November 20, 2010 at 9:43 am

It was clear how special Laura was from reading your first book. So glad Nat has someone like her in his life, and that you do too!

— added by kim mccafferty on Monday, November 22, 2010 at 12:55 pm