Moxie Mom On Life and Kids

MOXIE MOM on Life & Kids

Post-Passing Thoughts

This morning I caught myself checking to make sure the toilet was flushed in case Leon needed a drink (he refused to drink out of his water bowl). And then a nanosecond later, I remembered I didn’t need to think about these kinds of things anymore.

For the most part, we have said our good-byes and have moved on to the rest of our busy lives, but we catch ourselves now and again. Curt had to go through the grieving process a few days after we did, upon his return from a climbing trip. His sadness opened it all up for the rest of us again—well, mostly me because I’m the one who remembers giving Leon to him as a birthday present. The kids were more intrigued by the idea of a man shedding tears and whether a cat’s passing would inspire them.

Lately, I have developed the unconscious and unsettling habit of looking at animals in terms of, well, grave size. I couldn’t help thinking one afternoon, when I saw a dachshund, how easy that animal would be. And then one morning a big, beautiful, white dog with longish fur walked past our house with its owner, and Leah wondered aloud what kind of dog it was. “Wouldn’t that be cool to have a dog like that one?” she said. My first thought (to myself) was, “Wow, that dog would take a big hole.” And then things like, “Gee, you’d have to have a big yard,” and “Ours would never work,” and then, “Oh, but with an animal that size, you’d probably cremate.” It’s weird, I know. My family has no idea.

I didn’t know about cremation for animals until I talked to a friend who’d had her cat put down last year right about the same time. It makes sense, of course. But I’m a farm girl and the urban way of doing things had never occurred to me. Friends and I have joked about pet insurance and when you would need it, and I’ve always said no way. But what happens when you have a young cat and she gets hit by a car or something and she needs surgery—how can you not pay up? I’m just glad I didn’t have to make that kind of decision because, like I said, I’m a farm girl.

I’m not pining, just so you know. But, yeah, these thoughts do flit through my mind.  I do hope the grave size thing goes away soon.


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Good-bye, Leon

We are feeling bereft around here because we’re missing our kitty pal of the last 15 years. Leon died yesterday morning before breakfast in a painful-to-watch passing to the greater beyond. Curt is on a climbing trip so he doesn’t even know yet, but the rest of us are feeling a little wrung out after an emotional weekend. Now that it’s all over and the grave has been dug and the gravestone placed, the kids are moving on faster than I am. It wasn’t easy being vet, mortician, and gravedigger all in one.Leon's grave

Here’s what I keep noticing: We don’t need to fill Leon’s bowl anymore or worry that he’s not eating enough. I don’t have to close the basement door to keep him from sneaking into the crawl space to do his business. The cat door no longer whispers open. Nobody follows me into the bathroom to wait for me to turn on the sink tap (Leon’s favorite source of water). We have nobody to rub against our legs. There’s no purring in the house. Our lives feel a little empty.

We had known for some time Leon was declining, but I never expected the final days to arrive so soon—somehow I had pictured later this fall. But on Saturday afternoon I found Leon in the yard looking dazed, and I bought him into the kitchen to get a look at him. He immediately went out the back door onto the stoop and then stumbled and turned back to the door, vague and unsure of himself. His back legs didn’t work right. He issued a tiny silent meow, and then another, gazing toward me but not really seeing. In that moment I knew he was dying.

I brought him inside and lay him on a towel on the kitchen floor. A few minutes later, Ty arrived home from a friend’s house and we studied Leon together. “I don’t think he’s doing well,” I said. I wasn’t ready to say the D word out loud just yet.

“Mommy, I think he’s dying,” Ty replied. And then I started to cry because, of course, he was right, only I didn’t expect him to come to it so quickly. Ty, less emotional than I, set about conducting response tests, touching Leon, talking to him, waving his hand in front of his eyes. We discovered Leon didn’t blink. He stared straight ahead and only turned his face to us if we spoke to him. We looked up symptoms of dying cats on the Internet: disorientation, reluctance to eat or drink, breathing changes, loss of vision, and restlessness. Leon fit the profile.

Leah was at a friend’s house until late evening, so Ty and I were on our own for dinner. That’s when the emotion hit him, and he started to cry, large silent tears rolling down his cheeks as he poked listlessly at his dinner. We gave up on eating and went to sit with Leon. We talked about pets and the cycle of life and how it’s his time and how we really don’t want him to linger in pain.

I told Leah on the way home from her friend’s house. She walked into the house and took one look at Leon, who had crawled into a corner, and burst into loud wracking sobs. The last time a cat died in our house, Leah was three and doesn’t recall. (And our cat was staying at my parents’ house, where it was quieter, so I didn’t actually witness anything.)

Burying Leon on Sunday morning wasn’t easy, but it gave us a sense of purpose. At last, here was something we could do and do well. Leah painted a stone with his name in bright yellow. We planted orange mums to honor his marmalade-colored fur. Leah’s long-time friend and animal lover brought a vase of red dahlias and a bag of chocolate chip cookies for comfort.

Leon is well-remembered and missed, just as a good friend should be.


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Childhood Icons

Yesterday, Ty and I were hanging around the house together after his soccer camp, when he wandered through the kitchen past the radio and the breaking news it was airing.

“Hey,” he said, after he came to find me, “you know Michael Jackson?”


“I think he died.”

“He died?” Isn’t he my age?

We both headed to the kitchen to listen the news, and sure enough, he had “apparently” died. Apparently? Not too long later, the newscasters were saying he did die.

Wow. Michael Jackson has died (and it turns out he was older than I thought, though not by much). I didn’t own any of his albums when I was in high school, but I certainly remember his hits and his moonwalking taking the country by storm, although it wasn’t until yesterday that I learned his album “Thriller” was the top grossing album of all time (and now I can’t get that song out of my head). Even more memorable, I have been to the gate of his Neverland Ranch in California, very close to a private school my grandmother worked for, where I somehow managed to mar the landscaping with the car as I took the little loop drive at the entrance a little too sharply. My sisters guffawd when I did it. “You ruined Michael Jackson’s landscaping!” Thankfully, no guard sat in the guard box, or whatever you call it, and we escaped undetected.

When Curt got home from work, I asked if he’d heard the big news, and of course he had.

“Farrah, too,” he said.

“Farrah Fawcett died, too?!”

“Well, she had cancer, you know.”

“I know, but still. I loved that show!”

“You did? I thought that show was a guy thing,”

Oh. Well, maybe it was, but growing up as I did with no TV in the house, I was desperate to watch anything, and I remember loving the tough chicks with the big hair in their stylish clothes. Did other girls? I have no idea.

“What show?” Ty wanted to know.

Charlie’s Angels,” I told him. “Remember when we watched the movie Charlie’s Angels while we were at Disneyland? Farrah Fawcett was one of the original angels in the TV show.”

Sorry, the movie will never cut it for me. No one could replace Farrah Fawcett. I’m not sure why she looms so large in my mind, but likely because I was ten or so when she was so hot, and watching girls kick ass was cool. It was the age of feminism, after all, and I don’t recall too many other models of sexy feminine strength, except maybe that show Isis that kids watched on Saturday mornings. Anyway, Farrah, with her red bathing suit, curling ironed hair, and white, white teeth, will always be one of those indelible associations with childhood in the 70s. Michael Jackson was cool, too (although he got too weird for words), but I never related to him like I did the girl power Farrah embodied for me. 

I wonder who the icons will be for my kids when they’re adults. I hope it’s not Miley Cyrus.


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My niece is graduating from high school this weekend, and she’ll be giving one of the graduation speeches at her school in Oregon. She’s the first out of the family nest, her own and the extended family’s, and my sister-in-law says she’s going to have to wear sunglasses to hide the tears.

Although my own daughter is just twelve, I am reminded all over again just how fleeting this parenting thing is. I think I said this once before, but I still think of it when I’m feeling caught up on other planes, not living in the now with my kids. It’s just this: These are the best years of our lives. My grandma told me this once, from the vantage point of 89 or 90 or whatever she was at the time, amid the chaos of my infant son crawling around her apartment, and my toddler daughter pestering me with questions and exploring where she shouldn’t. “Remember that,” my grandmother said, looking me in the eye.

And maybe my grandmother was right. But I hope the golden years are good, too, because there are a lot of those ahead of us. We have to let our kids go, and we have to be fine without them.

But you can bet I’ll be the one in sunglasses when my daughter is graduating. Thank goodness I’ve got a few years yet.

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Farewell to Fountain

So, I don’t know if you’ve been into Fountain Galleria lately. It’s sad. Our family is sad. Okay, it’s the adults in our family who are mainly sad. The kids say they’ll miss the store, but they don’t even know yet how much. Maybe I don’t know yet either, but I’m pretty sure I have a sense. This toy paradise has been part of our family since the kids were born, and I’ve been going there since I was a kid myself. Fountain has always been there, and I keep wondering what we will do without it.

Yesterday, Leah’s class trooped over from school to give owner Mary Deets a poster of appreciation and letters they wrote in class. There were a lot of tears held in check – adult tears. Really, I don’t know how we all held it together. In what was one of the last opportunities to shop at this store, the kids’ teacher allowed them to pick out a few items – games, a poster, a chirping bird – to vote on: Which should they buy for their classroom? For me, and, I suspect, the other accompanying parents, it was a poignant moment. Standing behind the kids as they voted, I was all too aware of the bare shelves, much barer than just two evenings ago, the “sold” signs on the display cases, the finality.

More than just a fabulous toy store, Fountain has served over the years as a neighborhood magnet. It’s where we ran into neighbors shopping for the same birthday party at the last minute, all of us ever so grateful for the free gift wrap. It’s where I ran into countless friends over the years at Christmas time and compared thoughts on toys and whether our kids liked them. Where we went for a card at 9:30 at night when we realized Valentine’s Day was upon us and, oops, kind of forgot. Where we went on rainy days because it was such a cozy, friendly, fun place to wile away the afternoon. Where we shopped for baby showers, for cousins, with gift money, or just because.

We are at the end of an era. We wish you well, Mary, but we’ll miss you and your lovely store.


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